History Of The Kennebec

16 H.P.Kennebec Fisherman

Nason Lipfert

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26 Riched Lane, Uncasville, CT 06382

I saw my first Kennebec marine engine at the April 26, 1987, Bell-town, Connecticut, Antique Gas and Steam Engine Show. My interest was piqued by the unusual sound of the one lunger and the plate that listed Bath, Maine, my birth place, as the location of the manufacturing company. I decided to find out what I , could about the Kennebec and, two cycle, one lungers in general. With the help of the Bath Maritime Museum, Bath, Maine, the following information was obtained.

The Kennebec marine engine was built by the Torrey Roller Bushing Works of Bath, Maine. Like many marine engine builders, the Torrey Roller Bushing Works operated initially as a foundry and machine shop.

Around the year 1904, the company expanded its product line to include two cycle marine engines. This was a natural evolution considering that Bath was, and still is, a very active shipbuilding community. Like most engine builders of the day, Torrey stressed the 'splendid finish and fine looks' of the Kennebec. In those days, even ocean liners had viewing ports of the engine room equipment.

The Kennebec was offered in 1,2, and 3 cylinder versions that ranged from 2 to 16 horsepower. The low position of the vaporizers illustrated in the catalogue indicates that these engines were of a two port design with either make and break or jump spark ignition. Fishermen would choose the 'salt-spray-proof' low voltage make and break. Torrey Roller Bushing Works operated their own brass and iron foundries and opted to use brass for their connecting rods. By 1908, the company offered some sizes in a two balance wheel, stationary configuration.

Torrey paid Palmer Bros, the supreme compliment by using their design as the baseline for the design of the Kennebec. Note, for example, the flywheel pant cuff protector on the Kennebec is identical to the one used on Palmer Bros, engines.  

The illustrations on these images have been provided by Nason Lipfert of the Bath Maritime Museum. All are from a Kennebec catalog except the one below, which was an ad appearing in the April 1911 issue of Power Boating.

Torrey Roller Bushing Works continued with their main line of marine fittings and fixtures until 1962 but they stopped building marine engines about 1914 when World War I put demands on the company forge for war work.

Two Kennebec engines are on display at the Bath Maritime Museum, Bath, Maine.