| June 2001


A restorer and collector learns from an old Western

Robert Critz says that, in restoring his 94-year-old, 25 hp Western engine, he learned how to be mechanically inclined.

For some people, this might not be much of a statement. We might expect a steep learning curve for those who've never wallowed in the innards of engines. Robert, however, has been working on vintage engines since he was 12. The Western engine just offered him some new challenges.

'It's just engineered differently than other engines I've worked on,' Robert says. 'Everything's mechanical and it's really critical on timing. If the timing isn't just right, it isn't going to run. It's its own animal.'

Robert, an Escondido, Calif., resident, wanted to restore the Western because of his affinity for California-produced engines. Western engines, made in Los Angeles, gained popularity in the early 1900s and were used mostly for water pumping in basins and mines. Many of the old Westerns found today are still discovered in, and rescued from, the mines where they worked for years. Others are found abandoned in barns. Robert didn't have put on his detective hat to search out-of-the-way places for his engine, but did have to use his powers of persuasion.

'A friend of mine got the engine in a trade,' he remembers, 'but he didn't want to restore it. It was already disassembled and partway restored, though, and I told him I wanted to finish it.'

Years went by before Robert got the call from his friend asking him if he wanted to buy the engine. In July 1999, he picked it up and began the restoration process that would take him 11 months to complete.