When Ken Christensen, Westport, Wash., bought this Fitch Four-Drive 20-35 tractor, the gas tank was completely rusted out. To preserve the original look, he put a new tank inside the old one.
If members of Early Day Gas Engine & Tractor Assn. (EDGE&TA) Branch 245 told you they were planning to build a state-of-the-art amusement park with an antique engine theme, you’d be inclined to put the opening date in your calendar, because these people are can-do people.
Branch 245 hosted the Northwest Regional EDGE&TA show in July at their Old Iron Showgrounds outside Shelton, Washington. The club acquired the grounds in 2008 and held their first show there a year later. Previously, the annual show was held at a nearby facility, but the rent was high and growing fast. Today, with a home of their own, the group is going strong.
“When we started here, there was a little pasture and a lot of brush,” says April Campbell, the club’s newsletter editor and treasurer. “We started having work parties to clear the land. Then we started having rock-picking parties and gathered up 15 yards of rock. Everything has been a group effort. Then the members go out and talk about what we’re doing; they tell their friends.”
This 1910 Western Wright Special engine belongs to Chris Jerue.
In addition to 56 tractor and 157 engine displays, the July show’s lineup included demonstrations by a wheelwright and blacksmith. Nearby, in another demonstration, babbitt bearings were being poured as a just-completed antique sawmill was being put through its paces in its debut performance. A shingle mill, which produced shingles for the sawmill and announcer’s stand, was also running.
Meanwhile, club president Dale Fye was on the radio, fielding questions about setup, loading zones and parking. Members were everywhere, working, directing, helping. More than 225 members are on the club’s roster, and nearly all of them travel. “They come back from shows with all kinds of ideas,” April says.
If Branch 245 builds that amusement park, they might have to put their foot down a time or two. For now, though, it’s pedal to the metal. “We don’t say ‘no,’” April says, “and it works.”
This 1905 8hp Foos engine’s unique wipe-spark ignition system constantly cleans the engine’s ignitor contacts, eliminating most ignition problems.
A rare Washington-built engine
A Western Wright Special built in Tacoma in the late teens appeared to be the only Washington-built engine at the show. “There were hardly any engines built in Washington,” says Chris Jerue, Bremerton. “There was only a handful of manufacturers, mostly in the Seattle area.”
Operating out of Tacoma, Barney Wright built about 150 engines between 1916 and 1935. Chris and his dad, Mike (who lives in Cheney, Washington), showed a Western Wright Special dating to the late teens.
The approximately 7hp marine engine is one of only a couple remaining Wright engines known to exist. “Most are probably in the bottom of the Puget Sound,” Chris says. Wright engines range from one to four cylinders. All were a vertical, throttle-governed, 4-stroke design running on gasoline, battery and coil ignition, and water cooling. With neutral, forward and reverse in a planetary set-up, the Wright marine engine is a fairly sophisticated engine compared to others of the era, most of which had no built-in transmissions.
This single-cylinder engine was used on a boat on the Key Peninsula on the Puget Sound. Although many antique marine engines show the ravages of exposure to salt water, this one is in good shape, Chris says, with no cracks, breaks or welds.
With an 8-inch x 7-inch bore and stroke, this 1891 Regan marine engine uses a make/break ignition instead of an ignitor. It would have powered a 20- to 25-foot boat.
Vertical Regan marine engine
Justin Prine’s engine display is a clear reflection of the Pacific Northwest. His 1891 Regan marine engine is said to have provided power for a tugboat on the Willamette River; his 1904 Atlas engine was used in drilling core samples for prospective mines.
Justin and his dad, Bill, have a taste for early, unique engines, preferably with a solid back story. “We like to share the details,” he says. “That’s really important to us.” The 4hp Regan easily meets the criteria of early and unique.
“My dad was pretty excited when he found that one,” says Justin, who lives in Portland, Oregon. “It’s still the only marine version of a Regan we know of. It’s rare because it was built so early, it’s a vertical engine and only a handful were made.”
When Bill got the engine, the flywheel was broken and most of the reversing gear was gone. “It had been in the barn a long time,” Justin says. “Marine engines are typically pretty rough.”
The engine was said to have run a tugboat in the late 1800s to the early 1900s. Built in San Francisco during the transition from steam to gas, before the concept of carburetion was refined, it originally ran on gas vapor. An engine that required neither a boiler nor a fire was of particular benefit on a boat.
