By the busload


| September 2002



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Bob Ludolph

Bob Ludolph of Pipestone, Minn., started collecting gas engines as a teen-ager, drawn to them in part by their sounds. Today, he is 67 and has amassed more than 200 farm engines of different brands out of about 1,400 different brands ever made.

'That covers everything - Maytag, Briggs & Stratton, Economy, Hercules, Jaeger, Nelson Bros. - I could just go on and on,' he says. 'I started collecting in the 1950s. I picked them up here and there, wherever a guy could get a good buy. I got a few for $10, $15, $25 - you'll never be able to do that again -because I was interested in hearing the noise they made, and in getting the old engines running and back into their original shape. You know, spending time and money on them. It kind of got out of hand.' 

He says he bought most of his gas engines from retired farmers, and most of the machines never got very far away from where they were manufactured. One of his most unusual is a Field-Brundage engine, manufactured in the early 1900s by the Field-Brundage Co. in Jackson, Mich. It is hopper cooled and has a 6-hp sideshaft and an upright governor.

Another unusual engine in Bob's collection is an Earl, made by Earl Machine Works, Burlington, N.J. It is a 6-hp, screen-cooled engine with a sideshaft and an upright governor. 'That's a pretty nice engine,' he says. Another one Bob waited a long time to buy is an air-cooled Galloway 'Handy Andy.' ' The water-cooled are pretty common, but I didn't see a lot of the air-cooled ones around,' Bob says. 'I've been looking for one for a long time, and I waited a long time to find a good one.' That opportunity came recently, when he found his 'Handy Andy' at an auction held in connection with the Badger Steam Show at Baraboo, Wis.

Bob says the majority of engine people from whom he makes a purchase are honest folks, but once he bought a Fuller & Johnson 1 1/4-hp engine from a guy who told him it was one of only two in the United States. 'He said it would be neat if I owned it, so I ended up buying it. I suppose a month later, I went to a couple of auction sales down in Nebraska and I saw three of them in two days. So I got to checking things out, and it wasn't so. But that's how you learn. Every deal is not a good deal.'

Bob's collection also includes a 1902-1903 Fairbanks Morse engine that came out of a grain elevator in the U.S.-Canada border area north of Minnesota and North Dakota. It's a screen-cooled engine, so the water runs over a screen rather than into a hopper on top.