Where do I start?

People who are thinking of joining the hobby of restoring old iron (a common term for antique engines) usually have little or no idea of where or how to get started. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. has some good advice:


  • Welcome to the hobby--but keep in mind it's addictive!
  • Spend some time at shows looking at engines to determine the kind(not brand)that interests you. Some are hit& miss, some are throttle governed, some are open(or closed) crank etc. etc.
  • Choose a "common" engine for your 1st one (you WILL own more than one sooner or later),it will be easier to get parts for if you need any.
  • Be sure that what you buy is all there. A missing mag or mixer(ie carb) can cost you 1/2 as much as you pay for the engine itself!
  • A Hercules(they also made Economy, Jaeger and Arco) or a John Deere might be a good choice for a 1st engine $300-$500 should buy something that is all there and a good starter engine.
  • You might want to take a look at some of the list member's HP's for engine ideas and or advice. Many of us include our HP address on our sig. Some will also tell you(in private) how much($$$) they have tied up in an engine, how much work it was to restore and what they think it is now worth.
  • Anyway welcome to the list and to a great hobby. If you have other questions you can be sure someone on the list has the answer. They are a great bunch and always willing to help!

Information Sources

What are the better magazines of the hobby, and provide the name(s) of anyone who deals in manuals (original or reproduction).

Believe it or not your first source may be the engine manufacturer themselves. Many of them are still in business in one form or another. (eg. Briggs & Stratton, Lister-Petter, etc). It may take some persistence when dealing with them as your query probably represents considerable cost to them. Some are actively helpful and will go out of their way.


Books & Magazines

USA Australia UK
STEMGAS publishing.
PO Box 328, Lancaster, PA, USA, 17608-0328
Phone 717-392-0733, Fax 717-392-1341
They have some great books available. (not to mention GEM - Gas Engine Magazine - if I was you, and are sincerely interested, subscribe to it!)
Suggested by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">Bill Dickerson
Plough Book Sales
PO Box 14, Belmont, VIC, Australia, 3216.
Phone 03-5266-1262 (diallers outside Oz us +61 3 5266 1262)
These people have a fantastic range of books and are always very helpful. Every order I've put through them has arrived promptly and in the condition advertised.

The Olde Machinery Magazine is a fantastic magazine covering Australian interests from engines to tractors to machinery.
TOMM PO Box 1200 Port MacQuarie NSW 2444
Phone (02) 6585 0055 Fax (02) 6585 0755 e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.URL www.tomm.com.au

Australian Steam Power Magazine P.O. Box 208, BERRI S.A. 5343 AUSTRALIA ph/fax 08 8582 2603, e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The magazine is aimed at the steam engine operators of Australia. It currently is a 16 page black and white printed magazine, A4 size, with text and photos. Contents include; Out and About (news on current, future and past events) Technical articles past and present, letters to the editor, an events calendar with events up to 4 years in the future, Buy and Sell, a from the archives page etc. There usually is a fair bit of news on paddle steamers and steam launches, steam railways etc.

Rally Badges supply a range of books, magazines, badges, cloth patches and hats. P.O. box 7 Mitcham, 3132 ph/fax (03) 98741671 Rally Badges

CMS Publishing - Old Glory Magazine
Bullimores House, Church Lane, Cranleigh, Surrey, GU6 8AR
A good magazine "Old Glory Vintage Restoration Today" which covers Steam, Internal Combustion, machinery, Cars, just about anything old.

Stationary Engine Magazine
Kelsey Publishing Ltd
Kelsey House, 77 High Street,
Beckenham, Kent BR3 1AN.
Suggested by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Swap Meets / Auto jumbles

Swap meets, etc - Magazines such as GEM and Old Glory have listings of upcoming swap meets.


There are thousands of clubs ranging from a couple of people to massive affairs. Find one in your local area which you feel you can fit in with and join it. In Australia consult Steam & Engine for club listings. Most clubs have libraries of information, and they all have something more important - people!

Hints and tips

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
">Bill Dickerson suggests - be patient, be friendly, get lots of your favorite "rust remover/loosener", such as WD40, Gibbs, etc.. It can be as cheap or as expensive as you want for a hobby, but it is ALWAYS fun, and you get to meet a LOT of really nice folks.

