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What got you started collecting engines?

I got this idea when I was shoveling snow and I said to myself, “I wonder what got you guys started in engine collecting?” I guess if I tell you my life story about how I got started (hey I'm only 13 years old.) Ever since I can remember I've been interested in old farm equipment. My grandpa used to take me to tractor shows when I was old enough to walk. (Because he was too lazy to carry me, not really, he did a lot of things for me.) Anyway my first engine was a Maytag and then some model steam engines and now hit miss engines. I collect a lot of other things also, like Blow Torches (want one? I've got about 200) barn and RR lanterns and about a million other things. So what’s your story? -- Chase

Here’s my story. I've been fascinated by these engines ever since I was a kid, but I never had a chance to get one. Two years ago I took a new job and a group of guys there were in this hobby. A good friend of mine gave me a 1 1/2 hp Sattley that was a basket case. I made some parts, ordered some parts, put it together and cranked till I most broke my arm. Ordered a manual, set timing etc., and got the first POP! I was hooked! Two years later and I now have nine engines. Most of them are missing parts, mags, etc. The Sattley is painted, decaled and will probably always be my favorite. I enjoy going to shows and having a blast being around great people. -- Vern

Might have been the circa 1956 Lawnboy mower I found at the local dump, missing it's wheels and handle. The engine was seized, but all I wanted was the deck as it was better designed than the mower I was using. After getting it home I decided to see if I could get the engine to run. I soaked the cylinder in a mixture of kerosene and diesel fuel for about a month, then stuck the punch of my air hammer though the sparkplug hole (headless engine) and gave it a couple of light raps and the piston was free. I bought a set of new rings and a couple of gaskets for about $7 and got it running. Then I had to buy a new set of wheels and scrounge a handle for it. I mowed a little grass with it just to say that I had, but the mower is now enjoying its retirement. I figured it had earned it. -- Bill

I bought my first engine at a junk yard, found it while helping my dad unload scrap. It was just a Maytag and the junk man wanted 2 dollars for it and Dad said not to buy it as it was in a good place. Grandpa had one and that’s kind of why I wanted one. That was in 1975 and I was 10. Now the wife and I have over 180 engines and her dad has some too. -- George

As for me I've 27 engines, started when I was very young. My first was a 7hp Saxon that was given to me by the owner's widow. My father had taken me to shows since before I could walk. Probably would have more engines but I'm out of space, plus I invested in a traction engine which cost me as much as a few dozen engines. -- Nick

I haven't counted mine but it’s around 10. But then, they are all stuffed in a little 10x14 garden shed, along with all my other outdoor stuff. I’m a bit limited for space living in a mobile home park and I can’t keep any in the house. On the other side is my lathe and 3 more engines. I guess that would be 9 if I did not miss one and 10 if you include the John Smyth. The ole shed looks pretty good considering it collapsed under the snow last winter. I reinforced it and you could park a truck on it now. -- Steve

For me it all started when I was very young. We would go to the local farmers fair and there were these very interesting engines that ran on water. (Hey, cut me a break, I was young and that's all you saw was the water in the hopper.) These engines always fascinated me and I thought how neat it would be to have one. As time went on I kind of forgot about it. I ended up becoming friends with an old farmer that had an interest in older John Deere tractors which in turn interested me. I told a friend at work that I was looking for older tractors and to keep an eye out for me. One day he brought in an ad from his local paper that had some tractors for sale. For some reason or another, I didn't get any of the tractors. I had this ad in my truck for a couple days and picked it up to look at it when I spotted a smaller ad which just said Hit & Miss engine for sale. I figured, what the heck, I'll give it a try. The guy still had it so after work I went to look take a look. The engine was a Stover CT-2, with the magneto and crank handle, the head was off, it had a valve with a bent stem stuck in it, and was loose. I made a deal with him and took the engine home. I really didn't have a clue as to what to do, so I picked up a reprint manual for this engine and figured out how it went back together. I got the valve out, had the auto parts store match me up a valve and put in back together. The mag was still hot so that was a plus on my side. Put some gas in it and cranked my arm off. After messing around awhile, I figured out the check valve was stuck. Fixed that, cranked it over a couple times and away it went. I still have this engine and it's still in it's work clothes. The only thing I added was a set of skids. – Bill2

