When Maynard Mau, Donnelly, Minnesota, became interested in antique stationary gas engines, it never occurred to him that his brother, Michael, might follow his lead. “I used to collect tractors and cars,” says Michael, also of Donnelly. “When my brother started collecting gas engines, I decided to do that, too.”
Before they knew it, the brothers were spending a lot more time together. The antique engine hobby has since become a mainstay for both men. “It’s in our blood now,” Michael says. “I enjoy visiting with other collectors, and this shared activity helps bring me and my brother closer. It’s a good hobby.”
“Our dad liked gas engines, and he liked to go to threshing bees and auctions, so I guess we’re following that,” Maynard says. “I guess once you start looking at engines, you just start liking them.
Every engine has a story
At least one of the Maus’ engines spent years in darkness before they got hold of it. The 2-1/2hp Economy was buried for decades under a pile of old corn cobs. “It was on the original farmstead where it was used,” Maynard says, “but that’s about all we know about it.”
Another engine came their way via failed romance. When a friend’s relationship broke up, a 1-1/2hp Alamo found its way to the Mau brothers’ collection. “It’s one of our best-running engines,” Michael says. “It pops off and runs right away.”
Among the unusual gasoline engines in the brothers’ collection is a 1938 3hp John Deere Model EP. Built in fairly small numbers, they were designed for use in dusty areas. The carburetor’s location seems to support that. “The carburetor is built into the head,” Michael says, “so dust can’t get to it. Having that carburetor hidden makes it unusual.”
An early-1920s 7hp Ottawa twin-cylinder engine the brothers inherited from their dad is rare. “Most of them are single-cylinder engines,” Maynard says. In original condition when their dad got it, the engine needs some mag work. “We haven’t done anything with it yet,” Maynard says. “We had it running once, and we want to put it on a different cart, but we really haven’t gotten to it yet.”
According to C.H. Wendel’s American Gasoline Engines Since 1872, 7hp Ottawa twin-cylinder engines were used to power horse-drawn saw rigs produced by Ottawa (Kan.) Mfg. Co. In 1923, the 7hp engine sold for $139 (roughly $2,087 today). The company claimed the cost of kerosene to run the engine for one day of wood cutting (at 15 cents a gallon) would be about $1 – the equivalent of 2 cents a cord (although a 1918 Ottawa ad proclaims in large letters 25 Cords a day, or 4 cents per cord).
Mystery surrounds Rawleigh-Schryer engine
The brothers’ 1915 3hp Rawleigh-Schryer engine, manufactured by Rawleigh-Schryer Co., Freeport, Illinois, also stands out. First, it is a 3hp engine – despite the fact that no references show that the company (which manufactured engines in 70 variations between 1909 and 1915) ever built a 3hp model. Second, the serial number is CC1A003, suggesting that the Mau brothers’ engine was perhaps the third one produced.
In American Gasoline Engines, Wendel notes that, beginning in 1916, there was an additional charge ($7.95) for Rawleigh-Schryer engines containing a Webster magneto. Following the departure of Paul F. Schryer in September of that year (Schryer left to manage International Harvester’s Milwaukee plant), the company’s name was changed to Rawleigh Mfg. Co.
That would not be unusual, except for the fact that Schryer was the designer of the Rawleigh-Schryer engines, and yet eventually abandoned the plant with his name on the company and engines. A fire at the factory later in 1917 effectively ended the production of Rawleigh engines.
It is possible that the company started manufacturing 3hp engines at the end of the Rawleigh-Schryer era, and with tags already on some of the engines, they were not removed after Schryer’s departure, despite the Rawleigh-Schryer logo. Then, perhaps the blaze cut the new 3hp line short, with only a few made. But that is just speculation; the answer is lost to time.
Other oddities of the Rawleigh-Schryer engine include text on the tag identifying it as having been manufactured in Illinois and sold by D.B. Sharp of Jacksonville, Florida. Moreover, Rawleigh-Schryer engines are rarely seen in the north, but the Mau brothers bought theirs at a sale in Cambridge, Minnesota. How it got there is anybody’s guess.