Stationary Engine Mailing List

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. listed the
Purpose Of The Stationary Engine List:
  1. To ask questions and seek information pertaining to stationary engines.
  2. To exchange ideas and stories of interest pertaining to stationary engines such as shows, products, vendors, source of parts, trouble shooting hints, etc.
  3. To promote stationary engines. To help preserve the past.
Subscription information can be found at Stationary Engine Mailing List.

Buying an engine

I have some golden rules:

  • Whenever you are about to buy, determine a fair price elsewhere BEFORE you negotiate.
  • Never exceed your own price limit because you have become attached to an engine. It is better to walk away.
  • Play with the engine as much as you like - if the seller does not want you to do this then forget it - they have something to hide.
  • Pump the seller for as much information as you can.
  • ALWAYS GET A RECEIPT which has your name, the sellers name and address, the date, a description of what is sold complete with serial number(s), and the price. This is vital. A friend of mine purchased an engine and spent hundreds of hours and dollars rebuilding it only to have it recognised by its former owner at a show who claimed it had been stolen. In this situation you are likely to lose the engine, but the receipt should keep you out of jail. This advice is good for any purchase - not just engines. In the case of the friend the former owner was happy to see it had gone to a good home and just let the matter drop.

There are four main places where you will find engines.

  • Swap Meets usually lowest prices here as there is often much competition - if one person won't come down to your price, move onto the next.
  • Farm/Estate Auctions these can provide excellent bargains as there is usually an inspection day prior to auction where you can inspect and fiddle with the engines. In recent times, Auctions have lost some of their charm due to higher prices. There are more and more collectors bidding for available equipment. I often attend local auctions and usually come away empty handed.
  • Scrap/Junk Yards my first engine (Rosebery 3C) came from a local garden centre who had a scrap yard down the back. I noticed the engine peeking out from under a tarp and asked about it. They could not understand why I wanted it but were more than happy to sell it to me. You may get a good price here, they often do not know the items real value - they see it as n kilos of iron and are happy to exceed the price the metal buyer will give them. I also try equipment hire shops and engineering works - both sometimes have old equipment they are happy to part with.
  • Private Sales Keep an eye on classified sections in local papers, trading papers (eg. The Melbourne Trading Post), and farm oriented news papers. You may also see ads in engine magazines.

Negotiating your price

My negotiating method was taught to me by an ex-used car salesman who I worked for for a while. This method works most of the time!
The first thing to remember is that the sticker price is NOT the price of the item - in a supermarket the sticker is god, but almost any kind of second hand dealership it is only a starting point.
When buying remember your aim is to lower the price as much as you can, and the sellers aim is to keep the price as high as they can.
Never be rude when buying, always be polite, if a negotiation stops above your price do not get nasty, just leave.
There are two ways of haggling: the first is the one I prefer - start at 50% of the sticker price and work your way upwards in small increments (say 5%). The second is start at 5% of the sticker price and work up in big jumps, then slow down to small jumps when you reach 50%. Some people think the latter method works better as it shows you are getting serious - I personally think that the latter method makes you look like a disrespectful fool.
Treat professionals and individuals very differently, you can be cool and aloof with a professional salesperson - you both know where you stand, but an individual has probably owned the engine for a while, and often regrets having to sell it - pushing them will only make them unhappy and stubborn. Upset them enough and they are likely to tell you to go away.

Unmounted, On Skids, or on Trucks

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. says: Many engines were skidded and trucks were an option I'd say on practically all the engines. Original factory trucks can sell from $90 to $500. If you want one with trucks you can usually get a better deal buying the engine on the trucks. Many sellers put the engine on skids and sell the trucks separately because they can get more money . Some buyers don't want to pay the price for trucks. Here are some approximate prices for trucks.

John Deere $225
IHC M $200 plus
IHC Famous $300 to $500
Economy (small) $125
Fairbanks-Morse $90 to $125
Sandwich $175 to $200
Cushman "Banjo Cart" $350 to $400
7 HP Economy "under slung" cart $300 to $400

notes that you can buy reproduction trucks and skids - look in the engine magazines for suppliers