Preserving Old Engine History

Reader Contribution by Staff

It never ceases to amaze me how information on the old engines we collect and preserve continues to come forward. The world around us is evolving and changing at a dizzying pace, especially as it relates to information. New digital technologies continue to promise new and better ways to gather, store and share information. But in our little corner of the world, it’s often word-of-mouth and personal experience handed down over time that brings to light new information on engine companies long gone from the landscape, their history slowly illuminated as engine enthusiasts share what they’ve learned.

Proof of this comes in the form of a letter from reader Harold Keller who writes in with personal knowledge about ACME/S.M. Jones engines built by ACME Sucker Rod Co. and its successor, S.M. Jones Co., Toledo, Ohio. Now 84, Harold remembers running a 10hp ACME pumping engine as a teenager, and still has access to information on ACME engines thanks to an owner’s manual yet in his possession. His personal recollections of ACME engines provides us with further insight into how these engines operated, a rare thing given that most of these engines were taken out of service decades ago, and very few survive in running condition.

Although their number are dwindling, we know there are many more enthusiasts out there like Harold who operated the engines we now collect when they were still working for a living, and we’d like to encourage those enthusiasts to share their stories with us so we can share them with the rest of the old engine crowd. Maybe you’re that person, or maybe you know that person. If you worked these engines as a young man, we’d like to hear from you. And if you know someone who did, but for whatever reason isn’t able to share those stories directly with us, we’d like to encourage you to sit down with them, pen in hand – or with your phone to record them directly – and take down their stories, and share them with us. If we’re really lucky, maybe they’ll even have photographs or other literature about the engines they remember, but don’t let that stop you if not; we’ll be happy to try to find supporting photographs and documentation.

That any of these engines have survived is amazing. The old engines we preserve were designed as workhorses to ease the burden of manual labor, and as such it’s doubtful anyone expected them to still be around 100-plus years later. And yet they are, and their ranks continue to grow as survivors are discovered and pulled from their slumber.

Our old engines represent much more than simply a hobby. They are reminders of a unique era in mechanical development and representative of the march of technology and the drive for innovation. And thanks to new digital technologies, we have an opportunity to record and share what we know about the history of long-gone manufactures and their engines with the entire world of engine enthusiasts.

Richard Backus


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