The main entrance and gatehouse for the Power Museum is right on the main street of Coolspring, Pennsylvania. It’s an unincorporated community in Jefferson County, Pennsylvania on PA Route 36, midway between Brookville and Punxsutawney. Population is said to be under 100. Because it’s unincorporated, the census doesn’t list an official population.

Where Vintage Engines Come to Live Again

If you follow Vintage Smoke you will know we’ve covered engines from the Coolspring Power Museum several times and there are many more lined up for future articles. It’s truly a magical place for discovering and learning about the early days of internal combustion engines. It’s grown from a handful of engines in 1967, to an internationally recognized museum that was designated a Heritage Landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

The main entrance and gatehouse for the Power Museum is right on the main street of Coolspring, Pennsylvania. It’s an unincorporated community in Jefferson County, Pennsylvania on PA Route 36, midway between Brookville and Punxsutawney. Population is said to be under 100. Because it’s unincorporated, the census doesn’t list an official population.

There are nearly 300 engines at Coolspring, many of them in running condition. Operated and maintained by a dedicated group of volunteers, they run the gamut of engines from the late 1800s into the mid-20th Century. Most are stationary powerplants but you will see marine and automotive engines as well and the collection continues to expand in scope as space is available. There are currently 20 buildings, most plumbed with air for starting, water for cooling and natural gas for those engines that need it. A collection of vehicles is also on display and if you visit during one of several shows held during the season, you can see more vehicles brought in for display. During our visit, there was even a locally built diesel locomotive being shown, hauled in on the back of a truck.

A Young Man’s Interest

What eventually became the Coolspring Power Museum started in the mid 1960s as a private collection. You might say it got a little out of hand, but that’s to the benefit of thousands of visitors over the years. The museum started in the mind of young Paul Harvey and encouraged by his father Earle. Earle was a Northwestern Pennsylvania farmer with an interest in early engines, an interest that was inherited by Paul. To Earle, the old engines were a step back into his own past but to Paul they were a step back into a time he had not personally experienced. In 1958, Paul started the collection with a 1-1/2 horse Hercules engine bought for $5.

This is a 3/4-scale replica of the Otto-Langen free piston atmospheric engine that took the world by storm in 1867. The practical application of internal combustion pretty much started with this engine. Wayne Grenning built the replica in 2000. It’s a runner and on display in the Susong Building, along with several other original engines on the American branch of the Otto family tree dating back to the late 1800s.

The collection began growing enough to require a new building, which Earle allowed to be sited on the family farm. As that was coming together, the first outside engine was acquired in 1967 and that’s about the time Paul met John Wilcox, a like minded collector who soon became a mentor and lifelong friend. It wasn’t many years before another building went up, what is now called the Machine Works. It’s one of the first building you will see upon entering the facility. The collection grew and grew, even as Paul went off to college, becoming a medical doctor in general practice around the area where he grew up.

One of the most unusual engines of the collection is a 1925 175 horsepower (at 180 rpm) Otto engine located in the Power Technology Building. With a 20×31 inch bore and stroke and displacing 10,391 cubic inches, it’s reportedly one of the largest single cylinder engines ever built. Designed in 1912, it’s one of the last built of only five of it’s type produced by the Otto Gas Engine Works. If the name “Otto” is familiar, it’s because of the direct connections to Nicolaus Otto, for whom the four-stroke Otto cycle is named. Schleicher, Schumm & Company, acquired a U.S. license and patent to build Otto cycle engines effective 1877 and became one of the first large scale manufacturers of internal combustion engines in the United States. In 1894, it became Otto Gas Engine Works. The company was expropriated by the U.S. Government during World War I for it’s connections to Germany and was sold after the war to Superior Gas Engine Company. After that, the Otto identity began to fade, eventually disappearing by 1937. The Otto engine was originally acquired in 1968 by John Wilcox, a founding father of Coolspring and close friend of Dr. Harvey. It had been used at the Brookville, PA, water works for many years and from 1925 to 1945, ran a Worthington 3-cylinder water pump that could deliver 1.5 million gallons of water daily. After being replaced by a more modern system in 1945, it was maintained on standby service to 1968, when Wilcox and a crew of volunteers dismantled the engine and moved it into storage. Stored for over 35 years, it was finally set up at Coolspring in 2005, along with the original Worthington pump, and it runs regularly.

