The Titan Tractor and Power Unit

Impact It Had in Earlier Days from 1916-2001

| July/August 2001

  • Titan Tractor
    The 10-20 Titan furnishing power for sawmill as I sat on fender seventy-one years ago and in the year two thousand.
  • Titan Tractor
    This is a view of tractor as found Ly Brian Olenburg off the coast of U.P. of Michigan at a place called Nebbish Island.
  • Titan Cylinder
    A view inside the cylinders before reboring. Notice water jacket full of saw dust.
  • Titan Tractor
    A view of the Titan at the Shirktown Threshers Show, August 2000.

  • Titan Tractor
  • Titan Tractor
  • Titan Cylinder
  • Titan Tractor

88 Rock Hollow Road Birdsboro, Pennsylvania 19508

I will take you back before 1900, to the small town of Geigertown, located in the hills of Pennsylvania with small farms surrounding it. All of the farms used horses, water, steam and later gas engines for power, because no electric power was available. The mechanical revolution was taking place at this time.

The town had a post office, two churches, a general store, railroad station, carpet shop, broommaker's shop, blacksmith shop, butcher's shop, creamery, feed mill, sawmill, shingle mill, pale fence mill, cider mill, carriage shop, Grange Hall, a town band and band house, and other small family businesses.

A stream coming from the mountain to a milldam fed water to a turbine to turn the millstones in the feed mill. From this mill the water flowed to another milldam, also another stream flowed in from the north. This water flowed into a deep stone pit to a turbine that powered a shingle mill, cider mill, picket fence mill, and an up-and-down sawmill, all driven by ground level shafting.

Because of flooding to the milldam, a screen-cooled 15 horsepower IHC Famous gas engine replaced the water-power. Then the up-and-down sawmill was replaced with a Delouch circular sawmill. In the carriage and wheelwright shop, an IHC Famous three-horse upright ran the lineshaft. This engine was used through 1945.

My dad bought all of this business with the exception of the feed mill. I came into the world in 1924 while business was good. It took three to four men to run the mills and to start the 15 HP IHC on a cold day and put that long belt on.

In this period of time the Mogul tractor was getting antiquated and it needed a replacement. Thus, the engineers designed the 10-20 Titan tractor and power unit in 1914- From 1916-1922, 78,363 Titan 10-20 tractors were manufactured.

The biggest changes from Mogul to the 10-20 Titan were the 40-gallon water-cooling tank which enabled thermo-action cooling; two sets of #140 drive chains and sprockets instead of one set; and the 20 HP two-cylinder engine. A cam on the outer end of the camshaft operated a Madison #50 six-station oiler to force oil to all the internal parts of the engine. They used the same roller guide on the front spindle for plowing that was also used on the Mogul.

The tractor has heavy counterweights on the crankshaft because both pistons travel in and out together. This way it fires one time every revolution. This gives much more even power at low rpm. It can easily pull the three bottom plow. Also, it has an impulse high tension magneto. It is easy to start.

When I was six years old, my dad took away the 15 HP IHC and drove the 10-20 Titan up to the sawmill. It did a great job compared to the 15 HP IHC. I would sit on the fender and put my foot on the governor arm and slow it down while he rolled logs to the mill or, at times when the saw would not reach through the first cuts, then he would hand saw and drive wedges to split the first cuts. When he was ready to saw, I would speed the Titan up before the saw entered the cut.

The Titan ran the mill until 1944, when Dad used a Chevrolet truck engine for power. I don't know where the tractor got to while I was in the service. Over the years, I have restored gas engines, my first a 1 HP IHC in 1939, tractors and T-Ford cars, but always yearned to find a 10-20 Titan tractor.

To my surprise, in the November 1998 issue of GEM, a 10-20 Titan was advertised by Brian Olenburg of Saginaw, Michigan. I took the ad to the 'Over the Hill Gang' Thursday work sessions at the Hay Creek Valley Historical Association and told them the story of my dad's 10-20 Titan and showed them the ad and picture. To my surprise, avid IHC collector Paul Norton said, 'Let's go get it.' He has an F-250 Ford Diesel truck and trailer, a capable unit to handle transporting the 10-20 Titan.

