Farm Collector

Close Look at Old Photo Yields Clues to Engine Collector

Check out one reader's opinions and observations about a Ford being used to power a water pump.

Greetings from a longtime Farm Collector reader (since Vol. 1, Issue 2, believe it or not). Thanks so very much for a truly excellent publication. Please keep up your good work. My heart breaks a little more every time another old iron magazine goes away, or goes online only.

I was so very glad that you re-ran the photo on Page 4 of the June 2021 issue from a previous issue. First, let me join the long list of those nostalgia fans who will truly miss the articles of the most gifted Anthony Lovelace. With those thoughts in mind, I am writing to share some opinions and observations about the photo of the Ford powering the family water pump in the photos at the top of Page 4.

First of all, it brings back memories of growing up on a farm in West Texas, where the well behind the house was the only supply of water for the ranch, the house and the cattle. If the pump wasn’t operating, neither did the sinks or toilets. While we did have an electric pump, the situation when it didn’t work was every bit as serious as that depicted in the photo on Page 4. When the pump was out of commission, our only options were to draw water by hand with a bucket or drive several miles to my grandparents’ home to “borrow” water from them in all the empty milk jugs we could find.

The engine undergoing repair is almost certainly a 4hp Sparta-Economy. I have two of those engines. One is a good dependable runner and the other is a parts engine. The most compelling evidence of the identification of this engine is the inverted flat top in the water hopper. The Sparta engines were very tall and narrow compared with other similar engines while still using very wide main bearings. Both of these features are readily apparent in the partially disassembled engine shown on Page 4. The muffler and mixer from the engine (still attached to the head at the mechanic’s feet) are also correct for a Sparta-Economy. The location of the timing gear and the flyball governor located on the left side of the engine frame (from the rear) are all consistent with a Sparta engine.

The rag stuffed in the cylinder, the fact that the piston and head are off the engine and the screwdriver or scraper in the mechanic’s right hand all lead me to think the engine may be down for a valve job and quite possibly a good decarbonization and ring cleaning. The long connecting rod – also a feature of Sparta engines – appears to be leaning against the crankshaft protruding from the drive pulley, but I don’t see the piston. This makes me wonder if the piston and perhaps the valves may be soaking in kerosene in the bucket to the right of the mechanic’s right leg, to loosen the carbon deposits.

A few other observations: The water pump handle (for manual operation) leaning against the house at left suggests to me this may not be the first “down time” on an unscheduled or inconvenient basis for this engine. Maybe the owner didn’t fully trust this newfangled power source. Could the wheelbarrow and shovel visible to the left of the car’s front fender indicate the engine decided to take a “break,” interrupting a concrete project elsewhere on the farm, necessitating the emergency solution of powering the pump with the family sedan? Wish I could make out more details on the license plate.

Thanks again for re-running this great photo. I look forward to many more years of Farm Collector.

Dr. John S. Townsend IV,

Garland, Texas

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  • Published on Aug 5, 2021
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