A few weeks ago, on his day off, Gus Wilson left Stan
Hicks holding the fort at the Model Garage and drove up to Round Lake to see
about getting his fishing skill in shape. One of the local boys always
took care of the annual overhaul. After they'd talked the job over,
Gus strolled over to the pint-size refreshment stand and bait store that old
Tom Strong runs near the boat landing.
"Hi, Tom," Gus greeted the
little old men behind the counter. "All set for a busy summer season?"
he asked as he fished around in the cooler for a root beer.
"Can't rightly tell, Gus, what
with all this war business stirrin' folks up."
Gus finally dredged up a
bottle. As he stooped to open it the door slammed behind him.
Looking up, he recognized Ken Peyton. Ken runs an amusement park down
near the hotel at the other end of the lake.
"Saw your car outside, Gus,"
Peyton said as he pumped Gus's hand. "I need some advice."
"What's the matter, that
one-horse Coney Island of yours falling apart?" Gus kidded.
"Not quite," Ken grinned, "but
I've got the usual headaches that come along every year when I open up."
Gus drained the last of his
drink and dropped the bottle into the case for the empties.
"It's that Ferris wheel I put
in last year," Ken explained.
"Remember, I bought an old auto engine from
a junk yard and hooked it up with a hand clutch?"
"Ran fine all last summer," Ken
continued. "Well, this morning I decided to see how she'd got through
the winter. I put in the battery, filled the radiator and the gas tank
- she had oil - turned on the switch, and poked the starter button.
Naturally, she didn't start right off, but after a little she caught and ran
smoothly enough. I turned the ignition off, and you know what
Gus shook his head.
"That fool engine kept right on
running. The only way I could stop her was to cut off the gas.
Luckily, I've got a petcock in the fuel line."
"It's probably nothing more
than a bum ignition switch," Gus said. "Want me to have a look?"
"Wish you would, Gus.
I've got my car outside, and we can be over there in a jiffy."
"I'll follow you in my car,"
Gus put in as he followed Peyton through the door onto the landing.
"Then I can leave for town right from your place."
"So long, Tom," Gus called back
to old man Strong. "See you next week."
Less than 10 minutes later, Gus
followed Ken's car through the newly painted wooden arch into Round Lake
Park and parked in an open space behind the Ferris wheel.
"There's my runaway engine,"
Ken said, nodding toward the wheel. "I'll start her up and you can see
what I mean."
Engine Won't Stop
The engine still warm from its
earlier run, ticked off without a sputter. After about a minute of
running, Ken reached over to the small control panel he'd rigged at the rear
of the engine and turned the ignition key to the "off" position.
The engine kept right on
running without so much as sputtering.
"See what I mean?" yelled Ken.
"Got a pair of pliers handy?"
Ken reached into a small tool
box on the floor of the shed, rummaged around in it and finally handed Gus
"I'll disconnect one of the
wires at the rear of this switch," Gus explained as he went to work.
In a moment Gus loosened the
small nut and pulled the wire loose. But it made no difference to the
engine - it ran right along.
"Humph," grunted Gus.
"Can't be the switch after all. Okay, shut off the gas. I want
to try something else."
Ken complied, and, as the
engine died, Gus reconnected the lead. "Now turn the gas back on and
let's see if she'll start with the ignition off."
With the ignition key in its
"off" position, Ken pushed the starter button again. The starter ground
away without effect.
"Are you sure that gas is
turned on?" queried Gus.
"Wide open," Ken called over
the whir of the starter motor. "And the hand throttle's cracked open
After a few more seconds with
no results, Gus reached over and turned the ignition key to its "on"
position. Almost instantly, the engine took hold. Then, when Gus
turned the ignition key off, it continued to purr along.
"Now, how do you like that,
Gus? She'll run with the ignition off, but won't start unless it's
Gus said nothing and began
tracing and examining the wires leading to the switch.
"Been having any battery
troubles?" he asked finally.
"Nope," replied Ken.
"Took the battery out last fall and kept it up to charge over the winter.
Just put her back in place this morning. Why?"
Runs Without Battery
"Just wondered," said Gus.
Then, using a wrench, he began loosening the nut on the battery terminal lug
that led to ground.
The clamp came off the post easily.
And the engine never missed a beat as the cable popped loose.
"Say, what is this?" Ken
hollered. "Ignition off, battery disconnected, and she still runs."
"Could be a bad case of
pre-ignition," said Gus. "Let's shut her down and have a look at the
plugs. Could be they're dirty."
Starting at the front end of
the engine, Gus began removing the spark plugs. As he lifted out each
one, he shook his head.
"Not likely that it's
pre-ignition," he reported as he screwed them back into place and replaced
the ignition wires. "All of 'em are clean. And from what I could
see squinting through the spark plug holes, the piston heads aren't too
fouled with carbon."
"Well, what now?" asked Ken.
Gus scratched his head in
"Look, Ken," he said, "what I'm going to do
next may take some time, so if you have anything else to do go do it.
No sense both of us sittin' here fuming."
About half an hour later,
Ken was giving one of his workmen some instructions about minor repairs to
be made on the merry-go-round when he heard the Ferris wheel engine start
up. After a few seconds it stopped. Then it started up again.
Ken made off in the direction of the wheel on the double. When he got
there, Gus was standing beside the engine, grinning from ear to ear.
"Find the trouble?" asked Ken,
Gus nodded. "Yeah,
finally. It was a short all right, not in the switch but in the
wiring. It was a tough one to find, too."
Ken reached over and turned the
ignition. The engine stopped just as promptly as any well-behaved
"Where'd you find it?"
Gus pointed down to the side of
the engine. "I went over all the visible wiring without finding a
thing. Then I just happened to examine those two wires there where
they enter that metal conduit that leads them by the block."
Ken looked at the two wires Gus
had indicated. They now were protected with fresh tape.
The sharp edge on the hole in
that conduit had cut through the insulation on both," Gus explained.
"And if you'll follow them through, you'll find that one leads from the
generator, the other to the coil.
As a result there was a direct connection
from the generator to the coil. So no matter what position the
ignition switch was in, the coil was always getting juice once the engine
"Okay, but how come then she
wouldn't start unless the switch was turned on?"
"With the engine dead, the coil
could only get juice through the switch," Gus explained. "You see, the
generator isn't even connected into the ignition circuit when you start an
engine. The cutout - that's that gimmick mounted on top the generator
housing - doesn't kick it in until the generator's turning fast enough to
put out more juice than the battery does. Otherwise a battery would
discharge back through the generator."
"I get it," said Ken. "So
the short didn't feed the coil until the engine got up to speed."
"That's about it," agreed Gus.
"And by the way, that tape will hold for now, but when you get a chance I'd
put all new wiring in. Most of the insulation is brittle. You
may want to replace the coil, too, though it seems all right. The
generator may have kicked out enough juice to weaken the insulation on the
"How much do I owe you, Gus?"
"Aw shucks," grinned Gus.
"This is my day off. I'll take a raincheck on some rides this summer."
"Second childhood?" laughed
"Oh, not for me," replied Gus.
"I've got a young niece coming to visit me in July and what kid doesn't like
a Ferris wheel?"