Drilling in Alaska with an Atlas
Justin’s 6hp 350rpm Atlas, built in 1904 by Atlas Engine Works, Indianapolis, was shipped from the factory to Nome, Alaska, where it was used on a Keystone drilling rig. Many parts were missing, including several in the governor mechanism, so replacements had to be built and machined.
The ignitor-fired engine has an oversize flyball governor and pushrod design. The governor holds the exhaust valve open. “It’s a unique hit-and-miss engine,” Justin says, “but very well suited to use on a drilling rig.”
“When you work on these engines, you definitely get an appreciation for what the early engineers went through to develop them,” he says. “I think a lot of people just don’t realize where the internal combustion engine came from. This was the very beginning of it.”
Chris Jerue’s 4-stroke Vaughan drag saw (serial no. 170) dates to about 1910 and is likely an experimental model.
Vertical sideshaft Frisco Standard
Dan Watters, who lives on Orcas Island, the largest of the San Juan Islands in Washington’s northwestern corner, works for a power company. “When you work for power and light,” he says, “you see a lot of stuff.” Through his work, he got a lead on a marine engine thought to predate 1910.
The 9hp Standard marine engine – commonly referred to as a Frisco Standard – was built by Standard Gas Engine Co., San Francisco. Dan found it on Decatur Island in the San Juans. “It’s a very scarce engine,” he says. “A vertical sideshaft is kind of unusual.”
The gas engine was complete when he got it, but needed a fair amount of elbow grease. “It was definitely used in salt water,” he says. “I had to chisel a lot of rust scale out of the cooling jacket.”
Dan likes all the moving pieces on the Standard, and the fact that everything is out in the open. “Marine engines often have only a single flywheel,” he says, “and they have the transmission built in. The fuel tank would have been in the boat’s bow.”
Dan Watters with his 9hp Frisco Standard vertical sideshaft marine engine.
The Rimrock Special, and a hot-bulb engine
Justin Buetow, Kent, Washington, showed a trio of engines with extensive history in the Pacific Northwest. His “Rimrock Special” – a 16hp Union Giant built by Union Foundry & Machine Co., Ottawa, Kansas, was found in 1981 by former owner Don Monroe at the bottom of Rimrock Lake Reservoir, an irrigation reservoir west of Yakima.
The relic was nearly unidentifiable after spending half a century under water (the dam was constructed in the early 1920s). “Don thought it was used on a saw during construction of the reservoir,” Justin says. “Either there was a problem with it, or it was just too much trouble to haul it out when the job was done, and it was just abandoned.”
Justin Buetow with his “Rimrock Special” engine.
An 1899 Mietz & Weiss, another piece from the Monroe collection now owned by Justin, was found near Roslyn, Washington, east of Seattle in the Cascades. Roslyn was founded in 1866 as a coal mine company town; it’s thought that the engine was used to run a winch/hoist at the mine.
The 4hp kerosene engine has hot-bulb ignition. To start the engine, an uncooled cast iron bulb in the protective shroud at the head of the engine is heated by an external torch. The injector sprays fuel downward onto a lip extending into the cylinder from the cast iron bulb, where some of the fuel will bounce and spray back into the bulb. The fuel then readily combusts and ignites the rest of the fuel in the cylinder, providing power for the stroke.
Foos found in mountain wilderness
A 1905 8hp Foos Model S, another piece Justin acquired from Don, was found on a privately owned mining claim in Snoqualmie Pass in the Cascades’ Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area. Abandoned there after a copper mine closed in 1912, the Foos – which was used on a winch/hoist at the mineshaft – sat outside until Don found it in 1987.
At that point, there were only two ways to reach the engine: on foot via a 9-mile hike, or by air. Before Don found the engine, someone had broken spokes out of the flywheels and rolled the rims down a steep grade into a mountain lake.
An unusually motivated collector, Don took a swim in the lake to see if the rims could be exhumed but ultimately decided against it. In 1988, he had the remaining pieces flown out by helicopter in three loads.
Caterpillar Sixty has proud logging past
For John Brown, blackberries were the last straw.
