Farm Collector

Tractor Page

Rt. 2, Box 87, Rochester, Michigan

I came on your fine magazine through Robert Nelson of Lapeer,
whom I met at the State Fair last fall, where he was displaying his
working model Case. He was kind enough to give me a ride on it. I
can still hear the whistle as it reminded me of the ones used on
the engines that ran on the Denver & Southern Railroad when it
was a narrow gauge.

At one time I was sure I was off my trolley at least my friends
did, for collecting of all things, old wagons and fly wheel
engines. Now I know there are many steam men who think fly wheel
engines aren’t cricket. But like steam, they came in the horse
age, and where the use of the horse has died, so has the use of
steam and the flywheel.

I came to live on the farm 14 years ago, then though the area
was dotted with them, there was but one fly wheel engine in use.
There was one new John Deere ‘A’. Everyone had and used
horses and wooden wagons. During World War II I saw the change it
came slowly. First, the high wooden wagons were converted to low
rubber tired jobs, then, it seemed everyone had a John Deere, and
in less than five years one by one the horses had gone. I could
have had all the engines just for the asking. At the close of the
war, the engines were all scrapped, and all that remained was a

So, I was delighted to see in a Washington, Michigan, junk yard,
in the winter of ’52 one last reminder of the golden age. It
was a typical one-cylinder, overhead valve, horizontal hopper
cooled open crank case fly wheel portable engine, and it set me
back $50.00. It had at one time been green, which I later found to
be an almost standard color with the fly wheel’s, striped in
red and yellow trade marks on each side of the hopper. The engine
ran as was though. Why, I now can’t say the spark was so
advanced. Anyway, I got busy and cleaned off some six bushel
baskets full of oil-soaked dirt and repainted and striped my find.
I guess the shock must have been too great for the old engine, as
all I could get out of it was a couple of backfires thereafter.

To my horror I found nobody knew anything about these old
timers, even the people who were using one didn’t know,
their’s had been a hand-me-down from ages long forgot.

Further, I didn’t know the maker of the engine as the name
had appeared on the trade marks and all that was readable was the
city and state where it had been made. So I sent an inquiry to the
Chamber of Commerce and found I had a Hercules, made by the
Hercules Products, of Evansville, Indiana. They in turn rushed me
an instruction book and informed me that though they still stocked
parts for the engines, they hadn’t made any for over thirty
years. The last carried a spark plug and a WICO magneto.

My engine is a 7hp., 375 rpm., Ser. No. 194962, bore stroke
6’x9′, ignition a Webster (old style brass mounted) make
and break oscillating magneto. It is a kerosene engine and had had
a water injector (broken off) which until I received my instruction
book, left me wondering what once filled those holes.

As internal combustion engines go, fly wheel engines belong to
their own class. I used to, before making the new gas tank, run the
engine off the priming pan in the carburetor. Just as the engine
would start sucking air, I’d shut off the fuel jet, swing open
the cover on the priming pan and take the cap off the gas can. Now
remember the engine is rolling over all this time. I fill the
priming pan, close the cover, put the cap on the can, open the fuel
jet, and stick two fingers over the air intake port . . BAM . . BAM
. . BAM and away she goes again, all without cranking. Try that out
some time on a modern engine, your car, tractor, or power mower.
They say here that there is so much energy stored in the fly wheels
that one can cut a cord of wood after the engine has run out of
gas. I had the governor stick once, scared me half to death I
pushed the throttle closed and closed the fuel jet, never did think
that darn engine would stop. Those fly wheels you know are rather
out of plumb. It jumped the rear wheels of the truck it was mounted
on up and down like a pile driver. As it is, running normally, it
dances up and down on its all steel truck like a little girl
skipping rope. Can’t see how a pair of eight inch channel irons
could have so much, spring in them. Though I suppose two unbalanced
tons of iron could make a difference.

I have since latched on to a 1 hp. little brother for my prize,
as well as a number of other makes, but no more big engines. I
always figure they make nice hitching posts and the little woman
can always plant geraniums in the open jacket. Now there’s a
real idea for the antique dealer. We’ve been growing vines out
of coffee mills for years, and here all the time there is a
made-to-order flower pot right under our noses. I recommend for
such funny business, to pack wadded aluminum foil down around the
cylinder, followed by coarse gravel, fine gravel, dirt, flowers,
and more dirt, and of course you leave the drain valve open. The
aluminum foil serves a dual role, it makes it easier to clean the
engine up for use, as dirt under the cylinder can be a real
problem, then too, the dirt can clog the drain valve. I predict
that the small variations of the hopper cooled engines will find
their way into the picture windows and kitchens of the modern
homes, sprouting flowers and thus be the new and plentiful sale
attraction for the antique dealers, who are fast running out of the
supply of antiques.

Speaking of engines for the home, my mother can recall when she
was a little girl on a farm in southeast Kansas of a (what they
then called rich) farming family that had an engine in their
kitchen taking the work out of the word ‘work’. I have an
International Harvester 1 hp. Moguel No. Y6845 kerosene engine
20′ fly wheels in A-1 shape that was used in a kitchen by a
farmer’s wife (lucky girl) for washing and churning. The engine
had been stored in a tool shed for thirty years when I got it. They
took the line shaft down last year when they modernized the
kitchen. My father came from western Kansas and he can remember the
days before fences when there were still a few Long Horns left. He
once saw a horse-sweep-power a thresher, as well as many steamers.
There were, of course those interlopers, the Oil Pulls and Fly
Wheel Engines, the threshers powered with, a Fly Wheel Engine
sounded like a modern hay baler, the thresher picking up speed with
every loud report from the exhaust of the engine.

I see there are those who would like to see steamers
manufactured again. Unfortunately there has to be a need before
such could happen. Further, the steamer would be competing on a
market against light, fast, handy, small easy-to-operate tractors
of today. The best alternative I can think of is converting a
modern machine, where parts would be always available. John
Deere’s ‘H’, ‘B’, ‘A’, ‘G’, and
Standard Treads, are best as they are easiest to re-work. The
engine requires only the heads and valves be replaced with steam
gear. The radiator, gas tanks, and hood give way to the boiler, and
there you are, a modern undermounted steamer. Easy, wasn’t it!
I wonder who will be rolling these out?

I think since our love’s occurred during the horse age, it
would be fitting if we gave ‘O Dobbin’ a page in the ALBUM,
and add his present breeder’s name as well as those of
manufacturers who still make wooden wagons, harness, and parts
thereof, to the list in the Steam Directory. For we need ‘Ole
Dobbin’ to drag our portables about, as well as making the
re-living of the Golden Age real.

Here’s telling you that you are doing a fine job.

  • Published on Jul 1, 1956
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