From the Long Blue Line: A Lindsay-Alamo Engine

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Far left: Gary Calvin and his dog, Abby, with Gary’s restored 2-1/2 hp Lindsay-Alamo (and original Alamo truck).
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Above: Serial number tag from Gary Calvin’s Lindsay-Alamo. The engine was built in 1922.
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Above: Gary Calvin’s Lindsay-Alamo, before restoration.

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.”

A word about serial numbers

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.”

A little history

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:
rustyiron@locl.net

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.

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