Schleicher-Schumm Engine is Find of a Lifetime

Last surviving 10 HP Schleicher-Schumm slide-valve rescued and returned to original condition.

| April/May 2014

Schleicher Schumm

The finished product: A museum-grade restoration by Wayne Grenning.

Photo courtesy Wayne Grenning

Most engine collectors daydream of the “find of a lifetime”: Waiting in some forgotten barn or pump house, a very rare engine lies waiting, undiscovered, until fortune smiles and this engine comes home. For the vast majority of us, this is only a dream. For Bill Grimley, the dream became a reality. He came upon a 10 HP Schleicher, Schumm & Co. engine in an old factory in the 1970s when he was following up on a lead.

Company history

James and Adolph Schleicher came from Germany to the U.S. and, in 1876, set up a partnership to control N.A. Otto & Cie.’s patents in the U.S., and build and market their atmospheric engines. Before they were able to build any, Otto developed the 4-cycle “silent” engine, and it was this engine that they put into production. In 1877, they were joined by Herman Schumm, in Philadelphia, and set up Schleicher, Schumm & Co. in 1880. Nine engines were built that first year. The earliest engines were flame ignition slide-valve engines designed to run on illuminating gas, which was available in the larger cities at the time. These engines were available as late as 1892. In 1894 the company came under control of Gasmotoren-Fabrik Deutz and was reorganized as the Otto Gas Engine Works.

Engine history

This particular 10 HP engine started out as a single flywheel, slide-valve engine with an integral water pump used for running hydraulic elevators. All 10 HP engines not configured for pumping had twin flywheels, so, to compensate for the lack of a second flywheel, which was replaced by the pump drive gear, the flywheel was cast hollow and filled with lead for extra weight. Where this engine was used in the pumping capacity is unknown. Sometime around the turn of the century, when illuminating gas was phased out in favor of electric lighting, it was converted to poppet valve, hot tube operation, at which time extensive modifications to the head were made. All remnants of the slide-valve seating and guide surfaces were ground off. In addition to these irreversible modifications, the mounting boss for the gas valve was meticulously removed. It was not until the engine was cleaned in the beginning of the restoration that any trace of this surface could be found. The modifications also included a new intake valve chest with a natural gas mixer and hot tube bolted in place of the milled-off slide-valve features. A 5-inch spacer was added to the piston to increase compression, and the governor was set up to open the gas valve more or less as needed, and cutting off the gas entirely when it went over speed. The pump, bearings and drive gear were discarded, and a second flywheel, which was cast using the original as a pattern, was added. It was installed in the Eagle Woodenware Co., Hamilton, Ohio, around 1912, where it ran machinery along with a Hamilton Corliss steam engine.

In the 1970s the Corliss engine was removed from the factory by a couple of steam collectors, but the Schleicher-Schumm was left behind. Bill Grimley was in the market for an Otto-type engine at the time. The Corliss collectors had no interest in the Schleicher, so they put Bill in contact with the owner. He was able to purchase the engine, which was hoisted out of the factory basement with a belt-driven elevator, which would not lift the 7,500-pound load unless liberal amounts of belt dressing were applied. The find of the lifetime thus came home. It was displayed in this modified configuration for many years.