Things got serious in 1985, when the museum was organized and chartered as a non-profit. Volunteers were organized and the number of donations increased. Individuals and organizations placed engines there on loan, entrusting volunteers to maintain and operate them. Volunteers were also allowed to bring their own engines on a space-available basis, assuming the engine met basic curatorial criteria. In 2001, the 140,000 member American Society of Mechanical engineers (ASME) designated Coolspring a Mechanical Engineering Heritage Collection.

You Gotta Go!

If you enjoy internal combustion engines and their history, Coolspring, Pennsylvania, should be on your hot list of places to visit. They usually hold two big exhibition/flea markets events per year, spring and fall, plus at least one history day and car show, plus a number of open days when you can see volunteers hard at work on the facility and the engines. This part of Pennsylvania is also scenic, historic and well worth a visit on it’s own merits. We can only whet your appetite here on the technical marvels you can see at the Coolspring Power Museum but when you leave, you will know a lot more about internal combustion and diesel history and will have experienced the sights, sounds and smells of those thrilling days of yesteryear.

You may remember the 1903 Augsburg DM-12 diesel from the June issue and the fundraising campaign to get a building up to house it and get it running. That campaign is ongoing but construction has started and the building foundation is in place along with the engine bases. Once running, this engine will be the oldest operational diesel in the world. This is an engine that Rudolf Diesel had a direct hand in building. If you can contribute, go to http://www.coolspringpowermuseum.org/Contribute.htm

Up the hill from the original museum spot are the newer buildings. In the center is  Paul’s Place, a.k.a. “Engine Wonderland,” named for the founder Dr. Paul Harvey, which houses mostly oilfield engines. Oilfield engines are a particular favorite of Dr. Harvey, given Pennsylvania is the ancestral home of America’s oil industry. Various project engines and vehicles can usually been seen stored in the courtyard between the buildings.
This brute, and we mean the Fairbanks-Morse 38F5-1/4 engine not the bushy-haired Mike Murphy, is one of the favorite runners in the museum because of it’s unique sound. It’s one of F-M’s legendary two-stroke OP (Opposed Piston) engines that went into production in 1937 and eventually built in many sizes, outputs and configurations. Four cylinders containing two pistons in each and driving two crankshafts, one above one below. The Model 38 type is probably most famous as a submarine diesel. The 38F5-1/4 (5.25 x 7.25 bore and stroke) engines debuted in 1939 were the smallest in the Model 38 line. It makes 300 horsepower at 900 rpm and mounts a 200 KW generator. It was used on the R.J. Reynolds estate on Sapelo Island, Georgia, until power lines were run from the mainland. The engine was rescued in the mid 2000s by a group of Coolspring volunteers, saving it from the scrappers.

Exley Station houses Coolspring’s headliner, the 600 hp Snow engine. Built in 1917, it spent 75 years pumping natural gas and was donated to the Coolspring by National Fuels in 1992. Its a two-cylinder (plus a gas pumping cylinder) but the pistons are in tandem, one in front of the other and double acting, firing on both sides of the piston. The two power pistons are 24 inches in diameter and the gas pumping piston is 18 inches. The gas piston takes natural gas at 50 psi and compresses it to 450 psi for delivery to the combustion chambers. The stroke is 48 inches so the power pistons displace 86,800 cubic inches. Torque is 31,512 lbs-ft at 100 rpm. The 140 ton Snow was removed from the National Fuels Royston Station in 10 ton chunks by museum volunteers and stored until the building project could be funded. Reassembly began in 2006 and the ceremonial startup happened in 2014. Terry Smith is seen here explaining the history and operation of the engine as the crews fires the big boy up.
Though it had rained a lot in the days before the show, including a good portion of rain the day of the event, the skies cleared and a fair number of vehicles showed up in the display area. Most were trucks, large to small, but we were told just about anything could show up, from antique cars to hotrods.
This burley 1962 Autocar DC103364S-OH truck. Powered by a Cummins NH-250 diesel, it has a 5-speed main gearbox with a 4-speed auxiliary and rear axles rated at 65,000 pounds. It’s set up with a 5th wheel, a winch and you’ll be seeing more on this truck down the road
Yeah, even locomotives show up. This Brookville switch engine missing it’s trucks at the moment but it’s a BHA model built in the 1940s. We couldn’t get in to talk to the owner but we think this one was originally powered by an International Harvester engine but has recently gotten a 2-stroke Jimmy swap. We believe this to be an 8-ton switching engine of a type used for yard work. Brookville Equipment Company started business in 1918 and still operates in Brookville, PA, just up the road from Coolspring.
The Founders Engine House is the first building erected on the site that would later become the Coolspring Power Museum. Some of the first engine acquired by Dr. Harvey are still housed within.

 

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