Yes, it really runs now, but this is GIF animation magic...
Rick's Taylor Vacuum Engine

About Me
Engine Reference Info
Taylor Registry<NEW!
Email me

Show Pix:
- Pioneer Gas Engine Assn Show, Marion, NY 2005
- NY Steam Engine Assn Pageant of Steam, Canandaigua, NY 2005
- Pioneer Gas Engine Assn Crank-up 2006
- NY Steam Engine Assn Pageant of Steam, Canandaigua, NY 2006
- Pioneer Gas Engine Assn Crank-up 2007
-NY Steam Engine Assn Pageant of Steam, Canandaigua, NY 2007
- Pioneer Gas Engine Assn Show, Marion, NY 2007
- Pioneer Gas Engine Assn Crank-up 2008
- Tri-County Old Time Power Assn Show 2008
- Pioneer Gas Engine Assn Show, Marion, NY 2008
-NY Steam Engine Assn Pageant of Steam, Canandaigua, NY 2008
-WNY Gas and Steam Engine Assn, Alexander, NY 2009
- Canal Str Museum, Duanesburg, NY 2010
-NY Steam Engine Assn Pageant of Steam, Canandaigua, NY 2010
- Pioneer Gas Engine Assn Show, Marion, NY 2011
-NY Steam Engine Assn Pageant of Steam, Canandaigua, NY 2011

- Pioneer Gas Engine Assn Show, Marion, NY 2012

Orig. Engine Ads, etc:
-Taylor Vacuum Engine ads
- Witte throttle gov engine, Jan. 1924
- Edwards engine, Jan. 1924
- Case steel wheel tractor, Jan. 1924
- Rumely OilPull steel wheel tractor, Jan. 1924
- 1876 Corliss Steam Engine
- Gaar, Scott, & Co. loading platform
- Ottawa 4-in-1 Log Saw, Nov. 1923

- Ottawa Milker, Nov. 1923
- Motsinger DC Magneto Instructions


Rick's other web pages [dead links now; sorry, RoadRunner stopped hosting web sites]
Giant Pumpkins

Kite Aerial Photos
Ice Fishing
American Chestnuts
Big Rocks

Rick's Engine Log:

     [Jump down to last log entry
     [Jump down to Vacuum Valve close-up pictures]
     [Jump down to cam timing note and close-up picture]
     [Jump down to How to start the engine]

[Oh!  Here's the link to my 1912 Waterloo Boy engine!]

Background:  [Sept., 2004...]  I've been looking for a fixer-upper hit and miss engine for at least 10 years now.  Without any other friends in the engine hobby, I had no network to help me locate one.  I kept my eye on estate sales and local farm auctions, but only once did I even see an old engine for sale.  I considered knocking on farmhouse doors; I even carried a picture of one in my wallet to show to people when I asked, just so they had an idea what I was talking about!  About 6 or 7 years ago, I found a heavy duty metal dolly at a garage sale, and thought, "I'll get that so that whenever I find an engine, I can store it on the dolly so I can move it around easily."  

Well, in late Sept., 2004, my long search was successful!  I had the good fortune to finally find and buy my first old engine, and it was very close to my house to boot.  It was in far better shape than I ever imagined I'd find, but it's not running and still has its share of problems and puzzles to solve.

I wound up with a Taylor Vacuum Engine Type C, 2 horsepower.  It's a stationary hit and miss type hopper-cooled farm engine, just what I'd wanted, and was pretty much all there and well oiled.  From Harry's Old Engine web site, I see it's got a Wico EK magneto with a Type 2 drive.  From a date casting on a small part near the spark plug, the copyright dates on the magneto case, and the Taylor Engine serial number registry , I'd estimate this engine was made circa late 1925-1928. The Taylor Engine Company was in Elgin, Illinois. 

Taylor Vacuum Engine

235 pounds of antique fun!

Oct. 30, 1923 date on this magneto trip mechanism part

It's called a "Vacuum Engine" because it has a built-in vacuum pump and was used on farms to directly run cow milking machines, eliminating the need to belt up a separate vacuum pump.  It has a single unusual 2-stage piston, having a small diameter for the front half (for power), and a larger diameter for the back half (for vacuum).

Looking down into the hopper

Taylor Vacuum Engine piston- unusual
Rory sent me this photo of his Taylor Vacuum Engine piston
and connecting rod

Cutaway diagram

There is a port on the side of the engine near the bottom rear of the hopper that the large end of the piston uses to draw a vacuum.  It can be configured "backwards" as well- to provide pressure rather than vacuum.  It's got a nice wooden flat belt pulley too [6" diameter, with a 3-3/8" face].

Taylor Vacuum Engine

Taylor Vacuum Engine cylinder head

Above:  Cylinder head:  exhaust and intake valves, mixer hold-on set screw, elbow-shaped mixer, & short exhaust pipe (coming out the left side)

Log entries/progress reports:

9/25/04: Looking things over
-Checking the engine over, it may be missing a few very minor parts- drip-oiler filler cap or plug? (I'm not quite sure what screws in this 5/16" hole...), crankshaft shield and bolt, starter crank.  It's surely been repainted, but it's somewhat close to the correct color, and is a fairly decent paint job.  I'll probably just clean up the over spray and dirt for now.

Oiler lid- what gets screwed in here?
"American Injector Co.  Detroit  No. 3"

-I've found the
Taylor instruction manual on the web! In the manual, I noted something unusual for this (4 stroke) engine- you need to mix oil with the gas because there is no oiler for the main power piston section, only for the vacuum piston.  The manual also mentions that there existed a "Magneto Care card".  I'll have to see if I can find one on the web.
-I noticed that what I thought were gobs of grease on the back of the piston are WELDS. Virtually the entire piston skirt has been welded back on, and there appears to be a crack in one of the welds.  That's ok; I wanted a fixer-upper anyway!   I'll know better when I get a chance to take it out and clean it.  I don't think I should run it without this getting fixed or it could get worse. Luckily, this isn't really a load bearing part of the piston- the wrist pin is held firmly, so I'm thinking that re-welding is likely to work.  For a while, I couldn't figure out what could cause such extensive damage, then I thought that at one point in its life, the piston may have gotten stuck, and the skirt may have broken while it was being freed up.  Just a theory.

Welded piston skirt, and crack marked in red

-The engine's valves and piston are indeed free and quite lubricated.   You can turn it over nicely by hand, listen it to it suck in air (with a peculiar and amusing purring sound as the check valve intake valve vibrates), and watch it trip the magneto. I need to learn more about 4 cycle engine operation in order to understand what it's doing when. This will be interesting.  (I learned from reading on the web that before you turn over the flywheel on an unknown hit and miss engine by hand, you need to check that the exhaust valve isn't frozen or else you'll break something.)

I noticed that on the piston oiler, there isn't much difference in the shaft height between closed and open; I think the hole where the on/off pin latch is is worn, or maybe it's just misadjusted, thus the oiler may be mostly "off" regardless; I'll have to check this carefully before running the engine.

-Looked for the timing marks, but I can't find them. The cam gear perhaps has marks on some teeth, but they could just as well be casting blemishes. I'm leaning towards them being marks though. The crankshaft pinion gear has no marked tooth at all from what I've seen so far.   I need to look more carefully.

Possible timing marks?

-I think that something else is missing from the engine- it looks like there should be a pair of 1-way vacuum pump disk valves.  I've never seen them, but I'm guessing they go in here, one on the top, one on the bottom.  If you can provide a close-up picture and measurements of  a loose Taylor vacuum valve, I'd really appreciate it.  I may be able to fabricate a pair if I can get a good idea what they look like- the parts list drawing doesn't show this item very well.  I presume it's 2 pieces of metal loosely bolted together, with a gasket and spring, with holes or slots in the bigger disk?

Top view of vacuum port

10/4/04:  Drain plug & Wico info
-I read last night about using a water hopper cooled engine in cold weather, and it said to make sure you open the drain plug to remove all the water when you're done, as even a light frost might crack the cylinder, from freezing. Drain plug? I'd always wondered how to empty a hopper once you filled it... I got on my knees and looked underneath, and sure enough, there was a drain plug bolt hidden way down under there!  See photo down below.
-I finally found some Wico EK magneto use/care instructions on Harry's Old Engine site.  I see that I have a Type 2.  I think this and the Sandwich Engine site's scan is the info that would be in the Magneto Card I had been looking for.
-I noticed that the felt on the bottom of the magneto was clean, and there is some blue synthetic insulating plastic under the coils- it's looking like this is a recently restored magneto! Granted, "recently" may have been 30 years ago, but that's certainly better than 80 years ago.  :-)

Wico EK magneto, with covers off
NOTE that this style magneto will NOT work with the side/top cover off!  
It's used as part of the electrical circuit.

10/6/04:  No spark 
-It has an Auto-Lite F11 spark plug; it's an old one.
-I can't detect any spark in daylight from the magneto, holding the wire 1/4-1/8" away from engine ground.  Ah... I'm turning the flywheel v e r y slowly.  I now read that I need to pull the armature away fast to get a spark. I'll try after dark... ok, tried after dark, by connecting it to a grounded J8 spark plug; result= zero spark.  In order to turn it fast enough through the compression stroke, I had to hold the intake valve open so there wasn't any resistance. (I needed to do this to get a fast trip of the magneto.)

