Scratch-Built One-Off Wonders

Iowa man shows his skills by making full-sized scratch-built gasoline engines

| August 2012

  • One-Off Wonders
    Mark expanded the concept of a Fairbanks-Morse 6 hp engine and created this scratch-built 50 hp engine. Weighing in at 2,300 pounds, the engine resembles a steam engine, a tactic used by early manufacturers to ease concerns of buyers more familiar with steam engines than the newfangled gas engines.
  • Full-Size Gas Engines
    A rear view of Mark Goesch’s 50 hp scratch-built engine.
  • Iowa Man Handcrafts Engines
    Mark with his 50 hp scratch-built engine. The engine’s 585-pound flywheels originally came from a 15 hp Reid engine.
  • Throttle Blade
    The throttle blade, inside the brass-colored circle at right center, was made from a dime.
  • Cam Components
    The cam components of Mark’s smallest scratch-built engine.
  • One-Cylinder
    The smallest of Mark’s engines, this one-cylinder opposed can be carried by hand.
  • Largest Scratch-Built Engine
    Mark’s largest scratch-built gas engines include the 50 hp engine at right and the Snow replica at front. “God gave me the talent to do it,” Mark says, “and my dad showed me what to do with that talent.”
  • 4-Cylinder
    Mark’s 4-cylinder engine. The flywheel is on the left, cam gears are in the middle, connecting rod is at right and a pressure gauge is at lower right.
  • Rocker Arms
    From the front of the engine looking down: our intake rocker arms and one exhaust rocker arm (on the right bottom). The engine’s heads are solid steel and were bored for valve assembly. The intake and exhaust valves are interchangeable and the rocker arms are all the same.
  • 4-HP Engine
    The 4 hp engine’s gear train seen from the rear. Note the balancing holes Mark drilled in the flywheel’s interior to balance it for this engine. At right side: the aluminum-colored counter weight and connecting rod.
  • Goesch
    A front view of the Goesch, showing (from near to far) a scratch-built carburetor, power circuit and the horizontal engine head. The blue box emblazoned with the letter “G” is the water reservoir.
  • Goesch Ball Cap Logo
    Mark named this scratch-built engine the Goesch in honor of a logo on one of his dad’s ball caps. Everything is scratch-built except for the flywheels.
  • Oil The Bearing
    Mark’s system to keep the connecting rod bearing oiled essentially slices oil droplets as they’re about to fall, flinging half of each droplet onto the bearing.
  • singlecylinder engines
    After building a trio of single-cylinder engines, Mark tackled this much more challenging 4-cylinder engine. Mark says he’s learned patience from his hobby. “You take three steps forward and two steps back,” he says. “It’s amazing how much time you can put into it. You have to have some reward, and that comes when it works right.”

  • One-Off Wonders
  • Full-Size Gas Engines
  • Iowa Man Handcrafts Engines
  • Throttle Blade
  • Cam Components
  • One-Cylinder
  • Largest Scratch-Built Engine
  • 4-Cylinder
  • Rocker Arms
  • 4-HP Engine
  • Goesch
  • Goesch Ball Cap Logo
  • Oil The Bearing
  • singlecylinder engines

In the world of old iron, Mark Goesch is a unique guy. The Sioux Center, Iowa, man builds gasoline engines from scratch — but they’re not miniatures. They’re full-size gasoline engines.

Even more unique, Mark doesn’t use blueprints. “Without blueprints, I need something to fall back on, so I use my memory,” he says. “I only build an engine if I can close my eyes and see it. If I can’t see it, I can’t build it. I close my eyes and my inner vision sees the engine in detail. Like looking at a picture or a bright object. When you close your eyes, you see that object, but I see the engine in detail.”

Catalyst close to home

Mark’s father, Wilbur, was a machinist. That skill and interest spilled over to Mark, who also works as a machinist. “My dad was into old stuff, so as a kid I had some wheels and axles from old hay sweeps and pump rakes,” he recalls. “I put them together with plywood pieces, pushed them up a hill and let them roll down. As I got older, I wanted to build something useful. Miniature builders are very, very talented people who don’t get the recognition they deserve, but I wanted to build something that would be more useful than a miniature.”

Mark’s family’s first farm engine was a 6 hp Fairbanks-Morse bought from the grandson of the original purchaser. “It had pumped water in southwest South Dakota for years,” he says. After restoring it, Mark figured he could just as well build an engine. Most restorers wouldn’t think that way, but his background gave him a unique perspective. Since then, Mark has scratch-built four full-size gasoline engines and a dynamometer.



The first scratch-built project

Mark’s first engine was modeled on the 6 hp Fairbanks-Morse he remembers from his boyhood on the farm. But it’s not an exact replica. “I used to drag race, so I like to modify things,” he explains. “I built the block and was building the crankshaft, and decided to increase the stroke by a half-inch. I thought I only had to lengthen the crankshaft. But I discovered the counterweight struck the block, so I had to modify it, notching out spots to allow counterweight clearance.” He named his 5 hp creation the Goesch in honor of his father, who wore a cap with the same moniker.

Single-cylinder opposed

A year later, in 2005, Mark tackled a 2 piston, 1-cylinder opposed engine. “I built it as a technical exercise, something I dreamed up that doesn’t really relate to another engine,” he says. “The pistons come together and when the gasoline fires, the pistons are pushed apart, so it required two cranks that run with one or both pistons.”



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