John, who lives on Johnson Point outside Olympia, Washington, had his eye on a 1926 Caterpillar Sixty for a decade. He knew the three men who owned it. “They talked about getting it running,” he says. “But it was just parked under a maple tree. When I saw blackberries growing up through it, I told them I would make space in my barn to store it.”
And that’s when they decided to sell. The Sixty was mostly complete, but in bad shape. “We had to use another big Cat to load it on my trailer,” John says. “When I got it home and took the heads off the cylinders, the rust inside had grown out; it looked like dandelion puffs.”
Now his pride and joy, the Sixty would turn out to be one of John’s biggest restoration projects. Nearly two years passed before he got it running. “It was used in salt water to pull logs off the beach,” he says. “There was a lot of corrosion. I had to take it completely apart, and free up all the rings – they were full of rust.”
The Sixty was used in logging on Vashon Island in the Puget Sound until 1948, when it was sent to Olympia, where it was used in logging until 1965. It is equipped with a double drum on the rear. “The tractor was parked and the logs were brought to it,” John explains. The big drum was used to haul logs in, and the little drum had a pulley to pull the big cable to the log.”
An experimental Vaughan drag saw
Chris Jerue was 13 when he saw a demonstration of a 2-stroke drag saw at a fair. “I was just a little kid,” he recalls. “I saw smoke and moving parts, and I was hooked.” He found a drag saw in his neighbor’s junkyard, and a collection was born.
Now 26, Chris has a collection of some 180 drag saws. He’s building a collection of literature and created a registry of known drag saws. “I want to help piece together the history of various makes and models of drag saws and log saws,” he says.
This gold ore crusher, belted to an International Harvester engine, would have been used by an assayer to crush stone before panning it to determine value. “The miner had to hope he got
an honest assayer,” says Tom Dullanty, Maple Valley, Wash. The piece dates to the early 1900s.
At Shelton, he displayed a 4hp 4-stroke hit-and-miss drag saw built by Vaughan Motor Works of Portland, Oregon. All other known Vaughan saws are 2-stroke units. This one is believed to be an experimental design that was never put into production. “From what I’ve seen, Vaughan seemed to do more experimenting than most companies,” Chris says. “They have quite a few odd saws, mostly different 2-stroke designs.”
At least initially, a drag saw like this one would have been used by loggers to block logs for firewood or cut lengths for a sawmill. “Many saws were advertised as a one-man unit,” Chris says skeptically. “But this weighs at least 350 pounds. It’d be a lot of work to move it around. There’s a reason chainsaws took over.”
The Vaughan was basically complete when Chris got it, but in bad shape. “I had to completely tear it apart and address almost everything,” he says. An odd clutch also sets it apart from the rest. “You rarely see a clutch like this,” he says. “Most drag saws don’t have a clutch, or it’s on the flywheel.”
If Paul Bunyan looks the least little bit jealous, it’d be understandable. This Caterpillar Sixty belongs to John Brown, who says it runs like a top. “It’s fun to drive,” he says. “There’s no crank; you start it with a bar on the flywheel.” The Cat’s fuel tank is on the right, leaving the left side open, the opposite of an ag tractor.
'Hear the axe sing'
John Folk, Yelm, Washington, doesn’t beat around the bush. “I don’t collect just one thing,” he says. “I collect everything.” At the Shelton show, his display traced the evolution of outboard boat motors. But his collection goes well beyond that, into vintage engines, chainsaws, axes, motorcycles and more.
“I have a big collection, but there’s nothing in it built after World War II. Everything I use is old,” he says. “I don’t own a new chainsaw. I’m using the same McCulloch I’ve had for the past 39 years.”
His inventory includes boxes of axe heads. Axes tend to look the same, he says, no matter their age, but they’re not. He points out a 1914 axe, with the head formed of hard steel, hammer-welded together. “The metal in the new ones is no good,” he says.
He would know. “I like running chainsaws, but they’re loud and noisy,” he says. “Sometimes, in the woods, it’s nice to use an axe. It’s quicker than a chainsaw, and it’s quiet. I can hear the birds; I can hear the axe sing to me. And it’s good exercise.” FC
For more information: EDGE&TA Branch 245, Old Iron Showgrounds, 11 East Johns Creek Dr., Shelton, WA 98584; email: email@example.com; online at www.exhaustfumes.org.
Leslie C. McManus is senior editor of Farm Collector. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.