10/7/04: Debugging the mag 
-I checked the continuity on the plug wire from the tip to the inner tower spring- dead!  I took the cover completely off the mag, and discovered that the plug wire spring that is supposed to contact a raised metal button on the side of the right coil was not connected- it was resting on the coil insulation, not on the metal button. 

Secondary coil & misplaced spring contact

-The other (left) coil has a similar button, but it contacts the metal mag case via a spring finger, so that must be ground. 
-I also discovered that the plug wire pulls right out of the black phenolic holder (tower) just like on a car's distributor cap; that sure was non-obvious!  The wire itself checks out quite ok.  The thing is, the only metal contact inside the phenolic holder is at the very bottom of the hole (for a car, it's a cup of metal).  So, if you don't have this plug wire shoved in enough, or correctly, you won't make contact... and I wasn't. I added a close fitting steel spring inside the wire, on the end, to help it make contact. I now have good continuity. Even after this, I still have no spark at all, though.  I need to perform other electrical tests on the mag; back to the web for research.

Wico EK magneto tower and spark plug wire

10/8/04:  Flywheel size
-The flywheel is 4 feet 5 3/4 inches (53.75") in circumference. Calculating this out, the flywheels are 17.1" inches in diameter.  This will be useful when it's time to check the timing.

10/9/04:  More magneto checking 
-Discovered that when I reattached the magneto side cover, that the spring clip on the left did not contact the left coil button. When installing the cover, you need to be SURE that the left coil button contacts the spring clip, and that the right button contacts the spark plug tower spring.
-I measured 8.09K ohms from spark plug wire tip to ground (=coil button to button), meaning that the coils are not bad. I get the same measurement with points open or closed (this may or may not be correct; I need to research some more).  I haven't (yet) seen any method by which the coils are interconnected, as I'd expected from reading the SmokStak archives; more research needed.  I think there's supposed to be a brass spring connector up near the top, joining the two coils.  Time to get out the flashlight.  :-)
-I disconnected 1 wire on the capacitor and measured the cap with an ohmmeter, got infinite resistance, indicates a good cap.
-Using a compass, I discovered that the magneto's North pole is on the right, South on the left.
-There are two different gaps I can measure on the Wico magneto- the armature gap (when it's just ready to trip closed), and the point gap.
-I built up a small stack of wood to be exactly 7/32"- what is supposed to be the armature gap, *I think*, from reading some "success" stories on the SmokStak list.  I didn't want to use a metal feeler gauge for the measurement since it would be against the magnet core.
-Actual measure: My armature gap is too narrow(?)- looks like 5/32" to me; this of course throws off the POINT gap too, it's way too narrow right now.  Actual measure: point gap is 0.010.  It looks like you should set the armature gap first, then set the points afterward.  I haven't yet found any spec for the correct point gap though.
-Ok, I need to verify the correct settings before touching anything; the archives are ambiguous...
-The Wico documentation seems to indicate that that the armature gap is only 3/32", and at that time, the points should just begin to be open.  (NOTE- 3/32"= 0.094, so if you stack 3 feeler gauges: .032, .030, .028, you get 0.90, close enough!)
-Electrically, with points OPEN, they have continuity; both seem to be ground- bad?  I found a general circuit diagram for the ignition, and one side should be grounded, but through a resistor; I now need to check with an ohmmeter (not just a continuity tester) to see whether or not they're truly shorted.  I'll see what's up later.

-I wiggled the magneto armature while it was pulled back, and there's about 1.5/64ths play up and down, and about 1/64 play tilt (not additive). I don't know if this is normal or excessive.  If excessive, this may be why I'm not getting any spark (from what I've read).  I might also want to try a couple other things before going further down this path:
1) reduce the gap on my J8 test spark plug (I doubt this is a problem)
2) swap in a lawnmower condenser temporarily as a test
3) find somebody locally with a working/sparking Wico EK that I could look at, close-up, and compare it with how mine feels.  This is perhaps the best idea; too bad all the engine shows are done with for the year up here.

Wico EK magneto armature

Wico EK armature and trip mechanism

-Just above the mixer needle valve, there's a small bolt.  Anybody know what it's for?  (See picture in my "Background" section above.) [addenda: I now know that it's a set screw to hold the mixer on]

-I quickly checked the spark and exhaust timing per the instructions in the Taylor "C" manual, and it looks like spark is 15 degrees off, and exhaust is 17 degrees off from the correct setting (both way too advanced from the recommended 30 degrees).  I know how to adjust the exhaust timing, but I'm not so sure about the spark; more research needed...

-This just made my whole week... I have found a copy of a Wico EK instruction/care/operation manual!!  I thought I'd have to wait until next year's engine shows to find one!

11/1/04:  Mag checks out ok!
Now the plot thickens... I borrowed a capacitance meter and actually measured the magneto cap... it's 0.219 microfarad, just perfect.

11/22/04:  It's the trip mechanism... 
-Thanks a bunch to Rob S. for suggesting that I check to see if I can push in the latch finger on the mag trip.  It turns out that I can't- it doesn't compress the drive spring at all.  I can grab and push in the washer/spring itself, just not with the latch finger.  I'll have to take it apart to see how it's SUPPOSED to work (but this will have to wait until Christmas, as this engine is actually a gift and can't be opened `til then!).  This is a good reason why I wouldn't be getting spark- without this working correctly, the armature will not snap down quick enough.  Rob also thinks that my "mystery bolt" is a set screw to hold on the mixer!  It never dawned on me that the mixer could be removed.

12/31/04, 10pm: Fixing the mag trip mechanism 
Waiting for the New Year to arrive, I finally have some spare time to work on my Christmas Present!  I really want to see if I can get the magneto working.  I've already checked all the individual components (coils, condenser, points, plug wire, etc.) and found them all ok, so I'm thinking my problem is mechanical, on the engine...  

-As you can see, the drive spring behind the latch finger is not getting compressed, even when pushed hard.  At this point, I don't know why...

Faulty operation of the magneto latch/trip finger

Yep, I'm pushing real hard, here!
...No spring compression occurring.

-I found a very important clue on the web... a portion of a photo of a working Stover engine- notice the area scraped clean of grease- this shows how much the latch SHOULD be moving.

-Taking my latch mechanism off the engine and removing the latch finger & spring, I can see what the problem is... the long bolt that passes through the inside of the latch drive spring is  completely unscrewed from the latch finger, making the whole latch/bolt assembly about 1/4" longer than it should be.  The result is that the bolt is bottoming out on the advance lever before the spring ever compresses.   Without being screwed into the finger, the spring & bolt were a little tricky to remove.

Top view of latch assembly with finger removed.  
Note the finger/spring/bolt is 4 5/8" long.

-Here's all the latch parts- a drive spring, pair of washers, latch finger, and bolt.  They all ride in the cast iron holder above.  The left washer is actually a pair itself- a thin brass one rides against the latch finger.  Note that the head of the bolt fits cleanly into a hole in the cast iron holder.  It slides back and forth by design as the spring compresses/releases.

All the parts

-Now the bolt is properly tightened down into the latch finger.   In a moment, I'm going to scrape off the paint on the finger, just to be sure it can move ok.

Note it's now 4 3/8" long

-Now when pushed, the latch finger compresses the spring.  It turns out that this is a critical aspect of the latch design.  If the finger is not driven by the compressed spring, the armature will not pull down fast enough to generate a spark (even if you spin the flywheel rapidly, I found).  

Correct operation of the magneto latch/trip finger

This is how things should work

How it works: the spring gets compressed (without pulling down the armature) until the long bolt bottoms out when it hits the advance lever.  When this happens, the latch assembly is strong/stiff enough to overcome the forces  holding the armature up, and as soon as the armature breaks free, the compressed spring energy drives it down very fast.

1/1/05, 12:10 AM: It LIVES!
-Happy New Year!  Now that I've got the latch back on the engine, I connected a modern J-8 sparkplug to the plug wire and grounded it to the hopper using a clip wire.  Then giving the flywheel a slow turn... SPARK!!!  ALL RIGHT!!  The Wico magneto LIVES!! :-) 
Thanks again for your advice, Rob!  

I want to double check the armature gap now that the latch is working properly, and check engine timing, empty out the sour gas & grease cups, loosen the hopper drain plug, & more before I attempt to start it. At Christmas, my Dad gave me an old set of square sockets that used to be my Grandfather's; they'll be very useful on this old engine.  

Any ideas on loosening the hopper and gas drain plugs, I'm all ears! I can't budge them, even using a square socket wrench.  I've soaked them (from the outside) with Liquid Wrench, too.

-No work done since January due to cold weather + hurt shoulder.  Both are getting better now!  :-)

-Had a little time, so I worked on the stuck gas tank and hopper drain plugs some more.  I finally freed up the gas tank plug using Liquid Wrench, hammer tapping, vibrating with an electric engraver, and Vise Grips.  :-)  The hopper plug is still stuck, but it's not that critical as I could always siphon out the water I suppose.  I squirted some Liquid Wrench inside the hopper near the drain plug and left it alone for now.  I need to buy some more LW.

