The "Butcher Block" Miami Engine

The incredible story of a 5 HP Miami engine’s rescue.

| June/July 2015

  • 5 HP Miami engine
    Tommy Turner's beautiful 5 HP Miami engine.
    Photo by Tommy Turner
  • 5 HP Miami engine as found
    The 5 HP Miami as found, with the cylinder brutally hacked off so that a wedge could be brazed onto the piston for splitting wood.
    Photo by Tommy Turner
  • Wood-splitting wedge
    The 5 HP Miami as found, with the cylinder brutally hacked off so that a wedge could be brazed onto the piston for splitting wood.
    Photo by Tommy Turner
  • Cylinder castings
    Intricate castings for the Miami’s new cylinder highlight the complexity of the job.
    Photo by Tommy Turner
  • Cylinder castings
    Intricate castings for the Miami’s new cylinder highlight the complexity of the job.
    Photo by Tommy Turner
  • Cylinder casting ends
    Intricate castings for the Miami’s new cylinder highlight the complexity of the job.
    Photo by Tommy Turner
  • Sideshaft and valve gear
    A close-up view of the Miami’s sideshaft and valve gear. A first-class design, it’s hard to believe the cylinder is new.
    Photo by Tommy Turner
  • New cylinder casting
    The new cylinder casting on the mill for finishing.
    Photo by Tommy Turner
  • Build plate
    Brass build plate lists Brackett, Shaw & Lunt Co. as distributors.
    Photo by Tommy Turner
  • Running Miami
    Tommy Turner tends to the running Miami at the Tri-State Gas Engine & Tractor Show in Portland, Indiana, in 2009.
    Photo by Tommy Turner

  • 5 HP Miami engine
  • 5 HP Miami engine as found
  • Wood-splitting wedge
  • Cylinder castings
  • Cylinder castings
  • Cylinder casting ends
  • Sideshaft and valve gear
  • New cylinder casting
  • Build plate
  • Running Miami

Editor’s note: Awhile back, I came across photos we took in 2009 at the Portland Tri-State Gas Engine Show of Tommy Turner’s amazing 5 HP Miami engine. Built by Middletown Machine Co., Middletown, Ohio, around the turn of the century, it’s a beautiful engine, and I couldn’t believe we hadn’t shared it with GEM readers. I contacted Tommy to get the back story on the Miami. What follows is his amazing tale of its restoration, shared with me over a series of letters. – Richard Backus


When I bought the engine, about 4 inches of the cylinder had been chopped off to allow the piston to extend out the end of the cylinder. A wedge had been brazed to the end of the piston for splitting wood! I assume there was some sort of setup where a block of wood would be dropped in front of the cylinder and the piston (with wedge) would come up and hit the wood, splitting it. Wouldn’t you love to be holding a piece of wood in front of that thing with it belted to a tractor?

What was so sad about this engine was that, minus the butcher job, it was in pristine condition. The bearings were perfect, the crankshaft looked as if it had been polished it was so shiny, and the rod bearing looked like new. I doubt the engine ran much at all. The “butchers” had trashed much of the engine.

First luck

I was lucky in that a number of years ago, I spotted some Miami parts in a friend’s parts stash. I told him to never part with them unless he let me have first shot. I already knew of the “Butcher Block Miami” (hey, I thought that sounded like a good name for it, the Miami block had been butchered!) and thought if I ever got it, I’d have a good start on putting it together.



I acquired the Butcher Block Miami from Jerry Toews of Kansas for a very fair price. Jerry also had a complete Miami engine that was exactly the same size. “Take my engine with you and it will give you a guide how to fix it,” Jerry said. What a deal!

At first I thought I would try to have a pattern made for the few inches that had been cut off the end of the cylinder, have it welded to the original block and then have the cylinder bored and sleeved. The more I looked at it though, the wearier I got of this idea. I was left with the idea of a new cylinder. I really didn’t have much of a choice. I had most of the engine now, but without the cylinder, I really had nothing.