I got interested because of my older brother. When he was in high school in the late 50's, he borrowed a lawn roller from a neighbor, and thought the hit & miss engine (maybe an Ideal?) that powered it was neat. Fast-forward to about 1966, when we were living on a farm in South Dakota. My brother did some work for a neighbor, and in lieu of payment, the neighbor gave him a Witte drag saw that was lying in the woods. It was our first engine, and boy was it stuck and in tough shape! The next one was an Associated Hired Man, then a 2 1/2 Ingeco. Many others followed over the next 7 or 8 years. In 1973, my brother was diagnosed with leukemia, and passed away a year later. I have many fond memories of him - working on engines, going to shows, and hunting for more engines. We had our share of "wild goose chases", but some success stories too. Most of the engines had to be sold when we moved off the farm, but I still have about a dozen or so, and my younger brother has a few also (the Witte saw rig is one of them!) -- John

An old friend asked me to go to a small local show and help grind corn and sell it to the tourists. Well, he had a plan I think! He acted like he really didn’t know all about the old Challange engine. So I kind of took over the whole operation (parades, shows, Founders Day etc.) Then one day he said he wanted to sell the engine and burr mill, so we managed! That lead to 8hp. Cushman, to F&J pumpers to an FM dish pan to F & J, Peoples Priced to Economy and on. I tell him thanks when I see him and he just smiles. -- D. Smith

I live on a farm and have always been interested in mechanical things. One day when I was 14, a neighbor called and asked me to help move him out of his place, it being sold. I went down to help and when we got to the shop to load things, he said to take the F/M 1 1/2 headless. He had saved it from the junk man years ago and paid $2.25 for it. Knowing how I liked to tinker, he thought it would be a good reminder of him for me. After being shocked and starting a large fire I had it running (an even longer story.) Then the hunt was on for the old iron! That was 25 years ago and now the kids are old enough to help and enjoy the engines. -- Randy

Well, I am sort of a third generation collector! My grandfather had a few engines, but my dad is the one who got me hooked on old iron. He was (is) always bringing something new (old) home! My first engine was a Fairbanks “D” and I bought it when I was 14! I am now 25 and have approximately 50 engines, counting air cooled. The smallest is a little York model with 4 1/2" flywheels and the largest a 25 hp cooper Bessemer with 6' flywheels! -- Allen

I guess it was back in the early 80`s that I first got interested in them. Our neighbors began collecting John Deere tractors and my father and I got interested as well and began going to shows. I saw these old engines popping along and thought they were pretty neat. My father had a few over the years, but I couldn’t afford one. About 4 years ago I bought my first one at a local auction, a 7 hp half base Hercules. I’ve been hunting for more ever since. I now have 11 and I hope to add more. Good luck and happy hunting. -- Dave

I have an uncle that asked me if I wanted to see an old engine run. Normally that wouldn't trip my trigger so he told me I probably had never seen this type of engine before. He sure was right! He started this old 1925 6hp Economy with one pull on the flywheels and I spent the next 1/2 hour just staring at all that goes on in an open crank case. I was spell bound and hooked bad. I started going to engine shows and within two years have collected some 8 or 9 engines. Sold one and traded one and now am always looking for the next one. It has to be red and has to be Economy and it has to have all that stuff happening in glorious rotary harmony! So then I started my son! He’s worse than I am about the action. -- Economy Bob

I was always into mechanical things from an early age. I had a basket case Indian Motorcycle at around 12 that I put together and had a ball with it. Then I had different cars for years. Well, while attending an auto show about 12 years ago, I got my first taste of "FLYWHEEL" engines! Then through a friend of a friend I got my 1st engine. It was a basket case 1HP IHC Famous with the butter churn pulley and magneto that cost me $225. The guy had it all apart and had new bearings poured and fitted to the crankshaft and connecting rod. I still have it. The cars are long gone, replaced with engines, and more engines. Now I'm selling some to get a bigger engine (20HP IHC) in a Titan tractor along with a friend. It’s another basket case item that is costing a bit more than $225. Where will this all end? I’m just trying to have some fun. -- Paul

My Dad was a tool and die maker at Olds and we were always doing something with engines when I was growing up. If it had an engine at our place, it probably got an overhaul sometime in its life. Dad told me about old flywheel engines from when he was a kid and about the time he was 10 minutes late in 1958 of getting one free from a neighbor who was cleaning out under his front porch. Anyway, he and I went to a show in the mid-80's and I really liked what I saw although I hadn't the foggiest idea of what I was looking at. Meanwhile, a friend of my parents (who was a widow with lots of empty barns on her place) had a Maytag lying in a shed that my Dad discovered when they were there visiting her. He asked what she was going to do with it and she said take it if you can use it. Five minutes later it was in his trunk! Anyway, he went through the whole thing and eventually got it to pop but not run, much later I discovered that he was missing the entire pop-it valve from the carb! Well, Dad died in Jan. 1996 and my wife and I lived in Houston (Dad and Mom being in Michigan). We decided we wanted to move home and about a year and a half later we did and bought the farm from my Mom. While in Texas we would go to the Burton Cotton Gin Festival every April, and along with the show they had quite a number of engines and tractors. Well, we moved into the farm and in cleaning out Dads stuff there was the Maytag. I played with it a while and got it running (somewhere along the line Dad must have gotten the pop-it valve cause it was in there). The rest, as they say, is history. I do have about 10 or so, smallest is Dad's Maytag 92, largest my 15HP Reid, the favorite is probably my Jaeger Trash Pump. I'm just getting into showing them. -- Norm