-Still haven't found time to work on the engine yet; I'm catching up on yard cleanup/mowing, family stuff, etc.  I HAVE been thinking and reading, though... I remembered that at some engine shows I've been to, some engines had shiny flywheel faces.  I got to wondering how you would clean up your flywheel like that, when *presto*, the Smokstak discussion group had just that question under discussion!  See  Once I get everything working, I'll have to try one of these techniques!  I'm trying to work up the courage to pull the piston to more closely examine the suspected cracked weld on the skirt.

-Measured the gas tank today; it's 13 1/4 x 8 1/2 x 1 7/8.  Calculating it out, it can hold about 0.9 gallons.
-I recently exchanged pictures with Rory, who also has a Taylor, and I see that mine has something called a "skid to engine raising block"- it allows space for the gas tank to sit right underneath the engine. My tank has a separate filler pipe on the side of the engine, and also a tiny air vent pipe. Based on the epoxy repairs to the tank, I'm supposing it's the original tank. The gas line comes out of the front of the gas tank. Maybe this secondary raising base was an option?


-Here's what my drain plug looks like.  It's currently stuck, but doesn't look too hopeless!  It's 5/8" measured diameter; I guess that translates to 3/8" pipe thread. Hopper drain plug

-My engine has no manufacturing date stamp like some Taylor's I've heard about.  I have a theory that they didn't start stamping the mfg. year on the base until around 1929, based on Denis R's Taylor Engine Registry.  (1929 seems to be the starting year for the teardrop style  flywheels, too.)  Out of ~61 Type Cs in his registry, mine has the 6th lowest in serial number.  From the copyright dates on the magneto cover plus other the registry listings, I can guess that  the engine was made sometime between late 1925 to 1928.

-I found some time to poke around with the engine today!  I flushed out the gas tank- using the drain plug, I drained the rest of the ancient gas out, then put in a couple pints of fresh gas mixed with drygas and sloshed it around, then drained that.  Some sediment came out too.
I put some 30w in the oiler and tried it out- I could see nice drops falling through the sight glass.  I oiled everything up and rotated the engine through a few cycles to spread the oil out.

I took out the needle valve for inspection... it takes 11 1/2 turns to seat it. Needle valve- for gas mixture adjustment

I also took off the vacuum valve caps to see what was inside.  When you take off the valve caps you can see the inside of the valve cage- note the slit port that the engine uses to draw a vacuum through.  The disk valves (if I had any!) are held in place by this cage.  There would be  two loose, separate disk valves.   One disk slipped in on top of the valve cage and one at the bottom.  Both would have to face the same direction, either both up or both down.  Then when the piston drew back, it would always suck air in from (let's say) the top (and when that happened the bottom valve would just suck itself closed), then when the piston pushed the other way, the top valve would press closed and the bottom would blow open, keeping air running just one way through your piping.  (I used to have an air pump for balloons that worked that way when I was a kid.)  You could get this engine to suck vacuum off the top or the bottom pipe with equal success, to match whatever your plumbing was like- or you could change it from vacuum to pressure *without changing all your plumbing* by flipping both of the disk valves around.

Vacuum pump valve caps
Valve Caps- the threaded part is to hold the pipe going to the vacuum tank.
Vacuum pump valve cage
Valve Cage- a valve disk would sit on the little shelf just over the slit/hole, and another valve disk would be likewise be held underneath.

-I  went to the Pageant of Steam in Canandaigua, NY today, and had the good fortune to see TWO Taylor Vacuum Type C engines!  I met Ed Jones, who had a fully restored and functional Taylor hooked up to a vacuum tank and milking machine- a really top-notch display.  He can draw about 25" of mercury with the thing without even loading up the engine (it was still not hitting all the time)... impressive (twice as much as you need to run the milker).  We talked for 1/2 hour, and he was kind enough to take apart his vacuum pump valve caps so I could see what disc valve parts I'm missing.  The valves are much simpler and more robust than I had imagined.  The vacuum valve disks are made of blued spring steel, and just slightly move up and down in their holders; there is no spring at all.  

I took the following close up pictures, and made some measurements.  I've never seen any photos or measurements of these parts published before.  (I'm hoping that someone sees the pictures and says "Hey, I've got two of them in the drawer in the workshop!", and tells me about it! :-) )  It turns out that there are two valve halves screwed together and a spring steel disk loosely sandwiched in between each valve assembly.   I found another Taylor for sale on a trailer- it was rusty and stuck, but it had the valve parts.  John R. generously let me take it apart, and I took more measurements on those.  

I spent 6 hours at the show, and wasn't able to get through the whole thing!  I picked up a nice brass petcock valve for the water hopper for only $6 from Lee Pedersen.

I found also out from Ed that I should be using SAE30 ND oil for the engine.  I wasn't even aware that they made "Non Detergent" (ND) oil anymore, but sure enough, I found it at my local car parts store.  Remember on the Taylor, that cylinder oil must be mixed with the gas in order to lubricate the power end of the piston.  Ed uses 1 oz oil per gallon, and the Taylor manual suggests 1/4 (=4 oz) to 1/2 pint oil per gallon.

Vacuum Pump Valve Pictures:  [Help!  I am looking for a pair of these vacuum pump valves!!] 8/11/10 update: I got them!
These are pictures that are identified in the parts list as the "vacuum pump valve complete (2)".  One of these valves sits on the top of the "Vacuum Pump Valve Cage", and one sits on the bottom of the valve cage.  Each of the two valves is comprised of two steel parts with a thin spring steel disk ("Vacuum Pump Valve Disk") sandwiched between them. The two steel parts are held together with a single screw through the center. They fit together with very close tolerances; perhaps they're machined where they touch. There is a tiny bit of play (I'd guess 1/8" or less) side to side and also up and down INSIDE the valve such that the spring steel disk can be heard to rattle within the valve when you shake it.  
                                Here's the two halves of one valve:

Vacuum pump disk valve halves

Above, I've removed the center tapped screw, taken out the internal spring steel valve disk, and slid the top half (on the left) off of the bottom half (on the right) to take this picture. (Top and bottom are arbitrary, depending on how you install it in the engine, wanting vacuum or pressure.)    These are the two halves of ONE vacuum pump valve.  (If you can't read the measurements and really need them, send me an email and I'll send you a larger image.  These valves are 2 5/16" in diameter overall, and approx. 13/32" thick overall- both halves screwed together.)

Vacuum pump disk valve halves

Above, here's the same two valve halves, but each one has been flipped over and kept in place.

Spring steel valve diskHere's a closeup of an original/used spring steel valve disk.  It's made of 0.015" thick blued spring steel.
Here's Ed's Taylor Vacuum Engine crank handle.
HOORAY!!  I finally got the water hopper plug UN-stuck today!  I used a rust loosening spray called "PB Blaster" sprayed inside the hopper and out, plus a couple minutes of tapping, plus Vise-Grips.  I then tried out the new brass petcock for size that I'd found at the Canandaigua show,  and I indeed bought the correct one!
I took out the old Auto-Lite F11 spark plug with a crescent wrench (it was in between 7/8" and 1", go figure).  I cleaned it off, and also the plug hole threads, and tested it outside of the engine  (hooked up to the magneto) and saw good spark.  Seems good, so I put it back in.

I wanted to be sure that the brass "Stop" button on the front of the Wico magneto would work before I attempted to start the engine.  I tried in vain with a jumper ground wire and an ohmmeter to figure it out, but nothing conclusive came of it.  So I put the Wico front cover back on, pulled the plug and grounded its shell, then spun the flywheels to watch it spark.  Then I held in the "Stop" button on the magneto and saw that NO spark was happening, so I was satisfied that things were nice and safe.

Looking into the spark plug hole on the engine- much to my surprise- you can't see right into the cylinder.  There's a small chamber there for the spark.  I really didn't expect that (I haven't had the head off or piston out yet to see what it looks like inside the cylinder).  The spark plug takes exactly 4 turns until tight. Magneto bracket- spark plug hole

8/26/05: Potential engine cart
I went to an estate sale today at an old farmhouse, and got this SUPER antique hand truck for only $10.  It's got 9" diameter iron wheels and oak handles; after a bit of modification it will be just perfect to hold the engine & move it around easily!  The grey weathered oak will brighten right up when I refinish it.

Hand truck as found

9/15/05: Dinosaur gas cans
I have run into an unexpected problem with getting the engine running... I can't find a gas can to buy gas with!!  I can't use my existing lawnmower can since I need to mix oil with the gas for the Taylor.  Some sort of safety regulation must've recently been put into law because there's only one kind of gas can that can be bought around here (and I've checked about a dozen stores and gas stations)- it has a spring-loaded nozzle that you have to insert into the filler neck and push down hard.  I need a can with an open nozzle that I can just pour gas out of into the Taylor.  I was going to get a funnel to work around the problem when I finally found a nice gas can (from 1979) at an estate sale.

I picked up a nice old oil can and a funnel with a fine filter screen in it at another estate sale.  Just what I needed!

