Old marine engines

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Harbour Prince Edward Island, Canada C0A 1V0

This story starts at the Montague Antique Car Show in early July of 1998, where some of the members of the P.E.I. Antique Engine, Tractor and Machinery Association go to show engines.

While talking to many interested onlookers, a man asked if I was interested in old marine engines. I said yes, and that I had a couple at home. He said he knew of a single cylinder Fairbanks-Morse and gave me a name and a phone number. I phoned the man about a week later and found out the engine was not for sale.

While on a trip to eastern Nova Scotia later, I decided to go and have a look at the Fairbanks-Morse and see if he might have changed his mind. As we talked, I found out he hadn't changed his mind, but he told me about a sawmill that might still be there and the name of the man who lived next to it. We went to see Roy Warner and he took me over in the woods where the old mill was. There sat three Gilson engines, one about 4 HP, one 10 HP, and one 15 HP.

When I saw that big 15 HP, I told Roy I was going to have that. Roy said, 'What would you want that for.?!' I told Roy I would take it home, get it going and paint it. Roy said 'Get it going? It has been lying there for 30 years or more!' I told him all three engines had a lot of potential and asked Roy for some information on finding the owner, as I would be back.

Starting with the name of who owned and operated the mill, I tracked down Wilfred Carter in Amherst, Nova Scotia, who inherited the property and was told the engines were going to a museum and they were coming to get them. I asked him to find out for sure, because I didn't think a museum would cut the trees, etc., etc., to get them out of there.

I called back two weeks later, and Wilfred told me they couldn't take things out of there, and neither could he, so all of a sudden they were for sale and the price was right.

I called Roy and told him we were coming for the engines, but hadn't decided how we were going to get them out of there.

My wife and I showed up with my old '78 Ford 4x4 and a home rig I have for lifting engines, fishing equipment etc., and armed with chain saw, ropes, chains, come-alongs, wrenches, torches etc.

I told Roy I had decided to take the big one apart and take it out of the woods piece by piece, then load it on the truck. Roy said, 'I will go over and give you a hand, but I don't think you will ever get the bolts out of those old things.'

The first obstacle was two big deep tracks along the edge of the woods where they were logging with a big skidder. With a little chainsaw work and some mud flying, we were backed into the big one. I got out some wrenches and tackled the water hopper, loosened the bolts and turned them out with my fingers. Roy just shook his head. We removed the rod cap, hoisted off the tank, took it out in the field, unhooked the crankshaft and took it with flywheels 46 inches out in the field, and went back for the hose.

We loaded hose and hopper on the truck by chaining the hoist to a tree, put the hoist back behind the truck, put the flywheels with crankshaft on it, chained them down and away we go!

Two days later, my dad and I went back for the other two. Took the crank and flywheels off the 10, took them out, loaded the 10 HP and the 4 HP. We thanked Roy for all his help, and we were off again.

The trip is a one-hour ferry-boat ride and a two-hour drive each way, so we had two full days in. The 15 HP is restored and running. It was taken to three shows on the island in the summer of 1999. The interest people showed made it all worthwhile. The others are still waiting their turns.

This winter I restored a 4 HP Bruce Stewart 'Imperial' that originally belonged to my great-great-grandfather. But, that's another story.

Ken found out after writing this story that paint information, serial numbers and original purchasers of 'Atlantic' marine engines is available to collectors. Contact Janice Sampson at Lunenburg Foundry, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, via e-mail: life@TALLSHIPS.CA