P.O. Box 6 Wilmington, Vermont 05363
Several years ago the Vermont Gas and Steam Engine Association
held a show during May in the town of Danby. I was serving on the
board of directors, and as I lived the closest to the site, assumed
the responsibility of having the field mowed. The task was simple,
another member of the Association had a friend who lived in the
area who would mow the field for an annual membership in the
Association and a book of raffle tickets on the engine that is
raffled each year. All that I had to do was notify my friend, who
would con tact his, and the field was mowed. Easy for me and a good
deal for the Association.
On the Thursday before the weekend of the show, I drove past the
field and found that it had not been mowed. I returned later in the
day to find the field still unmowed. I could not remember the name
of the person who was to do the mowing.
The field was owned by the proprietor of a nearby tavern. I
drove over to the tavern, hoping that the owner could advise me of
the name of the person who mowed the field. The owner’s son was
the only person present who said that a person who owned the first
farm north of the site had mowed the field. The name did not sound
right, but it was worth a try.
I was employed as a game warden and was wearing the uniform that
day, complete with ‘Smoky Bear’ hat and side-arm. The man
who answered the door was apprehensive to see an officer. I assured
him that I was not there officially, but on behalf of the engine
association. He said that he had mowed the field in the past, but
had not done it for several years, and did not know who did. He
said he would be happy to mow it for the Association, but had
nothing to mow it with.
He then stated that he had an engine and asked if I would like
to see it. Of course I’d like to see it!
I followed him to a small barn. There, lying on its side near a
flat-head Ford V8 engine, was an International l-2 HP ‘LA.’
As with most of these engines, the valve and, water hopper covers
and muffler were missing. I rolled the engine onto the skids and
turned it over with the crank. It made a loud snapping noise as it
turned over due to the impulse coupling in the magneto. There was
no compression. The top of the spark plug was broken. The wire had
been soldered onto the electrode, but that joint too was
I already owned an International 3-5 HP ‘LB.’ I asked if
the engine was for sale. He answered in the affirmative. I then
asked how much he wanted. His reply, ‘What will you
Now, all engine collectors have been faced with this situation.
The offer must be large enough so that the seller does not call you
‘El Cheapo’ and walk away, but it cannot be so large that
you are ‘stuck’ if the engine turns out to be junk, good
for parts only. I made an offer that I believed was appropriate.
His re ply was ‘It’s your engine’!
I did not have that amount of cash with me. I never carried more
than lunch money anyway, or my check book. I told him that I would
pick the engine up the following Saturday as I was coming to the
show. He said to leave the check in the kitchen door if no one were
at home. We visited briefly. The engine had been used to run a
milking machine. His sister had lived in my town and I was
acquainted with her.
On Friday night, as we were setting up for the show, the person
who mowed the field drove in with a Cockshutt tractor and a rotary
mower, mowed the field, parked the outfit in one of the lines,
placed a ‘FOR SALE’ sign on it, and departed.
I picked the engine up on Saturday and returned to the show with
it. It was covered with hay. A new engine on the field drew much
attention. Soon people were talking about ‘that engine that guy
got out of the hay-barn up the road’.
The joy of collecting engines is divided into three phases:
phase one, finding them; phase two, fixing them; and phase three,
firing them. Phase number one is covered.
Now for stage number two, fixing. I cleaned the hay and chaff
from my prize with an air hose. I removed the oil filler plug but
saw nothing. I removed the drain plug and a very small amount of
‘gunk’ came out. Uh-oh, has this engine been run without
oil? I turned the engine over carefully with the crank. There was
no evidence of burned out bearings. I filled the crankcase with oil
and put oil into the cylinder through the spark plug hole, and
cranked the engine over several times daily. After a few days it
developed compression! There was no spark from the magneto. I
removed it, filed the points and adjusted them according to the
instructions contained in a reprint instruction manual that I
purchased from Lee Pedersen through an advertisement in GEM. When
reinstalled, the magneto produced a very healthy blue spark. The
bottom end of the speed control lever was broken. I repaired it
with a piece of aluminum bar stock, attached with small bolts to
the remaining part of the original, and included an adjustment
The gas tank was solid, but filled with rust scale. I remedied
this by attaching a fuel filter used in a chain saw to the end of
the fuel line with a piece of plastic fuel line tubing.
I also installed a lawn mower type muffler and a new spark plug.
This appeared to be the end of stage number two, fixing. I was now
ready for stage number threefiring.
I pulled the engine out to the door of my garage, filled the gas
tank, opened the needle valve the customary 1 turns, and started
cranking. The engine produced a few ‘pops,’ then nothing. I
continued cranking and choking until I saw gasoline dripping from
the muffler. Obviously, it was flooded. I did every thing that one
does to start a flooded engineclosed the needle valve, re moved the
spark plug, turned the engine over without the plug installed, used
an air hose to dry the plug and blow out the cylinder. I
reinstalled the plug, and with the needle valve closed, began
cranking again. Finally, each time I went by the compression
stroke, the engine would ‘pop.’ Then I’d get a couple
of ‘pops’ each time. At last the engine began to run. I let
it run at full throttle for a few minutes, shut it off and
restarted it. I found that opening the needle valve a half turn was
I took it to the next engine show and found that I had not
completed the ‘fixing’ phase: the throttle valve was stuck
in the wide open position. I did not run the engine much at that
After returning home, I removed the inspection plate at the back
of the engine. Using a wood dowel for a probe, I touched the
throttle valve control rod and heard a ‘click.’ The valve
was now free. The ‘fixing’ phase was now almost
I purchased a water hopper cover from a vendor at the Pioneer
Park Days engine show at Zolfo Springs, Florida, a year ago, as
well as some decals and a replacement muffler from other GEM
advertisers. Someday, I plan to clean it up and give it a new paint
job. I hope to replace the valve cover too.
The little engine usually starts the first time over, a definite
asset when at a show with a crowd around.
At one show a person was insistent that I sell it to him. He
said that he wanted it for a ‘starter’ engine for his
grandson. I was not interested in selling, as at the time it was
one of the very few engines that I had that was in running
condition. Furthermore, it will make a nice ‘starter’
engine for one of MY grandsons!