Air and Gasoline Engines:

Just as steam replaced water power, gasoline, and Diesel engines replaced steam.  Hit – Miss engines are a variation on the normal 4 cycle gasoline engine.  In place of a carburetor gasoline is directly injected into the cylinder by the fuel pump.  The speed of the engine is controlled by a governor which determines when the air-fuel mixture is ignited.  Ignition is via either a magneto and hot coil; or a “buzz” coil and spark plug.  The buzz box was the same setup used by Henry Ford on the model T and Karl Benz on the first motor car.


They were manufactured by numerous companies from the late 19th century through the 1930’s.  The IIAH collection includes an Olds Type A from the Olds Power Company of Lansing, Michigan, founded by Ransome Olds, shown in the above picture.  We also have an International Harvester Titan engine shown in the figure to the left.  Both are portable engines setup to be pulled by a team of horses.  A farmer would haul these engines to a worksite and use a belt to drive some piece of equipment, e.g. the Hildrith Power Axe shown below, using the clutch attached to the flywheel shaft.  The Olds has table saw setup that can be belted to the clutch.


Perhaps our most popular Hit – Miss engine is the John – Deere Model “E” manufactured in 1929.  It is connected to a 5 gallon “old Time” ice cream machine.  It is used at our events to make ice cream ranging from the traditional vanilla and chocolate to the more exotic pumpkin spice and amaretto.  The horse power of the three engine is approximately 6, 8 and 1.5 respectively.  The Olds and IHC use buzz boxes, the John Deere a magneto.



The Hot Air (or better known as a Sterling) engine was invited by the Reverend John Sterling in in the early 19 Century.  He recognized the need for a safer engine in response to the large number of deaths from steam boiler explosions.  Like a steam engine it is an external combustion engine however the working flood is air, although other gases can be used.  While extremely safe and reliable, the output power is small compared to steam and gasoline engines.  Sterling engines were primarily used to run water puts and were impractical for running machinery such as mill equipment, lathes etc.


They were not a serious competitor to the steam engine; however, they have had a tremendous renaissance in the late 20th and into the 21 Century.  Almost every satellite and space probe have a sterling engine onboard powered by sun to operate mechanical equipment e.g. adjusting solar panels.


Our Sterling engine is a Rider-Ericsson type with a 10” diameter cylinder, number 9178, shown in the photograph above.  It is rated at approximately 1 hp.

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