2019 Created by The Old Machinery Magazine

The best book on flame ignition engines ever written

Waynen Grenning, of New York, has presented, unequivocally, the greatest book on flame ignition engines ever written. Literally, nothing compares with the scholarly breadth and depth of his research, and the clarity of his written word. The overall quality of the presentation from the texture of the pages, to the finesse of the reproduced images, to the sheer volume of the material collated from across the globe, is outstandingly brilliant.






This outstanding contribution to the history, chronology, and analysis of flame ignition engines allows all readers to immerse themselves, as from the first page (the Forward) by the author of Internal Fire, Lyle Cummins, the quality and thoroughness is palpable, without peer, and genuinely entertaining and compelling.

No book in my memory (which includes reviews of maybe over 100 books from around the 1880s to early 1900s) has evoked such laudatory acclaim as does Wayne’s somewhat epic contribution to our understanding of the evolution of the internal combustion engine.

This monumental enterprise has a long, long gestation. Indeed, Wayne pays tribute to his father, Albert Grenning, who is said to have “...offered continuous encouragement throughout my lifelong journey with internal combustion research”.

Essentially, the book suggests, correctly, “Evolution of the internal combustion engine has been an indispensable contributor to modern industrialized society” (Preface). Indeed, every time we drive our motor vehicles, we link directly to these past developments that have been so elegantly outlined in this mammoth volume of some 788 pages.

I am hesitant to offer anything other than complete admiration for the quality of scholarship and unprecedented research quantum.

The book launch in June, 2015, at the Coolspring Power Museum Summer Expo (Coolspring Pennsylvania, USA) accompanied the theme for that rally, i.e., flame ignition engines. Thousands of exhibitors and visitors from a worldwide catchment area who were attending that June Rally, were all entertained and enthralled with this ‘one-off’ extravaganza of the physical presence of so many high quality exhibits. Just as enthralling, was the availability of this new book, where the author literally had lines of collectors awaiting his signature on their purchased book. Similarly, those who were able to get seating were enthused by the one-off lecture given by the author in the smallish village church. Enthusiasts may well visit YouTube to be able to view this presentation.


^ A nice side view of a Deutz AG. 


The initial publication run of 200 leather-bound signed limited editions sold out on the first day, and a waiting list was compiled for those who were unlucky and missed this first run. Meanwhile, many, many hundreds of the conventional hard covered books literally streamed out of the Coolspring Power Museum’s onsite shop. This book is the culmination of a lifetime of collecting literature, drawings, sketches, text, plans, catalogues, test data, specifications, period engravings, and hundreds of hours of international travel and careful inspection of existing engines (now all well over 100-years-old) both in museums and collectors’ hands. It is an amazing result, which synthesises and presents the history of early internal combustion engines and, in particular, flame ignition engines. Broadly chronological in sequence, each chapter covers the various designs and the resultant produced engines presented in alphabetical order.


There are eight well-presented chapters, where the first chapter outlines the development of non-compression direct acting engines. An excellent outline of the so-called ‘pioneers’ follows, introducing the earliest inventors, such as Robson (1857) and Hugon (1865), but more so the well-known, with Lenoir (1860) from whom there is a running example in the Deutz Technikum). Australian enthusiasts may well have seen an example of this type of engine, i.e., the Forest engine (a full size reproduction of an 1883 French engine). The Forest was recently rallied in (and extremely well received) at the 2017 National Rally in Hamilton, Vic, and even more recently at the Sydney Clarendon Rally, in September of 2017.

The second chapter comprises non-compression toys, though as very few of these have made their way into Australia, I will move on to the more well-represented engines.

The third chapter titled Non-Compression Atmospheric Engines of around 100 pages has particular relevance and interest, because not only have Australian collectors seen some of this chapter’s featured engines at various rallies, but also the insights and descriptors of the evolution of flame ignition engines is fascinating and riveting. The Power House Museum in Sydney has a very good example of the Corinthian column Series one engine (albeit a non-running and never-to-be run Otto slide valve engine) similar to those featured in this chapter. Other enthusiasts in Europe may well have seen an early Otto, Langen & Roosen 1871, ½hp engine, Serial No. 497. This gem is exhibited in running order at the biannual Jenny Jefferies Open Day in the UK. There are also numerous Gasmotoren-Fabrik Deutz flame ignition engines are exhibited in the Deutz Technikum (in Cologne, Germany). This chapter outlines the Deutz lineage and chronological developments prior to Crossley taking over the manufacturing rights for sections of Europe. Incidentally, the Deutz Tecknikum will be opened to the viewing public in mid-May, 2018, when there will be a special invitation extended for attendees at the Neunen Annual Engine Rally, held in The Netherlands, about 120km from Cologne.



 ^ Fig. 5-185 A Breymann Hubener Model "D" special electrical service engine. Roger Kriebel collection. 


The fourth chapter outlines Two-Stroke Cycle Engines. Almost impossible to locate, these rarities were essentially developments designed to overcome the protectionist policies of Deutz. Some of the more well-known designs presented include those of Dugald Clerk and the Robson-patented Tangye gas engine. There are many eccentric and unusual designs that originated in these early days. Most were unsuccessful owing primarily to their appetite for fuel. One example of this style of engine is the JEH Andrews-designed ‘Stockport’ gas engine, a horizontally-opposed rarity, one of which (non-running) is located in the Powerhouse Museum, in Sydney.

Chapter Five centres on Four-Stroke Cycle Engines and correctly points out that the original inventor of this cycle is still debated. Nonetheless, its unprecedented commercialisation and proliferation is attributed to one company, i.e., Gasmotoren-Fabrik Deutz. Their introduction of the ‘Silent’ engine in 1876 virtually made other designs obsolete. Such was the hold by Deutz, that over 20 companies entered into agreement with Deutz to produce, under license, their basic conceptual design, although various idiosyncratic peculiarities did find their way into production engines. Gasmotoren-Fabrik Deutz engines are well represented and described, although few have found their way into Australia. Particularly interesting are the inverted Deutz engines, a style rarely seen here.

Other than Gasmotoren-Fabrik, the most popular adherent to the Deutz design was Crossley Brothers of Manchester, UK. Collectors here can regularly see this generation of slide valve four-cycle engines in many collections throughout the country. Crossleys were world leaders in engine production, application, and refinement. They gradually moved from slide valve horizontal and vertical engines to the poppet valve (and for a short time, the rotary valve, although this was quickly deemed by Crossleys to be largely unsuccessful). There are many other manufacturers represented in this section and it is a delight to read of the ingenuity displayed in design, but it also outlines essentially the production of economic power output from various licensed manufacturers.

Chapter Six, through necessity, is brief insofar as it outlines the many attempts to develop a six-stroke cycle that would evade the strict patent application of Deutz. “Total production of six-stroke engines from all companies barely exceeded a few thousand” (Grenning, 2015, p. 605), and by the turn of the century this cycle was effectively extinct. The remaining chapters including Compound Cycle and Constant Pressure are perhaps of lesser interest than the earlier offerings, owing to their scarcity in Australia.

The Appendices are particularly informative for those tracing the whereabouts of early engines and looking at the development of flame ignition over the decades from around the 1860s onwards. One short section on non-flame ignition engines is similarly informative.

For the serious researcher or historian, the Bibliography and Index is particularly well-presented and of high quality scholastic achievement indeed. For anyone fortunate enough to be restoring such a treasure, this source book is invaluable. In conclusion, may I urge you to get hold of one of these amazingly comprehensive books which brings such a broad subject matter into one volume, but which also ensures the average reader an entertaining and absorbing study in the development of flame ignition engines.




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