If you’re looking for something a bit off the beaten path, check out the gas engine display at an antique farm equipment show.
You’re sure to find an unusual blend of regional favorites and short-run devices. The display at last year’s Badger Steam & Gas Engine Club show in Baraboo, Wis., offered just that – with everything from Wisconsin-built engines to an unusual specimen out of Canada. Nestled in a wooded glade, the engine area is like a living encyclopedia of America’s industrial past.
Specializing in home-grown
Collectors haul their treasures to shows for a variety of reasons. Some are proud of a restoration; others have something unusual they want to share. And others, like Dan Dorece, Kenosha, Wis., are looking for information.
One of the engines he displayed is a mystery piece with no tag or parts numbers. Dan found it at an auction in Dorchester, Wis. “There was another auction that day, closer to home, with things I was interested in,” he says, “but I decided to chase this. I’d never seen one like it before.”
He estimates it to be a 4 or 5 hp engine dating to about 1910. It has an unusual head and ignition system. Entirely original except for the muffler, the engine shows little wear. “It has full tooth gear and the round connecting rod and brass bearings, which you generally find on high quality engines,” Dan says. The engine was not running when he bought it, but runs now. He’s built a cart and different gas tank for it.
It may be the remnant of an extremely small operation. “I don’t have any way to prove this,” he says, “but I think it may have been built by two brothers named Fleischman. They lived near Marshfield, Wis., and we know they built engines – a couple a year for five years. As far as I know this is the only one left. Nobody knows what the original looked like, and they didn’t advertise.”
The Lang & Scharmann foundry once located in Marshfield was known for the rough castings it produced. Dan believes the castings in his mystery engine originated there. “Although I’ve been told that castings for the Fleischman engines were made by a foundry in Oshkosh,” he says, “everything I see on this engine tells me that they were actually made by Lang & Scharmann. Since I’ve been told by three people that the Fleischman engine was built in Marshfield and I found it only a few miles from there, in Dorchester, my gut feeling is that the engine was not only built there but cast there.”
An unusual “compressor”
Dan pays close attention to auction offerings – like the item he saw listed on a sale bill as an air compressor. When he checked it out, he found an Automatic cream separator with its own gas engine. Dan found the set-up still bolted to the kitchen counter in the house where the auction was held. Manufactured by the Standard Separator Co., Milwaukee, the unit was in running condition when Dan bought it (and all the tools that came with it). “Standard may have been the only company that built that kind of a combination,” he says.
He also showed a pair of original engines built by Termaat & Monahan, Oshkosh, Wis. The 3 hp headless dates to about 1920; the 4 hp horizontal hopper to about 1913. The earlier engine has a “skeleton” base; later models – like Dan’s 4 hp – had full bases. “There was a design patent issued for the skeleton,” he notes.
“It has the J-shape fuel mixer you see on all Termaat engines,” Dan says, “but this one has a needle valve as part of the mixer. On all the other Termaat & Monahan engines, it’s part of the head.” Dan built a gas tank for the 4 hp engine, and did extensive work on the 3 hp. “It was not too good when I got it,” he says.
Dan specializes in Wisconsin-made engines, and the odd and unusual. “I got my first engine – a Maytag – from my uncle when I was 8,” he recalls. “The day after I got it, I got it running. My first car was a 1948 Crosley, and I still have it – and that Maytag.”
If Maytag engines are at one end of the scale, the 1903 14 hp Stover displayed at Baraboo was at the other end. Weighing in at more than 4,000 pounds, the behemoth was once belted to a multi-station line shaft on a farm near Cary, Ill. – not far from Freeport, home of Stover Mfg. & Engine Co.
“You don’t normally find engines that big on a farm,” says owner Joe Maurer, Pearl City, Ill. “I don’t know if it ran the feed mill or what. It sat on a cement base and a cistern underneath was used to cool the engine.”
A previous owner found the engine in the 1960s and got it running, but by the time Joe got it, it had been left outside for more than 20 years. “I had to re-do the rod bearings but as far as I know, the rings are original. They must have taken good care of it.”
The earliest Stovers were sideshaft engines. “The thing that makes this one rare is there weren’t many horizontal Stover engines with Stover castings,” Joe says. “Just about 100 of these were made. For 1903, it was a very simple engine, but it had features that were still used later, when engines got more complicated.”
Foreign and domestic
Richard Uhl, Malone, Wis., likes his engines slow and easy – and a Canadian-built 4 hp Desjardins fills that bill. “It’s one of my favorite engines,” he says. “It’s one of the slowest running engines I’ve seen. That flywheel will go 30 or 32 times before it fires again; it almost stops. It even runs slower than a Lauson.”
Richard found the engine at the Le Sueur, Minn., swap meet more than 12 years ago. “It came in on a load from Canada,” he says. “It was running when I got it. I didn’t do anything to it but add oil and put it on a cart. It’s really well made.” His best guess is that the engine was built in the mid-1920s.
Desjardins was a prominent Canadian farm equipment manufacturer. Desjardins engines do not typically have tags; they were built in Saint André de Kamouraska, Quebec, and resemble engines built in Waterloo, Iowa.
When Lonnie Johnson, Orland Park, Ill., got into the engine hobby, his first project – a Sandwich 1-1/2 hp engine dating to about 1918 – was a basket case. Lucky for him, though, no parts were missing. “The previous owner bought it when it was complete and running. He took it apart and started restoring it, and then I got it,” he says. “So, in putting it back together, I learned what every part was for.”
The engine shows little wear. “The gears are all square and the bearings were tight,” Lonnie says. “It’s a really good engine.” He did a complete restoration including extensive sanding and a handsome paint job.
Lonnie grew up on a farm, but had no contact with gas engines until he took up the hobby nearly five years ago. His collection currently includes Fairbanks, Witte and Economy engines. “They’re all in running condition,” he says, “So I probably won’t take them apart and restore them, although the Witte is pretty worn out.” FC