Fairbanks Morse oil engine
The 25-hp Fairbanks Morse oil engine in Charles Cochran's Florida backyard once powered an entire paper plant in Sanford, Fla. The Elm Street Paper Co. there produced fancy tissue used to wrap boxed fruit. Charles and a silent partner, the late David Glass, bought the engine 30 years ago, after David turned it up at the closed plant on one of his regular 'engine hunts.'
Fairbanks Morse built the 'Y'-type oil engines from 1912 to 1938. In a historical sketch about the company, the company's chief engineer wrote that experiments with oil engines began in 1912, and although some changes were made early on, the basic engine was very successful and remained the same for years.
The company reportedly experienced problems with the engines in 1913 and 1914, retrofitted all those already sold and incorporated the needed improvements in all engines manufactured from 1915 onward.
During 1924, the 25-hp model was modified too: compression was raised from 150 to 290 psi and the bore was raised from 10 to 10-1/2 inches but the stroke remained at 13 inches, and in 1925, the Y-type horizontal engines were renamed 'model 39.'
Charles says his Fairbanks Morse 'pulled everything in the paper plant,' including papermaking machines, dryers and winders. It was housed in a separate building, with an 80- or 90-foot line shaft off the side that ran under the plant. Belts then ran up through the floor to run the machinery.
Charles said he and David went down one day to size up the job of bringing the 6,000-pound engine home; it wasn't an easy task, and they had to plan the move well in order to accomplish it in a single day, as both men worked full-time jobs.
To get the engine, the men took the end out of the building in which it was housed, repaired the roof where the smoke stack had been, winched the engine out and onto a heavy-hauling truck, and then replaced the end of the building. That was in either 1969 or 1970; Charles can't remember for sure after all these years.
At the time, he says, they were told the engine hadn't run since 1953, which was when the paper company shut down. 'It was basically in good shape (because it had been under cover),' he recalls. 'It just needed a little work on the injector and on the oil counter, and it needed something under it.'