The "Butcher Block" Miami Engine

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

| June/July 2015

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.