Rare Shaw Stationary Gas Engine

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Photo by G. Wayne Walker Jr.
David Beattie with the Shaw engine he and his father rescued. The engine – apparently the only Shaw – has no serial number, no name tag, and just one casting number.

Shaw Mfg. Co. – the manufacturer of the Shaw Du-All – is a familiar name to many collectors. But hardly anyone associates Shaw with a stationary gas engine, and with good reason: Only one Shaw engine is known of.

David Beattie, McPherson, Kan., bought the 1-1/4 hp engine at a Shaw family auction at Galesburg, Kan., the company’s hometown.

“We don’t know for sure the year it was made,” he says, “but it was between 1903 (when the Shaw Mfg. Co. got its start) and 1911.”

David says he had heard rumors over the years of an engine in the brick garage behind the Shaw family residence. When the family held an auction recently, David and his father found the engine (“I knew what it was when I saw it,” he says), and made the winning bid. Then they met the founder’s daughter, who showed the two an original ad promoting the engine.

“She said the garage was built in 1911, and the engine was installed there after it had been used for several years in the Shaw factory as the main power plant,” he relates. “They put it in the garage to pump water for the garage and the house. It was probably used into the 1950s and ’60s for a water pump or cistern operation.”

When the Beatties got the engine, it was not stuck, and it was basically complete, but needed to be completely rebuilt, David says.

“It’s kind of unique,” he says. “There were no counter weights in the engine to balance it, and the flywheels had no counterweights. It runs pretty good, but you have to have a pretty heavy base, because it really vibrates. It was mounted on a cement slab in the garage.”

The Shaw company produced garden tractors and motorcycles. The stationary engine was an early indicator of what was to come.

“It’s unusual; the overall design is kind of different,” David says. “The design is similar to a motorcycle engine. It has springs that help activate the valve. It’s a hit-and-miss with spark plug, and it’s tank cooled. I believe Shaw made the water pump themselves, but the original water pump got away. Most flywheels have a rim, but these were squared off. It’s kind of crude, kind of primitive.”

The Beatties have done a lot of sleuthing, but have uncovered no other Shaws.

“As far as we know,” David says, “it’s the only one.”

David and his father are active collectors.

“Together we have about 50 gas engines,” he says. “Several Internationals, a 6 hp Famous screen cooled, a 2 1/2 hp Famous hopper cooled, and a 1/2 hp Plunket Junior.’ The Plunket is particularly unusual: It has just one flywheel, was made between 1906 and 1919, and is one of probably just 12. ‘It had been used in a dentist’s office in western Kansas,’ David says. ‘It has the original brass piston rings. Engines like that were also used to power carnival games.”

The Beatties also have garden tractors, and a Shaw Model T converted to a tractor in 1924. The latter was a factory-built conversion, David says. “It has a Shaw serial number rather than a Ford serial number; and ours has a shortened frame, and the front and rear axles are narrowed. There were probably just two to three dozen sold in the US, and most were kits.” FC

For more information, contact David Beattie, 733 Kiowa Road, McPherson, Kan., 67460; phone (316) 834-2225.

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