Everything was set to go, but the day before, Paul told me he could not make the triphis back hurt too much but he insisted I take his truck and trailer and go get the Titan. So with my wife Shirley, we headed to our son's family residence in Walled Lake, Michigan. On the third day with my son Gary, and grandson Ben, we headed to Saginaw to Brian's place. Brian had calls from all over the United States and lots of viewers. Brian said the tractor had to be dismantled completely in order to restore it. So I removed covers of the engine and found that the crank and rod throws were not rusted, but every other part was rusted fast. After our previous negotiations we came to terms and Brian pushed the tractor onto the trailer using a John Deere converted to an 'OilPull.' Then we had a long coffee break and some of his wife's pastries, then a long tour of the barn, garage and sheds full of small to giant OilPull tractors and gas engines. By this time, it was time to head back to Walled Lake. The next day Shirley and I headed back to Pennsylvania.

On the way home, we had plenty of viewers of the Titan at the hotel and our rest stops. When we arrived home, the work started. I was able to take the connecting rod caps and 2.5' nuts off inside the crank housing to the cylinder block and lift everything out as a unit. Then I pressed the pistons out. Luckily, I was able to use both pistons.

The tractor had been allowed to overheat, which cracked the external off-block and warped the alignment of the valve guides. There were not any internal cracks, which was good. Next, I bored the cylinder and shrunk the sleeves in the bores and then rebored the sleeves. Even the steering was rusted fast, so everything had to be taken apart. I also had to put new bottoms in all of the tanks.

Locating the original front wheels was more challenging. We finally located the proper front wheels in Missouri and got new fenders from Bob Lefever and decals from Minnesota. After final assembly it took hours to break it in by running it with the Hart Parr.

I talked to a collector in New York State and he found that running the tractor on 50-50 kerosene and gasoline was more effective, because the heating chambers above the engine and the boiling water from the engine made the gasoline boil too quickly before it ran into the carburetor. I used the small tank of gasoline to warm the engine up and then switched it over to the 50-50 kerosene-gasoline mix. The bottom carburetor is used to feed water from the cooling water to the combustion chambers in order to cool the explosions.

An illness prevented me from getting it to the Rough and Tumble Show. The tractor was at the Shirktown Threshers and the Hay Creek Valley Fall Festival and later the Apple Festival at Hay Creek Valley. It ran the sawmill using a 52' saw blade and it ran perfectly, sawing ash logs. I sat on a fender and worked the governor like I did 70 years ago.

My dream was now a reality.

I have temporarily slowed down a bit, but with your prayers and three more months of chemotherapy, I hope to finish restoring the 1.5 HP New Holland engine and a 1928 Buick. Then I may leave the remaining ten gas engines and a 22 Caterpillar for the next generation to restore.

The current generation deserves a lot of credit for our part we preserved of our heritagenot only the mechanical aspects, but the architectural aspect too.


In order to do the milling of the end block, facing the cylinder head, boring valve guides and cutting valve seats, I used a Bridgeport, to bore the cylinder block. I used an old 20' x 5' flat belt lathe. The lathe has machined surfaces and T-slots on the carriage and it is quite easy to mount the cylinder and I used a bar from chuck to tail stock with a boring head on the bar.

My bridge crane was capable of lifting the flywheel crankshaft and drive the clutch out in one piece to polish the journals. Afterwards, I lifted the crank case housing off so I could use the crane to lift the complete transmission on the floor and slide it outside of the tractor.

The biggest obstacle 1 had was to free the clutch drive sleeve on the crankshaft. I used WD-40 and an acetylene torch along with lots of brute force from my neighbor, Allen.

The other big problem was the Madison Kipp oilerit was a glob of rust. With the parts of three other oilers I was able to make a good one.

Brian said the Titan came from an island off the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and was used for farming and to run a sawmill.

The way everything was worn like 25-30 thousands in bore of cylinder and each link of roller chain with 1/32' play, the tractor was really a workhorse.


Gas Engine Magazine A_M 16Gas Engine Magazine is your best source for tractor and stationary gas engine information.  Subscribe and connect with more than 23,000 other gas engine collectors and build your knowledge, share your passion and search for parts, in the publication written by and for gas engine enthusiasts! Gas Engine Magazine brings you: restoration stories, company histories, and technical advice. Plus our Flywheel Forum column helps answer your engine inquiries!

Facebook YouTube


click me