1932 Briggs and Stratton W

Old snowy out building reveals a Briggs-powered air compressor

Lindsay Model SE 6 air compressor

A Lindsay Model SE 6 air compressor powered by a 1932 Briggs & Stratton 'W' engine.

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In the winter of 2003-2004, I picked up a small International engine from a local estate sale where all the 'good stuff' had already been snatched up. What remained was either scattered about the property and still partially snow-covered, or in sheds -some of which had ice-covered floors and sagging roofs.

The estate's benefactor asked me if I was interested in an old air compressor in one of the out buildings. Not being an 'old compressor guy,' I wasn't too enthusiastic but I was in no hurry, and who knows what else might be discovered in the old out buildings.

So off we trudged through a snow-covered field to a partially completed garage that was dangerously close to a collapsed roof. Across an ice-covered floor on top of some other cast-off items was this 1932 Briggs & Stratton W-powered compressor. Neither the owner nor myself had ever seen one before, but in the light of a flashlight it looked like a factory-built unit, not a homemade wonder of ingenuity.

The owner was open to offers, so I threw out a number and he gladly accepted. We agreed I would come back in a few days after he and his son brought it out. But after looking at the sagging ice-covered roof, I asked if I could take it immediately. He agreed, so we dragged it across the ice and snow-covered floor to his waiting Allis crawler where we put it in the bucket and brought it back to civilization.

After getting it home and closely looking it over, I determined it's a Lindsay Model SE 6 portable air compressor, powered by an early 1932 Briggs & Stratton 'W' engine. The engine has a Lindsay tag on it in addition to the normal B&S tag. The gas tank has the remains of a Lindsay decal, so it's safe to assume it's a factory-made portable air compressor from the early 1930s.

An Internet search on Lindsay compressors told me the company operated until sometime in 2001 or 2002 when another manufacturer bought it out. Apparently for many years, the firm made small and large portable air compressors using a variety of ready-made engines for sandblasting monuments, tombstones and also paint-spraying applications. Lindsay was based in New Hampshire at the time when it was sold. The tag on the engine has it based in Boston at the time my unit was manufactured.

It didn't take much to get it running - just the usual gummed-up fuel system that's so prevalent in our hobby - we can expect it with nearly every old-engine acquisition. Spark and compression were still present. I gave it an oil change, then I removed the engine air shroud to clean out the always-present mouse nest, and it was running.

A close look at the compressor cylinder reveals it runs directly off the Briggs' crankshaft through the side of the block, but I didn't need to take this apart. No manuals came with the unit, so I can't say for sure how the compressor piston is connected to the engine. But it does work and holds a steady 100 psi of air in the storage tank.

I would certainly welcome any available information about my little discovery. I'm especially looking for copies or original literature that might be available, or to correspond with other owners of what may be a somewhat rare piece of operating equipment from a bygone era.

Contact engine enthusiast Bob Naske at: pulleypower@frontiernet.net