I started into the "Big Boy Toy" hobby in the summer of my 15th year. It was 1964 and I just had to have a Hot Rod! It was a 1937 Ford Coupe with a 283 Chevy, a LaSalle tranny and a Lincoln rear end. That one soon gave way to a "57" Chevy Nomad wagon with "Vette" 327, a Muncie four speed and a 456 positrac. And that was followed by a "67" HO GTO, Red with Black vinyl top and Mag Wheel. Next came the Harley's, a"52" Panhead dresser then an early Superglide. Then one day I rode the Panhead to my Dad's house, and there in the drive way was a John Deere 1.5 E, just doing what they do. I said "what in the hell is that?" He says “it's a farm engine.” Well I guess the old saying that goes "Less is more" must be true because inside of 6 months the Hot Rods and the Bikes were history and I was driving a Pickup Truck and buying all the rusty Iron I could afford. That's been nearly 30 years ago now and I have never regretted it for a moment. -- Ted

I got started in this fine madness when I repaired a finger which had been crushed in the gears of a Bull Dog 1 & 1/2 HP engine. I went to the show to see the offending machine at the young man's request and the rest is a long dive into the pits of hopeless addiction. Thought I could stop at just one. HA! I’m up to ten or so and still looking. Thought I could attend just local shows. HA! Portland, Coolspring and Sistersville have become annual pilgrimages. Thought I would just quietly observe and keep my mouth shut. HA! I now know engine people from all over the USA, Canada, England, Australia, Netherlands and who knows where else. Ain't it great! -- Larry

Let's see the beginning huh? Well that would be back in the 70's when dad got his first engine. An IHC LA or LB, who cares really? Anyway, he went to Europe for a summer, and when he got back Grandpa had his engine running, and had bought a Hit & Miss for himself. Apparently the hobby took off from there. I don't enter the story until June 1980, and attended my first show at the tender age of 1 year 2months and a few days at the 1980 Portland show. From there everything took off, dad would buy a new engine and fix it up, and whether I liked it or not I was going to the shows. A couple years ago money was tight, so I gave him a website for Christmas (it was all I could think of). That worked out well, and we've been adding to the site, and the collection ever since. Portland and Coolspring are the only annual requirements, everything else is optional, but usually attended anyway. -- Jonathan

I saw an ad in the local newspaper, advertising a roll top desk for sale at a yard sale on the coming Saturday. After I saw the desk the lady said her husband had just passed away and she was selling everything in the garage. When she opened up the garage I bought a 300# anvil for $10.00 plus some other small stuff. I looked over in the corner and saw a Hit & Miss engine. I knew about them but had never owned one. She said her husband had paid $300.00 for it about 15 years ago if I wanted it for that I could have it. I told her I would take it. This was in 1994, it is a 4 HP Fuller Johnson already restored on original cart. -- Benny

Back in the late 30's we lived on a farm, Dad had 40 - 50 head of Cattle and 40-50 head of hogs and those critters drink a lot of water, especially if you are the one pumping the water by hand. The well that furnished the water was 135 ft. deep and that is a hard pull for a kid of 10 or 12 yrs old. One day my dad told me when I got home from school to get that old engine started and pump the water. That's where I started. The engine I think was a 1 1/2 HP Nelson Monarch. I’ve been looking for one but haven't found one yet. Well I got married, went into the service, came back and all my time was occupied trying to make a living. I have done mechanic repair and machinist type work all my life and I took an engine head to a friend's shop for repair in 1989 and he asked me if I had ever seen his engines. Naturally I hadn't so I said NO and he said come on out back, to a building about 40 ft. X 80 ft. which was almost full of every brand of engine you could think of. Right there I thought of the old engine that I ran as a kid in the 30's and I thought HEY this is something I could do when I retire. Well that was 12 yrs ago and I now have maybe 20 engines that are restored and some waiting to be restored. Like some of you guys say I am always looking for flywheels in the hedge rows. I have more projects than I will probably ever get finished, but it is like a friend told me the other day, It gives me something to look forward to. Well that is my story about having fun in retirement. -- Dale

