Rare Gade Engine Runs Backward

A rare 3 1/2 hp Gade engine runs counter-clockwise

Vernon Ruble's mammoth Gade engine weighs about 1,100 pounds.

Vernon Ruble's mammoth Gade engine weighs about 1,100 pounds. It draws plenty of attention at the shows he attends, where people take a look and tell him that he's got his engine running backwards. "I just tell them that's the way it's always run," he said.

Photo by G. Wayne Walker Jr.

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When Vernon Ruble started collecting engines, he followed his elders' advice. 

"The older collectors I've talked to, they all said that they regretted passing up the opportunity to get a large engine," he said.

So, as a novice collector, Vernon jumped at the chance to buy a rare, air-cooled Gade engine.

"I've just been collecting for a couple of years," he said. "I was at a show with my wife and the kids, and this older gentleman had the Gade for sale. It was just getting too big for him. An air-cooled is a pretty unusual engine, so, a couple of weeks later, I bought it."

The 3 1/2 hp Gade engine was manufactured in 1912 in Iowa Falls, Iowa. The previous owner said it had been used in a grain mill, where it had been run counter-clockwise.

"The majority of engines run clockwise," Vernon said. "But the way the equipment was positioned at the mill where this came from, they had to have an engine that could go counter-clockwise. On this engine, if you turn the cam around, it will run backwards. And that's the way it's been run, since it was new."

Vernon plans to repaint the Gade engine an authentic dark green, and a new cart is also in the works. When he bought the engine, an original parts manual came with it, setting an already rare engine apart from the rest.

"There's supposedly only four other 3 1/2 hp Gades," he said, "and this is the only one that runs counter-clockwise."

Engine restoration comes naturally for Vernon: he's had his own machine shop for 25 years. His collection includes a little Stover and a 1 1/2 hp Simplicity. In the past he collected antique tools and antique cars, but he's concentrating on engines now. These days, he spends spare time working on his collection, and going to engine shows with his wife and daughters.

"It's something we all enjoy," he said. "It's just good, clean fun that the whole family can enjoy." FC 

For more information: Vernon Ruble, 501 S. Edwardsville Road, Warden, Ill., 62097; (618) 459-3507.