When I was a small boy (it sure seems like I was a small boy for an awfully long time) there was a gasoline engine being manufactured in Marcellus, Michigan. It was known as the Chapman and the plant was located along the south side of the railroad and a couple of blocks west of the depot. It was quite a popular engine, among the farmers. They were used to power well pumps, buzz saw rigs and most any other rotating device that the farmer had occasion to use. I don’t know what the horse power range was, but the 1-1/2 H.P. was a popular size for pumping water.
Bill Collissi had one on a Buzz Rig that must have been, at least, a five or a six horse power. I have a good valid reason to remember “Old Bill’s” engine, because I still have a scar over my left eye, that it administered to me.
During the depression, “Old Bill” would come over and tell me that he couldn’t get the engine started. He knew that I would start it for him and once I had gotten it started, I would saw them up a supply of fire wood. Heck; “Old Bill” was so feeble that he couldn’t carry gasoline to the engine, much less start it and cut any wood. I would play his little game, and besides, I liked to fool with that old engine.
The crank, that was used to start one of those old engines, slipped on over an extension of the crankshaft, and engaged with a pin through the shaft. When the engine started the pin would push the crank from the shaft extension. The system worked great, except for this one time that I refer to. I must have been on an up stroke, with the crank, when the engine fired, because the crank came, spinning, off the shaft and the heavy end struck me over my left eye and knocked me colder than a mackerel. I came around pretty shortly, with no apparent permanent damage. When I think back and am reminded of some of the mechanical hazards that people lived with, during those times, I think, what a ball a, present day, OSHA Inspector would have had.
I do want to mention the speed governing system that was used on the Chapman engine and, for that matter, most all horizontal, single cylinder, gasoline engines of that vintage. It was known as a “hit and miss” governor and was indeed, a simple system.
There was only one cam and that operated the exhaust valve only. The intake valve was, very lightly, spring loaded so that vacuum, in the cylinder, opened it during the intake stroke. On the exhaust valve push rod was a latch plate that, when engaged by an arm from the governor, would hold the valve open. When the engine reached a predetermined speed the governor would move the arm over until it engaged the latch plate and then the engine would just coast, without firing, because the exhaust valve was being held open. When the speed decreased to the point where the arm would release the push rod, the engine would come up on compression again and fire. This would result in, what would now be, a very peculiar sounding engine. It would fire once or twice, depending on the load, and then it would coast for several revolutions, sucking in air and blowing it out again. Then it would fire a couple of times to bring the speed back up again.
Descriptions, such as the above, may seem a little unnecessary at this point in time, however, some time, in the not to distant future, the only place that you will be able to see one of those engines will be in a museum. It won’t be running then, so you will not be able to tell how it operates. There are a few serious collectors around the country that are gathering up the old engines and restoring them. These people are performing a real service for posterity.