9/27/05: Grease cups
I removed all 3 grease cups today to clean out the old grease and see how they worked (never having used grease cups before).  Much to my surprise, what I thought was bad grease looks like it may be grease mixed with graphite- it was all uniformly grey.  I remember reading somewhere that you can mix graphite in with the grease for longer bearing life.  I'll have to figure out where I read that to see if they have a recommended mixture before filling the cups up with my own grease.

12/26/05: 3D picture
After reading a posting in the Stationary Engine List, I thought I'd put up a 3 Dimensional image of my Taylor Vacuum Engine.  To view it, you'll need to focus your eyes straight ahead in order to to fuse the two images into a center 3D image.  You can use an antique stereoscope-type viewer as well.  It should be viewable right here on the screen.

3 dimensional picture of my Taylor

1/14/06: More info comes to light
I bought a photocopy of an original Taylor Vacuum Engine sales flyer from Hit & Miss Enterprises and was surprised to learn two new things from the manufacturer about this engine:
     -the engine is designed run just fine as an engine alone (without the vacuum disk valves)
     -the PUMP can still work without the engine running, by belting it up to the pulley

1/16/06: Missed opportunity
Rats!  I just noticed that some Taylor parts had come up on eBay, but the auction has finished already.  They had a pair of vacuum valves and a crank guard, both of which I'm missing.  The valves (in their cage) went for $41, so now I have an idea what a fair price is. 

2/4/06: 1st attempt at starting
Well, we're having an unusually warm winter, and today it was up in the mid 40s (again).  I had left the gas tank empty since Fall, and I realize that was a mistake now.  Exposed to air, the metal inside will corrode faster than if submerged under gas.  Also, I read on the Smokstak list that the check valve ball will corrode or gum up if left dry.  Whoops.  So I put some gas in, about 3/4 of a tank, and for the first time, tried to actually start the engine.  I just wanted to see if it would fire.  I remembered to retard the spark, then spun it over 5 or 6 times, and when nothing interesting happened, put it back in the garage.  5 minutes later, it dawned on me that I hadn't turned on the gas at the mixer!  Back out I went, opened the gas needle valve 1/3 of a turn, and after another 5 spins with no results, put it away because I had other chores to do.  I would've been pleasantly surprised if it started up, but I sort of expect it to not start anyways, so no big deal; just another mystery to solve!  while I know I have spark now, I'm not sure if it's strong or weak- I need to compare it against a working engine somewhere or have somebody knowledgeable take a look at my spark.  Since it's sat dry a few months, it's possible that the check valve ball may not be seating properly as well.  I didn't have time to look at it today as the fitting is stuck and I didn't have my big wrench out with me.   I DID take the gas line off, but it seems that the check ball us UNDER the fitting, not on top of it.  

2/5/06:  Aha, now that I read the starting directions in the operation manual, I see that I was supposed to choke it with my thumb to start- I had not done this, so it's likely that I didn't have any gas up in the cylinder.  Ah, another day...

3/11/06:  Filling the grease cups & 2nd attempt at starting
The weather was REALLY fine today- in the 50s and sunny- and I decided to try and start it for real this time.  I took off the grease cups, filled them, checked their operation, then put them back on.  I turned them all until I met with firm resistance since I had no idea when they were last greased.  The mag-side crankshaft bearing took several more turns than the other two cups; I'll have to keep an eye on that bearing when I get the engine running.  I found that 1/2 a turn of the cup squeezes out about a 1.5 inch long bead of grease, (slightly less than 1/8" thick).  

Grease cup dispensing grease

Also, the cup (cap) of the grease cup assembly has a steel scraper inside it, below:

Grease cup- inside view
Grease Cup- Top (cap) on the left, bottom on the right

I oiled all the moving parts, put some oil in the drip oiler, and set the engine on the ground (slid it off the dolly).  On the way down off the dolly, I slid it onto a digital bathroom scale and found out exactly how much the engine weighs- 235 lbs., including the skids.  That was pretty interesting to find out; I haven't ever found that spec anywhere.

From email advice I had saved from Jeb L., I opened the needle valve 1 1/2 turns, choked the mixer opening with my thumb, retarded the spark, and spun it through a few revolutions.  I put a clip wire on the spark plug to ground it out so I'd be sure it couldn't start while I was turning the flywheels with one hand (I don't have a crank handle).  I then took the ground wire off, and gave it a few, then many spins.  I tried re-choking, opening the needle valve to 2 turns, even having somebody choke it while I spun the flywheels faster using two hands.  Nada, zip.  I took out the spark plug and double-checked that I had spark- yep.  One thing that Jeb mentioned was that after a couple revolutions your thumb should be wet with gas- and mine wasn't.  I'm pretty sure I'm not getting fuel up to the mixer.  I may have a check ball problem, but I ran out of daylight, so this is a mystery for next time.

4/8/06:  Checking the check valve
I took the gas line and check valve off today.  The gas line was clean and had no gas in it in spite of my cranking it a few weeks ago.  If the check valve was working properly, there should've been some gas up in there I'm thinking.  Shaking the check valve- it was silent, meaning that it was stuck.  

Here's the check valve.  Actual size is 1 1/16" long and about 3/4" in diameter.  The "top" of it is to the right, with the fine threads (that go to a brass compression fitting), and the "bottom" is to the left, with the coarse threads.

Check valve

Check Valve

Check valve

Here's the top of the check valve, pretty clean looking.  With good light, you can see that there is NO check ball in there- not what I was expecting.

Check valve

Check valve

Check valve

And here's the bottom of the check valve, and the likely source of my problem- it's all gummed up with rust and varnish.  I found that I could not blow through it- it's plugged up in some way.

Using a dental pick, pocket knife, and some Gumout, I cleaned the crud off.  Wow, did this get results!  The whole thing is brass, and still in pretty good shape.  I then inserted a small screwdriver into the hole, pushed, and to my surprise...

I discovered that this check valve design does not have a ball in it after all- and it's not supposed to.  This design has sort of a brass mushroom or rivet that slides up and down about 1/8".  The stem of the mushroom had been stuck by the gunk- the valve closed.  Now that I've cleaned it off, the valve can open, and I find that it easily rattles- it looks like I've fixed it!!  

It's getting dark now, so I'll have to wait for another day to put gas in and try starting the engine.

4/15/06:  Another attempt at starting
Hey, I've got GAS now!  I choked the mixer and cranked through 4 cycles with the mixer at 1 1/2 turns open, and my thumb got wet with gas, just as it should be!  Despite this, it still wouldn't start.  I may need a new spark plug (this one may not fire under compression?), or maybe I have the mixer misadjusted.  I just remembered that have a spark plug in-line tester that flashes a light when the plug fires; I'll have to dig it out and give it a try.

4/16/06:  Re-check timing... aha!
I spent some real quality time with the engine today.  :-)  I didn't try to start it, but I decided to recheck the timing, since I'm sure it's got spark and gas now.  I have the manual, and it says that from TDC, the advanced spark should occur 4 1/2" ahead of that on the flywheel.  It turns out it's way, way off.  Like 127 degrees off!  I had been thinking that I checked it a while back and it was fine, but now that I look thru my notes, I see that I checked it *before* I fixed the magneto trip lever, and it was off by 30 degrees even then.  Now that the trip lever's working correctly, the timing is off by even more.  I also think I found the marked tooth on the crank gear, and it seems to be correctly set or 1 hole off, maybe.  In this photo, tooth E has the newly discovered mark- you can see the paint is still stuck in one recessed spot.  Boy, this mark was hard to find.  I'm certain this is a mark as the edges of this gear are machined.  On the cam gear, there are what look like marks all over the place.  It's hard to see in the photo, but I'm pretty sure A and B are casting defects.  C and especially D look like purposeful timing marks.  You can see that the tooth E is not in the middle of C and D.  It looks like they marked the recesses rather than the teeth on the cam gear- it seems to be one hole off.  I need to noodle this out some more before taking anything apart.  

Timing marks

4/18/06:  Cam gear info
Jeb L. mentioned that I can actually figure out how much each tooth on the cam gear affects the timing by counting the teeth... I have 50 teeth on that gear, so 360 degrees/50 teeth= each tooth represents 7.2 degrees of rotation.  Hmm, now that I think of it though, maybe that doesn't mean anything as the shape of the cam lobe behind the gear will affect what goes on as well... The gear is 5 3/16" in diameter.

4/23/06:  Even MORE on checking the timing
I'll talk about timing here using inches of circumference of the flywheel since that's how the manual refers to timing...  The whole flywheel is 53.75" in circumference.  I took measurements, and the (advanced) spark was occurring 19" too LATE.  Wow, I need to adjust things for sure; no wonder the engine won't run.

I remembered reading somewhere that to adjust the push rod you must latch it out- this takes pressure off both the magneto's latch block (the mag trip finger rides underneath) and also the cam roller.  By pushing in on the side of the governor's latch lever while slowly turning the engine, it will latch in place.  Then you can loosen the bolt and easily adjust the length of the rod.  The longer the rod, the more advanced the timing will be.  So with my spark occurring way too late, I need to lengthen the push rod.  Once locked back down, turning the flywheel slowly will reveal when the mag trips.

