How Harry started model engine collecting

I started my model engine collecting with a 1/2 scale John Deere model "E" hit and miss engine, made by Dettmer Industries, Inc., Waterloo, IA. After the John Deere shut down in 1986, Joe Brown of Jesup, was sent to Dettmer by unemployment. While home on vacation, he introduced me and I soon purchased one of the model engines.

An early display at AG and SEM show, about 1988, was scanned from 2 photos given to me at the show. The engine is powering an air compressor which runs a few steam engines.


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One afternoon, in the late 60's, Joe Brown, walked down the gravel road to our farm, as he had a nearly flat tire, also the spare was low. He had been fishing in the nearby Wapsipinicon river, about a half mile away. We had rode on the school bus together, so he knew we had an air compressor. He was surprised when I said it was mobile, but we had to drag it out of the building. It rolled on 3 inch wide steel wheels, somewhat like a red wagon and was powered by a 3 HP Cushman Cub. I got a tractor, and we pulled it up the gravel road. I started the Cushman Cub and pumped up the tires.


About twenty years later, while back in Jesup, on vacation, I met Joe, and he told me, that I had to visit, where he worked. All he would say, was I would "love it". He remembered, pumping up the tires, said he clearly remembered that I did not start the Cub, before dragging it a half mile on a dusty gravel road, and that it started up, with a couple of hand cranks, which is visible on 'collage of full size engines'. While the Cub is not a hit and miss engine, I was familiar the John Deere model "E" hit and miss engine. With John Deere (Waterloo IA is where the tractors are made) shut down, there was no work to be found for Gene Dettmer's machine shop. Gene had attended the nearby, "Old Time Power Show" and noticed the interest in "hit and miss" engines. They have a very particular sound - pop, whir, whir, whir, pop. He came up with the idea of the 1/2 scale model as a business venture. The show is at Antique Acres, which is a few miles north of Cedar falls, Iowa, which borders Waterloo. A hit and miss engine, only fires as needed, When at speed, a governor engages a pawl against the push rod, which holds the exhaust valve open and there by eliminating intake, compression, and fuel usage. The intake valve operates by suction automatically. My model only fires once for 20 revolutions with no load. I added the air compressor, which runs steam engines to show the hit and miss firing versus a load. The green air compressor, which has an unloader, the lever at top, which turns air compressor off, which changes the firing of the JD hit and miss engine, which has 1.85 bore x 2.25" stroke, 9" Dia flywheels, 15" long x 8" wide.


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more on the JOHN DEERE E engine

I display at the Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum (AGandSEM), Spring and Fall Harvest Fairs, on the 3rd and 4th weekends of June and October. The Museum collects, preserves and displays examples of mechanical ingenuity and crafts associated with the early days of the American farm and rural community. It is on 40 acres and is 30 miles north of San Diego, just north of Vista, CA.

Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum, Vista, CA

After several years of displaying next to Cecil Heyn at the AGandSEM shows, he asked me to buy his collection, as it was getting more difficult for him to display as he was 85. He had crafted a very unique engine that has a Square Piston. It was on cover of Gas Engine Magazine (GEM), June 1986. It has square hardware, 4" Dia. x 1" Wide flywheels and was patterned after the Air Cooled LIL'Brother engine, which was made from Breisch Plans and castings.The LIL'Brother pair are 9" long x 5 3/4" wide, and have 4" Dia. flywheels, battery and ignition coil are in the wood base. Water Cooled = Yellow, and Air Cooled Engine =Red.

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Cecil Heyn was a aerospace tool and die maker. His collection included a Stirling hot air fan, 10" diameter and 17" high, a couple steam engines, castings and plans. A favorite of kids is a magneto with a hand crank, and 4 spark plugs of different sizes. Most kids enjoy cranking it and making sparks.

Popular Mechanics, Feb 1994, PEEWEE Power article is about the Conley 1/4 scale V8, water cooled 4 cycle, but uses glow plugs for ignition, machined, ready to assemble kit, which I ordered. I had it running for the June 1994 show. It has 0.875 bore x 0.75 stroke, 3.6CI 2.4HP. [missing]


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