Half the fun of restoring old equipment is the research. Like a detective, Gary Calvin of Reading, Mich., pours over parts manuals and old catalogs - traded, purchased and found. With a fellow collector, Tom Laffey of Hamilton, Ind., the two spend hours on their pet topic: Alamo engines.
Gary's latest project is a 1922 2-1/2 hp Lindsay-Alamo, produced by the Alamo Engine Co. Alamo once operated in Hillsdale, Mich., not far from where Gary and his family live. Gary's father bought the engine more than 20 years ago from Kenny Wolfe, Peru, Ind. Since he had not had the time to restore it, Gary asked his father if he could have the engine. And that's when the work and the research began.
Gary's engine is from Alamo's Blue Line series produced after 1913. It is identified as a Lindsay-Alamo because the Lindsay Brothers company, Minneapolis, Minn., purchased a selection of Alamo engines and installed their own tags on them prior to resale. Gary's engine was in good condition. "It did run, but it needed some work," he says. "The magneto needed to be recharged, but Tom fixed that for me. It was a good, sound engine. I'm proud of it."
Gary paid $50 for a reproduction muffler with the original casting numbers. "A lot of the original parts are being recast for these," he says. "I had to replace the oiler, but everything else is original."
Because Gary's engine is a Lindsay-Alamo, the engine's original color was burgundy, not blue. "The regular Blue Line Alamo color of blue is DuPont 24160," he explains. "The Lindsay-Alamo is different because the Lindsay brothers wanted this burgundy color." He painted the cylinder head, carburetor and flywheel rims with Rust-Oleum Aluminum, and the muffler with Rust-Oleum Gloss Black. Dupont Centari 32678A is a close match for the Lindsay-Alamo burgundy, he says. Original decals are on the side of the water hopper.
The tag on Gary's engine lists the horsepower, and the serial no. (87388) indicates that the engine was produced in 1922. The maximum speed is 500 rpm. "I've seen a lot that didn't have the engine speed stamped on the tag," Gary says. "Usually the horsepower and serial numbers were stamped on. A lot of the tags were missing, perhaps used for souvenirs, or perhaps because of the World War II brass drives." Reproduction tags, he notes, are being made for some Alamo engines.
At a swap meet, he found a great addition to his engine. "I bought an original Alamo truck at the spring swap meet in Jones, Mich.," he adds. "It's a good place to look right after winter. I paid $250, and you always have to rebuild them. But it adds to the engine when you have the right truck."
The smaller size Alamo engines had a serial number stamped on the front of the water hopper. Numbers for the larger engines were on the cylinder head. These serial numbers were issued consecutively from no. 1 to no. 116000. This was independent of the engine's horsepower rating or the destined agent. It was the dealer's responsibility to install the brass nameplate on the engine, showing his company name, the engine's rated horsepower and rpm, and the serial number (duplicating the number already on the engine). One exception was Rock Island Plow Co. Because that company also sold other companies' engines, Rock Island added the letter "A" for Alamo in front of the serial number.
Companies that put their brand name on an Alamo engine removed the bottom edge of the Alamo tag, and then installed the remaining portion of the tag (the part with serial number, horsepower and speed) on the engine. There was at least one exception.
"Somehow the Lindsay brothers kept the Alamo name on their tag," Gary says. "Few of the others did, except some east coast companies. Some engines never had a brass tag. They might have been on the milking machine if it was sent to Dairy King Milkers, for example."
Before the Blue Line (those engines produced in 1913 and after), Alamo engines had a small glass "eye" in the side of the reservoir, allowing operators to see whether there was fuel in the reservoir of the carburetor before starting the engine. The fuel pumps were manually operated, as well as by pushrods. They could be worked by hand until fuel reached the eye in the reservoir. With the advent of the company's "modern" series of engines in 1913, the eye feature was discontinued. The engines were rated for gas, gasoline and kerosene (larger engines used on oil wells were equipped for wellhead gas).
Engines produced before 1913 were tray-, tank- or hopper-cooled. All Blue Line engines were hopper-cooled. Alamo considered its electric igniter to be the most important quality feature of its engine. A company brochure noted that "when the engine is hooked up on governor, the igniter rod is held out of contact, and plays back and forth without touching the igniter arm." The manual also noted that inexperienced operators "should never change the time of ignition."
Alamo crankshafts were made from forged steel, and connecting rods were finished with boxings made of bronze. The 1 to 6 hp engines were practically noiseless in operation, as they were equipped with rawhide pinions that operated the cam wheel. The camshaft gear was mounted on the outside frame of the majority of Alamo engines.
Gary has already started working on another Alamo engine on his back porch. "The 2 hp Rock Island I'm working on is the same size as this Lindsay-Alamo," he says, "except for the flywheel and piston. Rock Island always requested a 24-inch flywheel, as opposed to the 20-inch flywheels on the Lindsay. The piston is a little smaller. Also, the Rock Island Alamo engines were light brown."
- For more information: Gary Calvin, 8260 Crawford Rd., Reading, MI 49274; (517) 368-5895; Thomas Laffey, 3215 S. CR 800 E., Hamilton, IN 46742-9215; (260) 488-4008; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Joyce E. McLain is a freelance writer from Michigan. Her work has been published in Farmland News, Farmers' Advance, Farm and Ranch and Rural Heritage Magazine.