I measured the current rod, to be able to gauge the effect of a change... from the trip arm hold-down to the end of the latch finger, it was 2 13/32"- with this, I'm about 19" too late on the spark.  I found that adjusting it to just less than 2 17/32nds produced an advance spark that was right on the button- exactly 4 1/2" (30 degrees) before TDC.  I was amazed that just 1/8" longer made such a dramatic difference in the timing.

Again following the manual, I went to adjust the opening of the exhaust valve.  By screwing in the bolt on tip of the the rocker arm, I could get it set very close (but not quite right) with the bolt screwed in all the way.  This didn't seem right to me...  I figured that the adjustment bolt should be somewhere in the middle, not jammed up against the end.  Hmm... head scratching...

Then I thought to check the non-advanced setting of the timing (retard lever up), expecting it to be around TDC.  I found the effect of the lever was HUGE- it changed the timing to 16" BEFORE TDC- that it was way, way off!!  Basically, the spark advance lever changed the timing by 107 degrees!  I didn't think this was right at all, so I asked the Smokstak antique engines forum about it, and Andrew M. and Chuck M. set me straight.  Both my problems- with the exhaust valve and non-advanced timing are intertwined.  As Chuck says: "It would appear that if you are getting too many degrees rotation shift in timing with the EK advance lever in or out that the cam follower is riding on an essentially flat part of the cam".  This really cleared things up for me.  My cam gear is surely not correctly set.  When riding on a flat part of the cam, of course not much is going to happen.

I'm pretty amazed at how very tiny adjustments to things have a big result on the timing and run-ability of the engine.

Oh, I also measured my crankshaft end, and it's 1 1/4" in diameter.  Paul, the guy that I bought the engine from, recently gave me a very nice crank handle, but I find that it is for a bigger engine than mine.  Maybe I can trade it for one that will fit.

5/1/06:  Taylor article find!
I just discovered that Gas Engine Magazine has a nice article about the Taylor Vacuum Engine's history up on the web!  It was originally printed in the March, 1980 issue.
It's at  
[Addenda- the entire article is no longer online at]

5/7/06:  Near disaster + Pioneer Gas-Up
Today I went out to Canandaigua to Gary L's place for the Pioneer Gas Engine Assn Gas-Up; we had great weather, sunny and about 60 degrees.  I loaded up the Taylor engine in my conversion van, and strapped it in in case it tried to slide forward.  This was the first time I've taken the engine anywhere.  The very first turn I took out of my street, I was surprised by the whole engine flipping over onto its side inside the van!!  It snapped off the oiler when it hit the toolbox I had next to it.  It may be repairable in the future if it can be brazed, but for now I have one I can use that Paul had just given me a couple weeks ago.  Lucky for me, it flipped over onto the pulley side.  If I had put the engine in the the van facing the other way, it would've flipped over onto the mag side, and would've likely damaged lots of stuff, plus if it fell on the mag side, I would've had gas spilling out of the gas tank vent tube.  I checked the flywheels and they still turn true, so I didn't bend the crank, whew!  I was very, very lucky to get away with no spills in the van and no bad damage.  When the oiler broke, somehow the small view glass at the bottom disappeared.  I can't find it; it's not in the van, it's not on the side of the road where I pulled over.  I did learn that the bottom piece unscrews from the oiler, so I may be able to replace just the bottom if I can't braze it.

Anyway, the Gas-Up was a lot of fun.  There were some unusual hit and miss engines there, like a Massey Harris 1 1/2 HP with spoked flywheels and original paint, and a Perkins 2 1/2, as well as some other nice runners.  There was a complete buzz saw cart rig for sale too.  I'll have pictures up shortly.  I got some good advice on the Taylor from Mark L., who's owned several of them.  One thing he mentioned that I didn't know was that the Wico magneto should take 25 lbs to pull the armature away from the core.  Things that could affect that are the magneto drive springs, and the strength of the magnets.  If it doesn't pull away within specification, it could affect the timing of the trip.

With Mark's encouragement, I rotated the cam gear several teeth in an attempt to cure my retard vs. advance timing problem, but I couldn't get it straightened out.  I need to get a piece of paper and write down results as I change teeth to try and make some sense of it.   The cam gear is held on with a cotter pin and washer.  I had to rotate the flywheel to just the right position in order for it to slide off enough to rotate it... in the wrong position, the cam gear bumps into the flywheel shaft.  I don't think there's quite enough clearance to completely remove the cam gear from its shaft with the flywheel and crankshaft in place, but it's very close.  You don't need to actually remove the cam gear to adjust the timing.

8/3/06: Checking the cam gear
I was worried that perhaps I had an incorrect cam gear- I know the past couple of owners didn't get the engine running.  Corresponding with Chris R. via email, he send me this excellent close-up of his correct Taylor Type C cam gear:

Taylor C Cam Gear
Correct Taylor Vacuum Engine Type C cam gear

(This is actually a much larger image- if you right-click and save the image, it will save the full size file.)  I then manually scaled this picture down to print it out exactly life size.  I cut out the cam part, leaving a cam-shaped hole in the paper.  I slipped the printout over my own cam gear, and it matches EXACTLY!  So I'm positive I have the correct gear.  

Dimensions of my cam gear:
-overall outside diameter = 5 3/16"
-distance from highest lobe on cam to outside of teeth = 1"
-cam gear thickness (width) at the teeth = 1/2"
-cam gear overall thickness near the center, which includes the cam = 1 3/8"
   (Note that the teeth along the edge make the overall gear a little bit thicker than at the smooth center face area of the cam gear that I measured here.)

Note that there are several differences between Chris' gear and mine- Chris' gear has a hole through the gear face, is stamped with "J 103" (=the correct number per the parts list that is found in the owner's manual), and also has two punched timing marks at the base of two adjacent teeth, highlighted at the bottom of this picture.  My gear has none of these features.  I know that the Taylor company bought parts from several vendors to make their engines- the mixer is the same as an Alamo engine for instance.  I'm thinking that perhaps my cam gear came from a vendor that just didn't stamp the part.  My cam has a small oiling hole in the middle of the flat side also (so the cam gear's shaft can be oiled).  I've seen another Taylor C without this hole.

Cam timing note:  The timing marks seen above are exactly opposite the very highest part of the cam.  This is correct as the one special marked tooth on the crankshaft gear points in EXACTLY the same direction as the high point of the crankshaft.  When the piston is at inner (top) dead center- all the way in towards the head- that tooth is also pointed straight at the head.  This would be the middle of the exhaust stroke.  So in the middle of the exhaust stroke, you want the exhaust valve open all the way.

8/19/06: More timing tests
I took the life-size photo of the gear, and found which two marked teeth match up with mine; I marked them with a Sharpie marker.  I then tried to set the timing with the cam gear in that position and found that I couldn't adjust the mag's trip rod enough to bring it into time- so I thought the cam gear needed to be rotated.   I kept rotating and trying to time it, and finally got it, but noticed that I was right back where I started- no where near Chris' gear markings.   Well now I've got the advanced and non-advanced timing set correctly, and the exhaust valve opening at the right time (just barely).  But I see that the exhaust valve doesn't stay open as long as it should.  Per the typical "spiral" timing diagram, it should be open more than a half rotation of the flywheel.  Currently, it's only open 120 degrees at most.  I didn't see any way I could get it to stay open longer because the push rod is only so long.  After much thinking, I finally realized a key point... since the cam is a set shape, the rocker arm bolt length controls how long the exhaust valve will be open!  If I back the bolt out, making it "longer", it will contact the rocker arm sooner, and the valve will stay open longer.  More adjusting & head scratching is needed, for another day.

11/4/06: Let's try the new plug...
I had 20 minutes free today so I thought I'd toss in the brand new spark plug and see what happens... nope, it didn't help/didn't start.  I did check out my new oiler though, and it seems to work ok.

11/27/06: Muffler pipe size
I measured the muffler pipe size- it measures 1 5/16" in outside diameter.  Per the chart at, this equates to a 1" NPT pipe.

Last year, Brian L. sent me photos of his Taylor; it is the only photo  I've ever seen of an original muffler.  From the original photo, it looks to be roughly 4" in diameter.  Here's 3 views of what it looks like, including the line drawing from the sales brochure:

Original Taylor Muffler

 [6/20/07 muffler addenda:  Harry has sent me this close-up of his original muffler, complete with measurements (thanks!).  The front plate is riveted on.]

Original Taylor muffler measurements

3/2/07: Got a crank guard
Dave from found my web site, and it turns out that he had a reproduction crank guard for sale.  A guy from his club casts these out of brass.  I ordered one, and just got it today, and it's very nice.  You can even still read the part # cast into it, T-174.  I now see why most Taylors don't have a guard- when installed, the tolerances are very close between the crank and the guard, and if the guard's bolt comes loose, the guard will tip down and hit the moving crank, breaking it.

Crank guard
Reproduction brass crank guard

4/14/07: Tinkering with the timing
The last advice I got on my problem of the retard lever having too much of an effect was that I was off by 1 tooth on the timing gear.  I played around with this a bit today, and discovered that moving the cam gear alone did not affect this.  I moved 1 tooth, 4 teeth, tried both ways, and the lever effect was always the same... I ran out of daylight and warmth before figuring things out.

