For those of you that were not put off about the noise on those old 2-71 gennies, I have had my second and only last thought of the day. Most of those 2-71 units for sale on the internet as i said were taken out of railroad service. They are 3 phase and they are not reconnectable. This is as an old onion farmer once told me who tried to use them here in Pine Island NY, however, the memory fades and I barely grasp most of this stuff.....
That means they make 3 phase only. You can take 120 or 208 off them, but you have to balance your single phase loads among the 3 phases.The generator ends that are most useful to most of us are 12 lead, reconnectable. With a 12 lead unit, you can reconnect for 1 phase or 3 phase.Now, if you have a 3 phase load, or you are willing to split out your 120 volt loads among the 3 phases, you will be okay.
Similarly, you can split your 240 loads among the three 208 volt phases. If you don't balance your load among the 3 legs, output of the genset will be greatly reduced. If these 2-71 powered units were single phase, every one of them would have been sold by now. As far as using 2 stroke detroits for power generation, they are a world standard, even today when they have not made any new ones in years. They are used in applications such as ocean transport refrigeration, where reliability and fuel economy can not be compromised.
Please note I am not an electrician and yanche will have to guide you more, but think hard b4 you spend the money. Some old AT&T NG/LP driven pull outs were the same. So my money says, handfed coal stove for heat and DHW, little genny to take care of emergency stuff, gas and left clean and empty and have fresh gas available. For the youngsters a hot woman and for me, lots of beer and a book and wait for the lights to come back on ... sermon over.