Junkyard Yields Gems for Gas Engine Collector

One man's junk, another man's treasure


| July 2009



Junkyard engines: 1913 Empire

A 1913 Empire 1-1/2 hp gas engine (no. 43628) manufactured by Alamo: “The Engine of Quality,” the engine’s decal states.

Leslie C. McManus
Junkyard Yields Gems for Gas Engine Collector

Bill Briney’s trailer-mounted display of gas engines showcases a selection of very nice, very rare pieces – which makes it hard to believe that he found some of them in junkyards.

His 1913 Empire came out of a junkyard, as did a pair of what appear to be experimental Maytag engines and another “no name” engine with a funnel-shaped hopper. But those treasures may be the end of the line. “I still go to the junkyard,” Bill says, “but I don’t find anything there anymore.”

If his show display is any indication, he can afford to rest on his laurels. His trailer boasts a 1909 Deyo, a 1914 St. Marys, a 1911 Rawleigh-Schryer, a 1913 Gade, a 1913 Empire, a 1913 Root & Vandervoort and the aforementioned mystery engine.

Junkyard dogs

Bill’s had uncommonly good luck hunting for engines in junkyards. His 1-1/2 hp Empire is a classic example of that. Built by Alamo Mfg. Co., Bill’s find was missing the hopper and the main bearing caps when it turned up like a diamond in the rough. Now fully restored, the Empire is a fine addition to his show display.

Bill’s “no name” engine, another junkyard find, is a real mystery. When a sleeve rotates, it opens ports that take the charge to the spark plug and then to the exhaust. The engine has no castings or numbers of any kind. “I’ve had it running,” he says, “but it doesn’t run well. Somebody was trying to come up with something, but they gave up.” Bill’s best guess is that the engine dates to the 1930s or ’40s.

A pair of Maytags in Bill’s collection may be experimental models. He’s guessing that they were cast aside at the factory but were smuggled out by a worker.
The 1-cylinder engine has a cast iron flywheel and has a magneto similar to that used on a Johnson engine. Wicks from the main bearings to the gas tank were apparently intended to provide lubrication (the 2-stroke engine runs on a mixture of oil and gas), “but that evidently didn’t help much,” he says.

The 2-cylinder engine features a smaller gas tank and a solid kick pedal. The engine’s cover is made of aluminum, and the parts number is preceded by the letter “Y.”

Off the beaten path

The gearless 1-1/2 hp Deyo (no. 682) and 1 hp St. Marys share common features: neither has a camshaft or timing gear to work the valves. Both engines use an eccentric on the crankshaft to operate the valves. “It’s a different design, and it’s kind of weird,” Bill admits. “But it must not have been too good, because it didn’t catch on.”

The Deyo has a little gear that rotates every other time, so it misses the pushrod on the exhaust valve until it fires. The St. Marys has a pushrod on the eccentric that opens the valve by the port. “It comes down and pushes the plunger so the valve will open,” he explains, “using the port from the combustion chamber. The next time it misses, and the engine fires.”