Whatever its origins, the engine had strong appeal for Maynard and Michael. “It was different, and we didn’t have one, and it was pretty much restored already,” Maynard says. “To get it running, we had to clean the points and go through and clean the check valve so it could get fuel. Then it ran.”
Building connections with collectors
Maynard and Michael run their engines at shows, and they’d like to add implements to the display. “People would rather watch you running something,” Maynard says, “than just the engine.” But buying implements can be expensive, which cuts into the engine budget.
Getting the engines running, and listening to them run, is Maynard’s favorite part of the hobby. “I like to work on them,” he says. “We don’t have a shop yet, but we plan on having one. Then we could work on the engines that need work, and get more running.”
He also enjoys making connections with other engine collectors, and doing favors for them when he can – like going to an auction for a friend who has his eye on an engine, but who can’t get to the auction that day. “That’s just part of our friendship,” Maynard says. “We’d never ask to get paid to do that.”
He says others would do the same for him and Michael. In fact, he had just asked a buddy to bid on an engine at an auction the Mau brothers couldn’t get to. “You set a price that you don’t want them to go over, and see if that works,” he says. “But in this case, our friend ended up not going to the auction either.”
Preventing damage from freezing
To prevent any problem with freezing temperatures common in cold Minnesota winters, the Mau brothers drain the water after using any given engine. “That way we don’t have to worry about it,” Maynard says. “The ones we keep outside are drained of everything before winter comes.”
It’s a simple matter of opening a stopcock or a plug on the bottom of the water hopper, and checking later to ensure that all the water has drained out.
A few of their engines have antifreeze or oil in the hopper. “That way, we don’t have to worry about them,” Maynard says. “Every time we take engines to a threshing bee, we make sure they’re drained before we put them away. We’re usually pretty good that way. We’ve never had an engine freeze up.”
Running gasoline engines requires diligence, Maynard says. “Most of the hit-and-miss engines have an oiler on top that drips oil into the cylinder to lubricate the piston,” he notes. “You can adjust it to how fast you want it to drip, maybe one drop every 20 or 30 seconds. Some of the oil gets burned out of the piston, and some gets burned and comes out the back, so you have to watch the oiler and fill it as needed.”
The biggest problem with engines today is the gasoline, Maynard says. “If you only run the engines once a year, the next year you could find that your check valve is stuck, so the engine isn’t getting any gas,” he says. “The gas isn’t as good as it used to be for engines, and that’s a problem.”
Ottawa 7hp and 3 Mule Team are among brothers’ favorites
Of the hundred-some engines in the brothers’ collection, Maynard’s favorite is the 7hp Ottawa. “It’s a two-cylinder, which is unique,” he says. “It’s the only one like it that we have, and it belonged to Dad.”
Michael, on the other hand, especially likes their 3 Mule Team engine, built by Associated Manufacturers Co., Waterloo, Iowa. “It’s just like an Associated, made for different companies that put their tag on it,” Michael says. One of the things Michael likes about the 3 Mule Team is its hopper. “The style is different than a lot of the others,” he says. “It has a rounder shape and it just looks nicer, I think.”
Finding engines at auctions is one of Michael’s favorite parts of the hobby. “Sometimes we come home with an engine that we wanted,” he says, “and other times we come home with one we hadn’t originally thought about buying.”
“I enjoy the hunt,” Maynard adds. “It gets in your blood. It’s fun to go to auctions, look, find one, and bring it home. It’s the excitement or the thrill. Gas engines are pretty much what I do, and Mike and I can do it together. That’s just part of the fun.” FC
Bill Vossler is a freelance writer and author of several books on antique farm tractors and toys. Contact him at Box 372, 400 Caroline Ln., Rockville, MN 56369; email: email@example.com.