5hp Blackstone Vertical Engine

Story by Lachlan and Ian Crawford & Pictures by TOMM

For my grandfather, Walter Crawford, the decision to buy a 5hp vertical Blackstone seemed somewhat logical, given the events leading up to its purchase in 1916.

It began in 1910, when Walter travelled with his mother from Australia to Britain and continued on to Canada, crossing this country by rail, before returning to Australia.

Walter had been considering replacing the horseworks which drove his chaffcutter, with a fuel powered engine. Who better to consult about this matter, than the engineer of the ship he was travelling on? He was advised that a vertical engine should be chosen over a horizontal, as a heavy cast iron piston would wear prematurely on the bottom side, which perhaps seems a little bias coming from a marine engineer!

The Blackstone make was mentioned as, at the time, these engines were well known and reliable. The seed was sown; the engine needed to be a vertical Blackstone, and 5hp was deemed adequate to drive the chaffcutter.

• Above: Another view of the working parts of the Blackstone; the rockers and valves.

The engine was ordered through the Clutterbuck agents in Melbourne and, on arrival, was then despatched by rail (on the Heathcote line) to High Camp Station, where it was picked up by wagon and delivered to its new home at ‘Rockvale’.

The Blackstone was supplied as a stationary engine with a toolbox, spanners, oil can and spare piston rings. The starting lamp, a Primus model 659, came with a windshield box, and the square water cooling tank was supplied by Clutterbuck.

The Blackstone was mounted on a homemade transport and, for the next couple of decades, was used to drive the chaffcutter and, after that, during the 1930s and 1940s, a sawbench. The acquisition of a Ferguson TEA 20 with a PTO driven roll top sawbench, saw the Blackstone retired in the late 1940s. Meanwhile, Walter passed away and the engine became my father’s.

• Above: A close-up view of the wine glass oiler.

For the next 25 years, the faithful old engine languished in a corner of the old shearing shed under a hessian bag. The shed was pulled down in the early 1980’s, so the engine was moved outside, with the addition of a tarp for protection from the elements.

Dad passed away in 2001, and my Uncle Berry (his older brother) gave the engine to me with the hope that he could see the Blackstone run again before he, as he said, ‘snuffed it’.

Progress was very slow, and I hadn’t finished the engine when Berry died in 2008. I had lost heart, and the almost-completed project lay untouched until my son, Lachlan, said one day in 2011, “Dad let’s get the Blackstone going”. In a few weeks, with little trouble, our engine spluttered to life and ran faultlessly after minor fiddling. I was filled with both euphoria and sadness; the engine ran for the first time in over 60 years but my uncle hadn’t lived to see it.

Forward to 2013: I must thank the good people of Lake Goldsmith for making my son and I so very welcome (and, of course, our Blackstone) at their 102nd event. Many thanks also to Keith Brock for his last minute lettering and pin-striping, and to the gent who provided jet prickers for the lamp, which I had overlooked in my haste. Thank you all for an unforgettable weekend! *Lachlan and Ian Crawford

• Above: A close-up view of some of the working parts,
including the pushrods.


• Above: Being built in 1916 and remaining in the one family for 97 years is a remarkable achievement.

• Above: The vertical 5hp Blackstone S/N 123103, running again after 60 years, at the Blackstone Rally at Lake Goldsmith Rally in November 2013.