The Spruce Foos: A Special Electric Foos Engine
December 2011/January 2012
1908 25 HP Foos Special Electric
Worked hard during its service time, Dave Hawkins’ 25 HP Foos Special Electric has seen its fair share of miles since Dave bought it in Merced, Calif., in 1996. “It’s been well-traveled since I’ve owned it,” Dave says. “I lived in Wyoming when I bought it, had it at Coolspring and Portland in 1997 and a couple of shows in Wyoming. Then I moved back to Ohio in 1999.”
A long process
One look at the Foos engine and you can understand why Dave would want to pull it all over the country. But it took a lot of work to get the Foos engine to its current condition. Dave can sum up how it looked when he bought it in one word: “Terrible,” Dave says. “The guy said it would run but it was in such bad shape I didn’t even try to start it.”
As Dave understands it, the engine was originally used by the Ohio Telephone Co. in one of their generating stations. Eventually, it was taken out of service and placed in a grist mill in Pennsylvania, where it wore itself out. “I don’t know who the collectors were, but somebody got it out and got it back together enough that it would run.”
Dave noticed that the previous owners did a nice job of repairing the piston, which sustained considerable damage up to the first ring. Other than that, though, the engine left a lot to be desired. “There was a big chunk out of the back of the cylinder that was missing, the connecting rod was bent really bad, and the governor and the cam gear castings were both broken and twisted,” Dave says. “It was in pretty bad shape.” Dave knew that in order to do right by the engine, he’d have to strip it down completely.
Fortunately, Dave had someone to turn to for assistance. “A friend of mine, John Rex, was working on about four of these engines and was getting ready for the Foos Fever show in Coolspring in 1997,” Dave says. “John helped me out quite a bit with this.”
Tying up loose ends
While John helped Dave make the most of what they had to work with, the Foos engine still wasn’t quite complete. “I knew it was supposed to have a magneto on it because the bracket for it was on the cylinder,” Dave says. “A few years after I bought the engine, somebody up in Wisconsin had the magneto, so I was able to get it.”
A couple years ago, Dave also noticed that the rod bearing was becoming egg-shaped, but he was able to rectify that issue himself in his newly-finished machine shop. “I had just got an adjustable boring head, and this was the first job that boring head did,” Dave says. “I worked on it for five days, straightening it back up and scraping it in so it wouldn’t knock or be too tight.”
Unique to Foos engines, Dave’s engine features a rotary igniter or wipe spark. “Part of their advertising for the special electric engine said that it was kind of like a self-cleaning spark plug,” Dave says. “Every time the movable piece comes around, it’s actually wiping it clean as it’s sparking.”
For all the time that Dave’s put into the Foos engine, it’s not surprising that he loves to run it. And as a testament to the quality of restoration, the Foos doesn’t disappoint. “This is an engine that you can start up in the morning and let it run all day,” Dave says.
Contact Dave Hawkins at 9141 Fallsburg Rd. NE, Newark, OH 43055-9175 • (740) 745-5141.