Monthly Archives: September 2015

Hit or Miss Engines

Jim, September 15:

You never know what you’ll find on the Teardrop Trail, and the Red Power Roundup in Sedalia, Missouri was no exception. While looking at the expected tractors and other IH memorabilia, I discovered a assortment of “hit or miss” engines. They were first available around 1890 from various manufacturers including International Harvester (after 1902) for use in pumping water, generating electricity and cutting firewood. The video shows models spanning several decades and demonstrates the “hit or miss” behavior and resulting name.

They fire every few cycles and rely on a large flywheel to maintain a relatively constant speed. Producing a small amount of horsepower relative to their weight and size, they were displaced by newer internal combustion engines by the mid-20th century, although they are still desirable for some low-speed (250 rpm or so) applications like oil-field pump jacks. International Harvester produced a variety of hit or miss engines, and the video shows three well preserved and and functioning models.

This display of engines was a surprise to me — I hadn’t seen this many working hit or miss engines in one place before. The engine owners were on hand to answer questions and I learned a lot about this part of our Harvester Heritage. Fun!