A Rare and Unusual Engine Collection

An impressive collection started with a 1928 John Deere gas engine.

| April 2015

  • 1893 2 hp Crossley-Otto engine
    The 1893 2 hp Crossley-Otto engine has several unusual features, including a single flywheel. Serial no. 21791, the engine has a bore and stroke of 5-1/2 by 8-3/4 inches.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • End view of the 1893 2 hp Crossley-Otto engine
    An end view of the 1893 2 hp Crossley-Otto engine, running.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • 1893 2 hp Crossley-Otto engine
    The 1893 2 hp Crossley-Otto engine was manufactured by Crossley Bros. Ltd., Manchester, England, on July 7, 1893. It was designated "The Otto" as shown on its side.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Front view of the 1893 2 hp Crossley-Otto engine
    A front view of the 1893 2 hp Crossley-Otto engine. The three valves of the fuel system with pendulum governor on the fuel inlet valve are visible here. Also shown: the hot tube chimney, sideshaft and the belt pulley on crankshaft. Note the water running on the right side into a funnel, showing active circulation. The engine retains its original color, exactly the way it left the factory.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • 1893 2 hp Crossley-Otto engine
    In this view of the 1893 2 hp Crossley-Otto engine, which now runs on propane, the flare of the "piano" base can be clearly seen.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • Morrie Robinson
    Morrie Robinson with his one-of-a-kind 1893 2 hp Crossley-Otto engine in the Otto Building at the Western Minnesota Steam Thresher's Reunion, Rollag, Minn.
    Photo by Bill Vossler
  • St. Mary's gas engine logo
    What's left of the logo on the St. Mary's engine shows a lifetime of hard use.
    Photo courtesy Morrie Robinson
  • Front view of the St. Mary's gasoline engine
    Front view of the St. Mary's gasoline engine.
    Photo courtesy Morrie Robinson
  • 3 hp Stickney Junior engine
    The single flywheel on this 3 hp Stickney Junior has a rounded flywheel rim, unlike the flat rim found on other engines.
    Photo courtesy Morrie Robinson

  • 1893 2 hp Crossley-Otto engine
  • End view of the 1893 2 hp Crossley-Otto engine
  • 1893 2 hp Crossley-Otto engine
  • Front view of the 1893 2 hp Crossley-Otto engine
  • 1893 2 hp Crossley-Otto engine
  • Morrie Robinson
  • St. Mary's gas engine logo
  • Front view of the St. Mary's gasoline engine
  • 3 hp Stickney Junior engine

When it comes to gas engines, if it’s rare and unusual, Morrie Robinson’s radar is up. The Sedro-Woolley, Washington, man has built a collection of very rare and exceptionally unusual engines. And it all started with an old clunker abandoned in a barn.

As a high school student in the 1970s, Morrie bought rural acreage in the community of Day Creek, Skagit County, Washington. When neighbors sold their farm, Morrie discovered a 1928 1-1/2 hp John Deere gas engine tucked away in the back of the barn. Once used to run a milking machine, the engine had not been used for years. Morrie was fascinated by the old relic and the neighbors were happy to find a good home for it. “That was the one that got me started,” he says.

At about the same time, he and a cousin started hunting for engines in the Edmonton area. “Suddenly you are hooked and it becomes a disease,” he says with a laugh. “Somehow the number of engines you have seems to multiply.”

Morrie and his wife, Charlene, joined the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers’ Reunion in Rollag, Minnesota, as lifetime members in 1987. When he mentioned his interest in engines, he was shuttled along to the West Engine Building on the WMSTR grounds. “They asked if I would run the 12 hp 1917 Western winch engine and 1898 National Transit (Klein) engine,” he says. “That was a useful way for me to get to know everybody, too.”



Noteworthy collector

Among the engines Morrie began operating at WMSTR was an 1893 2 hp Crossley-Otto. An exceptionally rare engine, the Crossley-Otto has only one single S-spoke flywheel (measuring 5 feet with a 4-inch face). Its air intake, located on the bottom of the engine, is constructed of baffles rather than valves. Its sideshaft runs on the center of the crankshaft (most are next to a flywheel), the belt pulley is also in the center of its crankshaft, and the crank throw and rod are on the outer end of the crankshaft opposite the flywheel.

Another feature setting the Crossley-Otto apart is its “piano” base. The engine sits on a vertical, one-piece casting that flares out to form a base. “It’s quite a beautiful engine,” Morrie says, “when you see how that base flares out.” That assessment was shared by a collector noteworthy in his own right: Henry Ford. The famed American industrialist added the Crossley-Otto to his personal collection in the 1920s.