4/22/07: Cart work
Today it was a beautiful day in the 70s, so I got some rust stripping & painting done on the cart ironwork.  The "hammered finish" gray Rustoleum paint looks GREAT.  I got all the brace pieces painted.

4/29/07: Timing check & cart work
Today it was another great day in the 70s; I painted some more of the cart metalwork.  I still have to strip & paint the wheels, axle, and axle braces, then buy some new bolts.  

I checked the timing gear, and compared it to my 4/16/06 photo above.  I rotated the cam gear one tooth CCW so that the pinion gear is right between the 2 marks on the timing gear.  I'm pretty sure this is going to do the trick- this should get the retard lever's area of effect onto a steeper part of the cam.  I still need to readjust the trip finger length to bring it into time, then recheck exhaust valve timing, but I've run out of time for today.  My engine club's having a crank up next weekend and I was really hoping to be able to start it by then.

5/6/07: It RUNS!- at last !!!!!
Today I went out to Dana's place near Marion, NY for the annual Pioneer Gas Engine Assn Gas-Up; we had great weather again this year, sunny and in the 60s.  [I've posted pictures here.]  I loaded up the Taylor engine in my conversion van, taking care to strap it in much more securely than last year (when the engine tipped over!).  People brought about a dozen engines to run and display.  I asked Dana for help with my engine problem (that the start/run-advance lever had way too much of an effect), and he told me a very key piece of info... that the advance lever for these Wico magnetos usually DOESN'T work right, and to just forget about using the lever- "we all do it that way!"  Just set the timing to run good with the lever in the down/run position, and then always keep it that way!!  This is a simple solution that I never considered- I've spent all this time trying to get that lever to work like it should.  It indeed should start and run just fine even without using the lever.

Since we were now going to ignore the advance lever (plus run the engine a bit slow), Dana had me reset the trip finger rod length (and timing); we split the difference between the factory-spec'd spark advance setting and TDC.  My adjustment is very sensitive- a small change in trip finger length results in a large change in timing, but we got it just right.  We slid the Taylor out of the van, and tried to start it up.  The first pull, it puffed, which was the first smoke I'd ever seen out of it!  After a couple more tries, it started up and ran!  I couldn't believe it!!  This was GREAT!!  Only one problem- it was hitting all the time- never latching out to "miss".  Listening to it run, you could hear that it was just not up to the speed that it needed for latch-out to occur- it was losing power somehow.  Mark came over and started to look at it.  He remembered seeing it from last year's Gas-up, and started to check it over.  Dana lifted the engine up to an easy working height with a handy forklift (everybody should have one).  The problem was that the exhaust valve was opening too soon- that's why it was losing power.  I was amazed that Mark could see the problem and set it correctly just by eye!  After getting the exhaust valve opening and closing in the right spots, we reset the timing to be correct (now), plus turned a small screw on the arm that presses on the flyball governor rod- I think this may change the latching characteristics?  With a spin or two, it started right up, and after some gas and speed adjustment, ran smoothly, latching out quite regularly.  A HUGE thanks to Mark, Dana, and everybody else that helped with this!  Now I need to get a muffler... :-)

I have a 15 second digital video of it running on YouTube hereTHIS link has the same movie, but at a better resolution (this QuickTime .mov file is about 2MB in size, and you'll need QuickTime 7 or the H.264/AVC codec to view it). You can see the blue tape on the flywheel flash by that I was using to time it.  Using VirtualDub, I viewed this video frame-by-frame to count the revolutions, and the engine's doing 368 RPM here.  The engine is rated at 450 RPM, so we indeed have slowed it down a bit.]

A funny story- when I packed up to go, I wanted to shut off the gas valve while transporting it.  Smart me, I counted the turns to close it and wrote it down.  I also took a photo of the knob.  When I got it home, I looked at my note, and it said "1 3/4 turns".  I opened it to that, and wanted to show everybody my great running engine... and it wouldn't start!  Hmm, it was running really great an hour ago... so I double-checked the picture on the camera, and it clearly showed the knob set to a different spot than I now had it- more like 1 1/4 turns.  I set it to that and... Bob's yer uncle!  It started up and ran again!

General guidelines to getting it running:
1) Forget about the Wico advance lever for good!  Put it down(=run), and leave it there always.
2) Do the setting of the exhaust valve FIRST, then set spark timing.  To set exhaust, it needs to open just before Outer Dead Center (~30 deg) . You need to rotate the timing gear so that you can then adjust the bolt in the rocker arm and have it about in the middle of its range.  Don't concern yourself with spark timing at this point- you're just doing exhaust.
3) Now time the spark to Inner Dead Center (TDC) or just before (since we want to run slow).
4) Don't completely block off the vacuum ports on the side of the engine.  Without the port  open to air, it will load the engine down and it won't get up to speed (heh, figured that out 2 days later).

1) I don't use a hand crank; I've heard many scary stories of broken hands, arms, etc.
2) Ensure that you use gas with oil mixed in for the Taylor engine- between 1/4 and 1/2 pint of 30W ND (non-detergent) oil per gallon.
3) Fill the hopper with water.
4) Oil everything that moves ;-)  Many cast iron parts have small oil holes in them.  Don't forget to oil the valve shafts and the magneto bearings.  Be sure the gears are oiled.  Place a few drops of oil in the channel on top of the connecting rod in order to lubricate the wrist pin.
5) Turn each grease cup until firm.  Then refill them to be ready for future use.
6) Open up the drip oiler (flip lever straight up) and adjust the knurled knob on top so that about 2-4 drops fall per minute.
7) Open the mixer needle valve about 1 1/4 turns.  
8) In my case, leave the magneto retard lever down, in the "run" position (if yours works properly, you should flip it up at this point.  Once running, flip it back down to advance the timing.)
9) Prime the engine:  kneel down on the magneto side of the engine, and hold your thumb completely over the mixer opening and carefully rotate the flywheel clockwise through an intake stroke.  You will hear the intake valve purr, your thumb should get wet, and gas should drip out of the mixer.  If gas doesn't actually drip out, repeat this step.  Once you start the engine a few times, you'll know how much dripping out is normal for your engine.
10) Stand up, go behind the engine, and with both hands grab the flywheels on the top, rotate them back towards you until you feel the compression stroke starting- it will feel firm; now give them a quick hefty pull towards you, over the top.
11) If the engine doesn't start after a spin or two, re-prime the engine.
12) If it *almost* starts to run, you can run around to the side and choke it a bit by covering half the mixer opening with your thumb.
13) Adjust the needle valve so the engine runs best and exhaust is not excessive smoky.  Black smoke=too much gas, blue smoke=too much oil in the gas.  (The Taylor will always be a little smoky because of the oil mixed with the gas.)
14) The speed of the engine can be adjusted by turning the screw next to the flywheel- clockwise for faster speed, CCW for slower.
15) Every hour or so of running, turn the grease cups about 1/4 turn.

5/16/07: Hmm, on the Wico...
I've now heard from several people on that their Wico advance levers work just fine.  Hmm, so there IS still a mystery here... 

6/9/07: Smoke Rings!
I built a "muffler" today- I took 2 feet of 2 1/2" diameter exhaust pipe, a reducer, an elbow, and made a straight smokestack for the Taylor.  I ground down the outside of the reducer until it almost fit inside the exhaust pipe, then I ground a taper on the lip and pounded it in.  I drilled and tapped in 3 screws for strength, and sealed it up with JB Weld.  [addenda:  I later discovered that I had a problem trying to get both the elbow tight and keep the pipe vertical all at the same time.  To solve this, I've used Al's idea, and taken a 1" electrical conduit nut and put it on as a jam nut.  Now the elbow can be snugged up enough to run the engine without worry of the muffler getting loose and tipping over from vibration.]

straight-pipe muffler detail
Straight-pipe muffler detail- note locknut

It works great-  blowing nice smoke rings 15-20 feet in the air.  The engine runs a bit differently with the straight pipe on it- not "missing" as much as it used to with no muffler pipe at all; perhaps I need to readjust the mixture.  I won't be storing or moving the engine with this exhaust pipe in place as I'm afraid it might crack the head where it's screwed in.
I've also finished the cart and reassembled it.  I just need to build a deck to hold the engine on top.

6/19/07: Flywheel Markings
Harry sent me some email that he's just bought a Taylor Vacuum Engine.  On his flywheels (magneto-side), he can still read the words "SPARK" and "VALVE", and took photos below.  I can't see these words on mine; it's possible that a former owner sanded them off while cleaning up the flywheel,  or maybe it never had them.  Harry's SPARK marking exactly matches the spot that I measured on my own flywheel- right near the edge of the cast hand-hold.

To time the engine, the events should occur when the SPARK or VALVE marks are lined up with the center of the engine's push rod (meaning the mark is at 9 o'clock).  The spark advance lever should be in the down (=run/advance) position when you set the timing. 

