Antique Oldenburg Engine: 1928 Fairbanks-Morse 80 hp Diesel

An Indiana antique machinery club restores the powerhouse of a Catholic academy and motherhouse

| August 2002

The 1928 Fairbanks-Morse 80 hp diesel engine spent its working life producing electricity for an Oldenburg, Ind., Catholic academy and motherhouse.

Then, idled by alternating current technology, the 80 hp diesel engine sat silent for 16 years mostly in a barn with only varmints for company.

Today, though, it’s restored and running again – thanks to members of the Franklin County (Ind.) Antique Machinery Club. They plan to have it fired up for their annual show, Sept. 26-29, at the Franklin County Fairgrounds in Brookville.

Back on April 12, 1928, the sisters of St. Francis in Oldenburg signed the original contract to purchase the engine and its generator from Fairbanks, Morse & Company of Cleveland. The cost was $8,726 (nearly $92,000 in today’s terms).

The sisters planned to use the machinery to provide electricity to the Oldenburg academy, which they operated, and to their motherhouse.

The outfit they bought included the 80 hp VA diesel engine with an attached 50 kw DC generator. The engine had two cylinders, which ran at 300 rpm; a 12-inch bore and 15-inch stroke; and a type “H” two-stage air compressor belt, which ran at 3 hp. It also had a type “DH” 115-volt DC motor and a switchboard that met the National Electric Code. The gross weight was 21,175 pounds

Fairbanks-Morse company installed it and a 12,000-gallon fuel oil tank, which had a hand-operated gear pump to transfer oil from the storage tank to the engine’s fuel tank; FM engineers supervised the installation for $15 per day.