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March 25, 2021

Why Is This Early 1900s Engine So Sought After By Collectors?

At the top of most antique engine collector’s wish list is the Type A engine built by the Springfield Gas Engine Company of Springfield, Ohio. The reason why is instantly realized the moment you lay eyes on it as the engine design is among the most unusual ever built. 

One lucky collector bought this restored example of a Portable Springfield Type A 5 Horsepower Engine on the April 24, 2021 at the Annual Pre-30 Auction conducted by Aumann Auctions

The Springfield Gas Engine Company was incorporated by Peter Coffield and C.H. Paxson in 1890, both engineers holding several patents. These Type A engines were produced for only a few years starting in about 1900. They were available in a variety of horsepower from 1 to 40. The Type A engines that remain today are mostly the smaller horsepower models.

This engine spent its working years on a Pennsylvania Farm.  From its excellent condition it was evident the engine was a valued possession of its owner. On this engine is found the unique features that make Springfield among the most uncommon of all engines constructed in the 1890 to 1900 time frame.

An Engine With A  Unique Design

On this engine is found the unique features that make Springfield among the most uncommon of all engines constructed in the 1890 to 1900 time frame.  

An inclined side shaft is found on the opposite side of the engine from most engine manufacturers.  Another feature is the side shaft being located on top of the crankshaft driven by a set of one to one helical gears with a set of 2 to 1 bevel gears on the opposite end of the shaft. This is unlike any other engine built.  


The over cylinder cams drive both the exhaust and intake valves. A very advanced feature as most engines relied on an atmospheric intake. The fall off cam driven ignitor with its easy adjustment spark gap and easy clean and file point access is also unique to Springfield construction. 

The belt driven governor, with the drive coming directly from the crankshaft, is also only found on Springfield’s and gives it the unique governor sound when running. The rod bearing is lubricated via a wick and wipe system which is very effective. The wrist pin is lubricated via a small oil cup found on the connecting rod at the back of the piston.  

A cast iron gear lube cup is also found on the front of the engine mounted to the top water pipe. By rotating the cup’s small cast iron lid the operator then has access to a small brush which is dipped in the heavy gear lube found in the cup. The brush is then gently touched to the gears allowing heavy gear lube to be applied. This possibly is why the gearing on the engine is in excellent original condition.   



Another unique feature is Springfield’s balancing of the engine. Found on the spokes are bolted weights which Springfield adjusted on the spokes to balance the engine ensuring smooth running and operation. This feature is unique to Springfield engines. 

This engine has an overhead mounted fuel tank which Springfield used to provide gravity feed of its liquid fuel system.  While this engine is a hit and miss, during the miss cycle both exhaust and intake valves are actuated.  However, a secondary valve is found within the intake.  When proper speed is obtained the governor causes a cam on the end of the camshaft to prohibit the opening of the secondary valve preventing fuel from entering the cylinder.  

This engine is fitted with a Lunkenheimer gas mixer, on which the engine runs beautifully.  Springfield typically used a fuel injection system and the seller of the engine will gladly provide the small unfinished brass casting and info if the new owner desires to install the injector. 

This engine also includes a water pump which circulates water through a front mounted tray cooling system that allows the water to “trickle” down to the bottom tank with circulating air cooling the water before it’s returned by the pump through the engine’s cylinder. A clutch pulley, again a unique item that was patented and placed on the engine by Springfield, is found on the side shaft side of the engine. 

Other features which make this one of the most desirable of all Springfield engines is its mounting on extremely nice wooden wheeled trucks which are in impeccable condition. Working hand actuated brakes are found on the trucks along with a battery box/seat and friction driven magneto. Two tongues come with the trucks, a hand pull tongue that allows the trucks to be steered and pulled by hand and the original one horse hitch used to pull the engine on the farm for longer distance travels. Found on the side of the battery box is even the whip the operator would use to make sure the horse would get encouragement to make it up any hill. 

The engine was re-painted sometime in the 1970s and had held up over the years. In the early days of the engine hobby many collectors didn’t sandblast before they painted, so maybe the new collector will attempt to soda blast the engine to turn it back into “original condition”. Either way the engine is a fine example.



A Once In A Lifetime Opportunity

The consigner decided that since he had four other Springfield engines, another collector should have a chance to own a unique piece of America’s agricultural past. This is once in a lifetime opportunity to own one of the most unique and desirable engines ever built. Engines such as this are nearly always sold in closed private sales with little chance to purchase such an item. 

It’s been a while since a restored, running Springfield engine has sold at auction, so it was somewhat of a surprise with this Sprinfield sold for $194,250 US dollars on the 2021 Annual Pre-30 Auction.

For more information about the 2021 Annual Pre-30 Auction conducted by Aumann Auctions Inc., visit

Story by Dan Boomgarden

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