SPARK flywheel marking  VALVE flywheel marking
                                                     Flywheel marks on Harry's engine

6/23/07: An ad surfaces
 Harry included a photo of this amazing advertisement from 1929- this is the first ad I've ever seen for a Taylor.  You can see that the price has been marked down by someone, and that pulleys were available from the factory.

Original price list!

7/16/07: Valve Spring Info
Al M. from South Carolina called me yesterday for some help on his newly-acquired Taylor.  His valve springs were rusted away, so I took mine off and measured them.  Here's the data for the uncompressed springs:

  wire diameter     overall spring diameter     overall spring height  
Intake valve spring       0.053"             1-1/8"           3-3/4"
Exhaust valve spring       0.089"             1-1/8"           2-1/8"

Intake valve spring  Exhaust valve spring

It's hard to see, but the valve washer is in fact cup-shaped so that the spring won't slip out sideways.  The valve lock washer has a bent tang that wraps around the edge of the valve washer so that it won't slip off accidentally.

7/20/07: Cart is Ready
I've finished putting the deck on the engine cart.  All I need now is to drill the 4 mounting bolt holes and get some strong arms to help lift it onto the cart.  I need to get it all done before next weekend's show!

7/25/07: Engine's got WHEELS!
I took the engine off the skids and put it on the refinished cart; it looks GREAT!  Just in time, because I'm taking it to my first engine show on Saturday.  I'm REALLY looking forward to this! 

I got to examine the gas tank closely, as well as the 2 cast iron engine supports- one sits at each end of the gas tank.  These are called "skid to engine raising blocks" in the parts list.  The tank was made out of galvanized steel.  I found that it had 2 soldered-up holes in the bottom from a previous accident.  I ran the engine a bit on the cart, and things looked nice and sturdy.

Gas tank and raising blocks
Gas tank that sits beneath the engine

7/28/07: First Show- Pioneer Gas Engine Association
I loaded up the engine last night, and packed up my long list of tools, oil, gas, parts, etc. today and drove to the Marion, NY show.  This is the first show I've ever exhibited at.  The weather forecast predicted sure thundershowers all day, but in fact, we never got a drop of rain nor high winds.  It was in the mid 70s, sunny and humid.  I got the engine unloaded with the help of a fellow exhibitor acting as my brake man so I could control it as I wheeled down my plywood ramp.  

I got my tarp up first thing (expecting rain...), and set up a chair, then fired up the Taylor.  It started up easily just like it did at home, on the first/second spin.  It ran for 10 minutes, then mysteriously coasted to a stop.  I checked a couple things quickly, even switched plugs, but it still wouldn't run.  Paul & Tim stopped by about this time to see it run, but it was dead.   So, we all worked on it a bit and FINALLY realized that the points were no longer opening!  The screw on the lower magneto points had loosened and backed itself out, quite a weird problem.  I've run it a lot at home the past couple of months and it was fine.  I think it did it because people were watching this time.  :-)  We discovered this was the problem by taking off the front cover on the magneto, and watching the points.  (When working correctly, they will quickly pull apart and you'll actually see a spark jump between them.)  I reset the points, putting some Teflon thread tape on the screw (hoping to stop it from backing out again; I didn't have any LockTite with me).  Tim showed me that the bottom points can be kept from rotating by lightly pinning it in place with a screwdriver.  If you don't hold it, you just rotate the points rather than driving in the screw.  After tightening this screw, it fired right up again.  

Shortly, it started to run poorly.  We had to adjust the gas (a LOT) to keep it running.  My usual setting of the mixer (for the past 2 months of running) was always 1 1/4 turns open.  Now it had to be 3 1/2 turns open to run!  This was just wrong; I know that it would normally be flooded with that setting.  Plus, when priming it, gas would not run out at the 1 1/4 turns like it should.  Finally, it quit all together.  Something was clearly wrong, but who knows what.  I left it and went to to eat and look at the other engines at the show.  About 5:15 I finally got back to it, and figured out that the check valve was not working quite right due to sediment contaminating it.  I think moving the engine onto the cart the other day and then driving it to the show has dislodged some fresh crud.  I cleaned out the check valve, and it started right up!  I ran it for about 40 minutes (getting it nice and hot) before it quit with the same problem [2 weeks later:  turns out no, I had just run out of gas!].  By this time, most of the spectators were at the tractor pull, so it was ok.  I stuck around a while more when I heard they were steaming some fresh corn on the cob with the Case tractor.  Delicious!  I'll have to slosh out the gas tank when I get a chance.

New cart, first show!!!
At the show, the Taylor on my newly-refinished hand truck

I had been running it with regular oil mixed with the gas as the owner's manual says.  With my brand new (=clean) exhaust pipe muffler, I could see that it was running very sooty, so at the show I switched to 2 cycle outboard motor oil mixed with the gas.  This type of low ash/low deposit oil wasn't even invented back in the 1920s.  Hopefully, it will keep my cylinder a bit cleaner and still provide adequate lubrication for the forward power part of the piston.

8/12/07: Running again!
I looked into why the engine wouldn't start since the show- removed & cleaned the check valve & blew air back thru the gas lines.  Still wouldn't start... I was SURE everything was clear, but I wasn't getting any gas when choked (no wet thumb).  Then I finally figured it out- I noticed when I choked/primed it that the gas tank made a poonk-poonk sound when the intake stroke occurred.  It has never made this sound before.  Then I figured out why- I had never RUN OUT OF GAS before!  Putting in some gas, it started right up and ran fine.  <sigh>  At least now I know how to tell when I'm out of gas- the gas tank makes that noise.  
I got a good digital video of it shooting smoke rings up on YouTube.  If you don't see it below, or want a higher quality movie, it is up at:


10/20/07: I'm getting better at fixing "won't start" problems!
I had run the engine a few times over the past couple months, noticing that it was now "double hitting"- when it was ready to hit, it would take TWO sucks/sparks to get it to hit once. It was still running well, it just would double hit. I figured that it was a temperature/humidity change, as it was nicely adjusted to single-hit over the summer. Well, the last time I ran it a couple weeks ago, I ran it as long as I wanted, shut it off, and put it away. The next time, it wouldn't start. I checked the spark with my in-line neon bulb spark tester, and it showed that I had spark. So I took apart the gas line, and everything looked good; I cleaned the check valve anyway.  It still wouldn't start.  I decided to check the problem I had had at the engine show, and that was it!  The point-setting screw worked itself loose again.  But THIS time it didn't loosen up so much that I had NO spark- I did indeed have spark- I was sure of that because of the tester. I think the problem was that the spark got too weak to ignite the gas mixture at the orig setting. Once I properly re-adjusted the point opening, it runs with just a single suck/hit like it should- so it wasn't the weather after all, it was a weak spark causing the double-hit. I'll have to remember that for future reference. It sounds easy, "all you need is fuel, spark, and air", but there's 10 things that could affect each of those! So it's running fine again now! Need to get some Locktite...

I also got a repro muffler from an Economy engine a few months ago- it has the same threads as the Taylor.  The one I got is made of solid brass- I lightly sanded/steel wooled and clearcoated it.  I just put it on the engine, and the shiny gold color looks great, matching the Wico magneto cover.  (I still have a brass reproduction Taylor crank guard to work on as well.)

10/30/07: Found a pump
I've been looking for something to run with the engine, and found this nice looking Deming New Marvel water pump on eBay.  It seems like it's in decent shape; it turns freely.  It originally came with an electric motor mounted on the flat plate above the flywheel, but can be run off a hit and miss engine using a narrow belt.  It was made in Salem, Ohio.  I'm looking for some operating instructions for it (how to lubricate pump piston, what is the tire valve stem for, etc.).  If I can get it going, I can actually use it to pump creek water for the garden.

Deming New Marvel Water Pump Deming New Marvel Pump decal

1/24/08: GEM Picture
I've just found out that my engine can be seen in the Feb/Mar 2008 issue of Gas Engine Magazine!  They are doing a series of articles about Gas Engines A to Z, and mine made it in for "Taylor".  I was able to buy a single copy at the local Tractor Supply store.

5/4/08: Crank-Up
I brought my engine to the 
annual Pioneer Gas Engine Assn crank-up/picnic at Dana's today; very nice weather & the engine ran just fine.  There were a dozen or so engines there, including a very unusual LaZier Neverstop 5 HP, made in Buffalo, NY.   Paul brought his beautiful Silver King tractor.

7/12/08: Fort Hunter, NY Engine Show
As luck would have it, I was out of town and was able to stop by the Tri County Old Time Power Association's engine show at Schoharie Crossing, NY (didn't bring my engine).  This was a very nice show. There were lots of engines "doing" things, especially pumping water.  One guy had a beautifully restored Myers spray rig with a wooden tank that wasn't leaking a drop.  I saw not one, but THREE Rider-Ericsson style hot air pumping engines.  One of them, a "Denny Improved Ericsson Engine"  from around 1900 was fired up and running- burning corn cobs, pumping water.   There's LOTS of monkey-motion going on when these engines run and are very nice to watch; I had never seen one before & I really appreciated seeing this one run.  Another guy had a large milking/vacuum pump exhibit, but no Taylor Vacuum Engine.  

