At the beginning of the last century, farms would use small, usually one-stroke engines to power all kinds of activities. Most connected to belts that ran tools, such as sheep shears, small wheat threshers, or other processing equipment. They ran all day on a quarter gallon of gas, but could require almost as much oil as gas to keep everything moving. The one-stroke action meant that the wheel turning the belt would slow down between strokes, causing variances in the speed of the tools. These were tough engines, though, and many lasted through decades of work, as long as they were maintained. They were the work horses of food processing and most every farm had one.
By mid-century, tractors had belt drivers attached to their drive trains and the little one-stroke engines weren’t needed anymore. They were stored in the back of barns and storage sheds. Today, farmers and antiquers are discovering these old engines and restoring them. Small, organic, biodiverse farms are rediscovering their many uses, albeit slowly, as they learn more about what they are and how they work.
I know of two sources where farming gearheads can find valuable information about rebuilding older or antique farm equipment:
- Smokestak.com – This site has tons of information and numerous discussion boards on all manner of older engines and equipment. I could spend hours there learning about threshers, harrows, and such.
- The Small Farmers Journal – The journal reprints information and manuals on all kinds of farm equipment, horse-drawn or otherwise.
Do you know of other resources? If so, send them to me and I’ll repost them here.