Celebrating the Coolspring Power Museum

By Staff

2020 marks the 35th anniversary of the Coolspring Power Museum in Coolspring, Pennsylvania. Since its founding in 1985, the Coolspring Power Museum has gone from being a relatively small and obscure collection of pioneering engines to the largest and most important museum of early gas engine technology in the world.

That’s not just hyperbole. The “museum” — it’s really more of a living trust — counts some 275 engines among its collection, with perhaps 3/4 of those in running condition. Most of the engines are larger, industrial-type units, including giants like a 1925 175hp Otto, the largest single-cylinder, twin-flywheel engine ever made, featuring a massive 21-inch bore and 30-inch stroke.

Thanks to an active staff of volunteers and officers, the not-for-profit museum has over the years continuously added to the collection, acquiring “new” engines and building new structures to house them as necessity demands. Just recently, the museum was gifted one of the most historically important engines ever made, a 1903 M.A.N. Air Blast Injection diesel and the oldest operational diesel engine in the world.

Built in Augsburg, Germany, in 1903, it spent the early part of its life in the North Sea on the island of Helgoland, where it powered an elevator. By the 1920s air blast injection was obsolete and the engine was taken out of service, but it was spared being scrapped when it was bought by Henry Ford. Ford had an early appreciation for pioneering engines and industrial machinery, and placed the engine in his museum in Dearborn, Michigan. The engine eventually passed through several private collections before being donated to Coolspring.

With the acquisition of the M.A.N. engine, Coolspring is undertaking an expansion project to create a new building to house the engine, along with several others. The planned building will be period correct and similar to what would have been built in Germany to house the engine back in 1903. The other planned air blast injection engines include a 400hp, overhead camshaft Busch-Sulzer, a 200hp Snow and a DeLaVergne engine that has been converted from air blast injection.

To drive funding for the planned expansion, Coolspring is seeking charitable, tax-deductible donations. There are several ways to help, including donating to the museum’s GoFundMe account and through the purchase of laser-engraved 8-inch by 8-inch donor bricks, which will be used in the building’s construction. Contributors opting to purchase bricks (which will be sold in various denominations) will be able to have the bricks engraved with up to six lines of text.

This is an important and worthy endeavor, one that will add to the museum’s already incredible collection of vintage internal combustion engines and help the museum further preserve the history of these important engines. We encourage everyone in the old iron hobby to consider making a donation, large or small, to help the Coolspring Power Museum continue its mission of preserving the history of early internal combustion engines. You can learn more by going to the museum’s website.

Richard Backus

Gas Engine Magazine
Gas Engine Magazine
Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines