Friday, April 10, 2015

Hit n' Miss Engines at WNC Fall Harvest Days

Rare collectible engines were well represented at the 29th Antique Engine & Tractor show last October as this photo illustrates. Looking down the line from front to back you see a Monitor, The Bamford, an unidentified engine, a Spotless and an Abenaque. This event sponsored by the Apple Country Engine & Tractor Association  is held the 4th weekend in October at the WNC Agricultural Center near Asheville, NC.

A masterpiece of the metal caster’s art the data plate reveals that this Monitor is engine number 7 manufactured by Baker M’F’G Co. of Evansville Wis. Rated at 2hp. Turning 450 rpm.

Was it named for the famous Civil War gunboat? No, it was named after a windmill. It was the windmill that was named for the warship. Let me explain.

Baker Manufacturing was formed in 1873 to make a new steam engine designed by Allen Baker and Levi Shaw. It was described as a “rotary engine with three movable parts, a spherically shaped machine that worked like a slowly twirling penny.” Sounds interesting, huh? Although test of the prototype engine were described as a success, for whatever reason the owners decided they could make more money operating as a general purpose foundry and machine shop. In 1874 Baker began producing windmills and it was the Monitor Windmill that made the company fortune. Winning ribbons, gold medals and praise wherever it was shown it remained a mainstay of the firm for years. It wasn’t until 1904 that Baker ventured back to engine production. By 1912 Baker offered 2, 4 and 6 hp vertical engines, horizontal engines of 8 & 10 hp and 11 & 15 hp engines mounted on steel trucks. In 1919 Baker published a catalog called 51-E that offered equipment that could be powered by the engines that included pumps, milking machines, cement mixers and cream separators. All engines came with a 1 year guarantee. You can read everything you ever wanted to know, and probably a lot more, about the history of Baker Mfg. in a company history written for the 125th anniversary in 1998 by Ruth Ann Montgomery that can be found at

A clean, green Bamford machine. When I enlarge the photo it looks like the data plate says that this is engine # 1060 that produces 2 ½ BHP at 450 rpm but at that magnification the image is very grainy so that’s not a sure bet. Henry Bamford an ironmonger by trade (that’s Brit speak for blacksmith) assisted by his son Samuel founded Bamford LTD in Uttoxeter England about 1871 and began producing an assortment of tools and agricultural machinery. Bamford’s business proved to be very profitable and the product line expanded through the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. By 1881 their catalog listed 40 pages of products, by 1900 that had doubled. Among the products offered was the “Royal Horse Mower”, one of the firm’s big sellers. Bamford exported products worldwide but were late getting into the engine game. They began offering stationary engines in 2.5, 5 and 6 hp in 1920. In 1932 they expanded into diesel production with 6, 8 and 10 hp models. If you are interested in Bamford engines I highly recommend a visit to the Bamfords Engine & Machinery Group website at http://henrybamfordandsonsuttoxeterengland.couk  . It offers a wealth of information about Bamford LTD, an assortment of replica replacement parts and they will even date the production of your engine for you.

I don’t have any information at all on this neat little engine. If you can shed some light please do.

Chugging happily away in its own puddle of oil is this Spotless Engine. The plate on it reads “The Spotless Co. The south’s mail order house. Richmond, Va. Spotless sold the engine as a house brand as Sears sold engines under the Economy trade name but it was made by Jacobson Machine Manufacturing Co. in Warren, Pa. Jacobson engines were also marketed under Bulls eye, Maynard, Moody and Unito trade names. Jacobson produced hopper cooled engines in 2, 3, 4 ½ and 6 hp versions. Collectors of these engines will want to pay a visit to Don Worley’s Webpage at  for a look around. He has posted a collection of period ads and photos and says that he has factory records that list all parts used on Jacobson manufactured engines.

The Abenaque Machine Works produced gasoline and Kerosene engines that ranged from 1 to 15 horsepower between 1894 to 1921. Writer Bill Vossler in a 2004 article for Gas Engine Magazine tells the tale of how Frederick Gilbert a successful starch baron while vacationing with his family in Vermont experienced a horse breakdown in Westminster Station and liked the area so much, he proceeded to establish a factory there. Rather than elaborate on this tale of intrigue and suspicious behavior that would surely draw the attention of Homeland Security today, I’ll just recommend you to the Vossler article. It’s an interesting read.

What appears to be an oddly misplaced billboard ad for the product is in fact the unique cooling system designed by inventor / engineer John Ostenberg. Described as “The coolest proposition yet.” In a 1905 ad, it employed two thin metal sealed radiators in place of evaporative cooling to remove engine heat.

Here’s a close-up of the data plate that reveals that this is engine number 267 that develops 5 hp at 335 rpm.

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