I guess my son got me into this madness. About 4 or 5 years ago we were at a show near Pittsburgh where my cousin was showing some of his engines. My son spent practically the whole show starting a little Maytag and watching it run. My father bought a Briggs WMB for him and I bought him another little Briggs. The next spring we went to a 6-week 4H small engines class taught by a man who is now a good friend. We were hooked. Most of my engines are small air cooled ones but this past fall we bought a Cushman Model 21 and a Novo AG to play with next summer. -- Leonard

How many of you gents have heard from engineless good folks at shows: “I just want one to tinker with!” Well it just doesn’t work that way! I said the same thing and I’ve been through over 100 engines in the last 7 or more years! Grease-Dirt-rust-bloody hands and all, I love it! This is a crazy hobby but I’ve enjoyed it more than any I have been in, in my life! -- Shane

I started collecting hand tools about 1995 by attending farm auctions. Auctions are cheap entertainment if your hand is not the last one in the air! Then I wanted an old water pump for the front yard. Found the pump but it had a flat belt pump jack attached. Thought an engine would be nice to turn the pump jack. Oops! I purchased a Lauson Frost King Jr. which the owner could not start after having it repainted. I knew nothing about these old engines but found a picture of a Frost King on a web site in Auzie land and the owner emailed me starting instructions. After removing plastic pipe plugs from the mixer air intake which the painter had painted over, and following the starting instructions from Ausie land, IT STARTED! I instantly caught old iron fever! Enginitis! Rusty Iron fever! Well now I have a trailer used for local parades and shows with water pumps and pump jacks at the front corners operated by the Frost King Jr. and a LB 3-5. The trailer also carries FM C118, LB 1 1/2 -2 1/2 with pump jack, Cushman C 4 hp, and a Chase Gas Engine Manufacturing 4 hp. I just met an old rancher who saw me in a parade and he has a flywheel engine in his barn that he might sell. Does not know what kind but he starts it once a year just so it will not freeze up. I have met many great, helpful people at auctions, shows, and here on the SmokStak. -- Roger

In 1994 I was walking along a river bank after a flood on the Koyukuk River (175 air mi N. of Fairbanks) in an abandoned mining town called Old Bettles. I tripped, and when I looked to see what had caused my feet to falter, I found a spark plug sticking out of the ground. A little digging and I had a Sears 5HP Motor-Go made in 1924 and I put it in the boat and took it home. Two days later I had to make a trip to deliver dog food and fuel to a village 90 miles down river that needed supplies. When I walked up the bank, I came face to face with a 1919 4 hp headless Witte and it was all down hill from there. It took two years to get the engine into town, and its still stuck, but it is one of this spring’s projects as soon as the snow goes away. Since then I have found 15 more engines, and it just goes on and on. -- Al

I guess I was always interested in mechanical and electrical things as a youngster and my first engine was a 1.1 Hp Lauson air cooled lawn mower engine. My dad bought it for me at a weekly farmer’s auction. I made all sorts of motorized things ranging from motor scooters, boats, cars and whatever using this engine for power. I eventually learned something about engines from that one, and that was, don't let it ever run out of crankcase oil, or you will throw a rod through the crankcase. I subsequently bought another identical engine many years later just for old time’s sake. I got seriously interested in the larger farm type engines a few years ago after I retired and have since accumulated five or six engines, six depending on what I do with the one I bought just for parts. In any case, these old engines provide a good appreciation for things of a simpler nature, compared to the complexity of modern equipment that you can't tinker with, for fear of destroying it, such as our new computerized motor vehicles. -- Russ

I grew up on a NY country farm with a John Deere LA, grapes, peaches, pears and a few chickens. At age 2 though, I had this electrifying experience with a hairpin and a wall socket and so I was into electronic things most of my life. After college and marriage, my wife and I made our home on an old country farm that we bought in 1968. It included an Allis Chalmers C and a John Deere GPO on steel. Time passed and the real engine bug bit in 1995 when we went to the Canandaigua show for the first time. It had been going on for years not far from us, but it was called a "Steam Pageant" and pageants didn’t exactly float our boat. I quickly realized that engine shows did! Anyway, it wasn't long after that I heard from a ham radio friend about a Witte gas engine that was for sale. If you've read these engine and show web pages, you know where I went from there! -- Harry


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