7/26/08: Marion, NY Engine Show-  Pioneer Gas Engine Association
I brought my engine to this one (my "local" show) on Saturday despite threatening skies, and was very glad I did.  There weren't very many engines here this year for some reason, maybe 40-50.  The rain stayed off us, my Taylor ran very well all day, and I was quite happy at that.  It even started with people watching!  :-)  I also brought my Deming pump, and met someone that knew quite a bit about them and was able to give me some good advice.  I got frustrated at my cheap-o tarp in the wind, and have now bought one of those with the expandable frames for next year.

8/9/08: Canandaigua Pageant of Steam
Wow, THREE engine shows in a year!  I was planning to bring my Taylor to this show on Saturday, as it was featuring "oddball" engines, but it rained very hard on Friday.  Not wanting to get stuck in the mud, I just went on Saturday as a spectator.  This is a premier show; a whole day is not enough to see the whole thing.  They recently rescued a giant engine (Fishkill Corliss), and parts to it were laying out everywhere on display.  One flywheel nut was as big as my hand.  The steam displays are getting bigger each year.  A guy there (Elmer Neufeld) had an outstanding steam display.  He had everything, including a copper clad boiler mounted on a trailer.  He had many things belted up to it that he could turn on and off, and every time I walked by he was demonstrating something new.  He must've been exhausted at the end of the day, but he put on a very interesting show.   The big Allis-Chalmers generator set inside the steam building was running faster than I've ever seen it run, 74 RPM- very, very impressive to see something THAT huge move so fast.  Just as I was leaving, I stopped in the flea market and stumbled upon a repro instruction manual, parts list, and price sheet for the Taylor for a very nice price.

5/3/09: Crank Up
I ran the Taylor at our club's crank up at Gary L's place today; WHAT a beautifiul day!  Sunny, in the 70s, you couldn't ask for a better May day.  One guy brought and ran a very old inverted vertical engine- a very odd triangular design that caught everyone's eye.

7/25/09: Marion Show
I took the Taylor to my club's show, another nice day, and the engine ran pretty good too.  I got to try out my new sturdier canopy.  I brought my Deming water pump (still not restored yet), and my Junior Engineer model steam engine (made in 1946).  I'm working on a way to run the model at shows without using the live steam tank (which requires 110v AC).

8/7/09: Pageant of Steam
Today was extremely good weather for the Canandaigua, NY Pageant.  Other recent years, it's been muddy or 95 degrees, but today was in the 70s, and had been dry a while now- just perfect. Unfortunately, I didn't have the engine-transporting vehicle as the rest of the family needed it, so I just went as a spectator.  I thought my camera battery's charge ran out awful quick- I hadn't yet seen everything... until I got home and discovered I'd taken 418 digital photos on my one recharge- I guess I don't have anything to complain about with that!  I've got photos from all the shows that I need to upload once I get the time.  
There were two Taylor Vacuum Engines at the show!  One was not on my s/n list- I never met the guy that owned it, and the other- I got to meet Bernie V. at the show, who I'd talked with via email before; very nice to meet in person.  His Taylor still had the "SPARK" and "VALVE" markings stamped on the face of his flywheel.

7/31/10: Marion Show
I took the Taylor to my club's show, and added a few little things to my display- an antique apple peeler, plus I found an art easel to hold some info on Taylor Vacuum engines I'd found. The engine ran well all day. I still haven't found a small air source for my Junior Engineer model steam engine; maybe by next year. I had a really nice time and got to talk to a bunch of great people.

8/11/10: Pageant of Steam - Finally got vacuum valves!
Today (Wednesday) was the first official day of the Pageant in Canandaigua, NY, but many have been here since last Sunday setting up.  I didn't see any Taylor Vacuum Engines at the show this year, and I only had a half day, so didn't bring mine. I ran into Bernie again, and it was nice to see him, plus I talked to some other very nice guys too. I was at the right place at the right time today, as after years of looking I finally found a set of vacuum pump valves for sale- a vendor was parting out an engine- and bought them! I caught him just as he was about to leave the show for the day, so I got very lucky. I'm sure I'll have to have some thin spring steel disks punched out to go inside, but these particular cast iron parts are very hard to find, and I was thrilled to finally get them.

Taylor vacuum pump valves, fresh out of the valve cage

9/25/10: Duanesburg show?
I stumbled upon a small engine show in Duanesburg, NY today, at the Canal Street Railroad Museum.  See pix and more info in the Show Pix area of this web page.  One guy there had a vacuum powered milk can crane, very cool!  [update- I think these guys may be from the Hudson-Mohawk chapter of the Pioneer 
Gas Engine Association over at]

April, 2011: Got some valve disks now, too!
I just met Carl via email; he's a toolmaker nearby and made some spring steel disk valves to replace my rusted ones (Thanks, Carl!).  He also made a new mixer knob for his own Taylor and even a muffler that both look indistinguishable from the originals; he's a very skilled guy.

6/26/11: Got a butter churn... and another engine!
I got a nice Dobson butter churn with a pulley, about 14 gallons at a local estate sale, and then from the same nice guy what now appears to be a 2.5 or 3 HP Waterloo Boy!  It's in pretty good shape, having a lot of original paint left.  I'll be starting up a separate web page for that, but I'm thrilled to finally find another engine!

7/16/11: @#f!$n%&# Vacuum Valves
Ok, the screws are really rusted in there on those disk valves.  I've damaged the slot on them a little, and now I've been soaking the vacuum valves in PBlaster for weeks, tapping them occasionally, etc.  I got a really good, perfectly sized Craftsman screwdriver with a grooved face for gripping, and I finally managed to get the screw out of one of the valves!  I now know that it is a flathead countersunk screw of size 8-32 x 3/8" long. The other one is really stuck.  
I heated it up with an inadequate Bernz-O-Matic to no avail.  So I tried an Easy Out... which I promptly broke off in the core of the screw.  Great, now I have a hardened steel core on my immovable screw.  :-(  This was getting tricky, now.  I didn't want to damage the valves because they are impossible to find.  So I bought a few new dremel tools tips- a thin carbide cutter, and diamond tipped one.  I have almost spent as much on tools to get the screw out as I did for the parts in the first place!  I finally ground the outer part of the screw out enough to hit the tip of the Easy Out with a drift which popped it out, whew!  Now I'm back in business.  I took the thin diamond cutter and very carefully hollowed out the core until I just started to see threads.  Still too much there to pick out, so I will drill and recut the threads.

4/2012: Got a nice advertisement!
There doesn't seem to be many old advertisements out there for Taylor Vacuum Engines.  I lucked out and got a really nice and clean example of one of the best of them- the elusive and rare yellow pamphlet- "Taylor Vacuum Engines for Better Service".

5/2012: Got ANOTHER nice ad!
Now I was lucky enough to get another nice Taylor pamphlet- "The Last Word in a Milking Machine Power Plant".

6/30/13: Fixed the Vacuum Valves
Well, I finally got a Round Tuit today, and decided to tackle the vacuum valve that had the broken off screw.  I got the proper tap for 8-32 and correct # drill bit, and carefully ran the drill thru the hole using a drill press (to be sure I was nice and straight).  I then took the tap, lubricated it with some Liquid Wrench, and carefully worked it through the old threads.  This worked perfectly!  It drove out all the broken pieces of screw threads that were still in there clogging the threads- they stuck to the tap as they came out like rings. The valve threads are all cleaned out now, with no damage.

3/6/14: Spark Plug Info
I got an email from Jeff who noted that the Taylor C Manual doesn't give any advice on spark plugs. When I bought my Taylor, it had an old/rusty-looking "Auto-Lite F11" plug in it, and I am still using it.  I have to clean the carbon off it every now and then using carb cleaner and a pick.

I also bought a modern spare/replacement for it, and that one is an "Autolite 3095".  I have used it on occasion, and it works fine.  They are both gapped at .025".

I believe that the difference between "old" plugs and modern ones is that the old plugs had a smooth glazing over the insulator tip, while the new ones are not glazed.  The new ones have natural/bare porcelain on the insulator tip.  So the new ones tend to foul up with carbon a little quicker since it has an easier time sticking to (relatively) rough porcelain.  If you have an old/original plug, you might be better off cleaning it and re-using it.

 9/24/16: Original Paint Color Examples
If you're wondering what the original green paint color looks like, I have these two photos I found on the internet over the years that I think show the color well... if you right-click and save the images they should appear a bit larger for you.  If I had to describe the color, it's sort of an olive green.  My own engine seen above is not the original color; it's too green.
Taylor Vacuum Engine Original Paint

Taylor Vacuum Engine Original Paint

This page was instantiated Oct. 14, 2004, and last updated Sep. 29, 2016.
Text, photos copyright 2004-2014 (except 'taylorcut.jpg' diagram, 'StoverWicotrip2.jpg', 'corliss1876.jpg', 'GaarScottLoadPlat.jpg', 'TaylorOrigMuffler-3.jpg', 'taylor-c-cam-gearResz.jpg', 'TayMuffMeasure3b.jpg', 'flywheel-SPARKmarking-b.jpg', 'flywheel-VALVEmarking-b.jpg', 'TayPiston.jpg', and the advertising images.).