A Rare Engine

Dirigo engine

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P.O. Box 6, Wilmington, Vermont 05363; e-mail gwrowl@pocketnail.com

Permission to write this article was granted only with a solemn promise that the owner's name or location of the engine would not be revealed.

The owner is the third generation owner of a machine and welding shop. Due to the antiquity of some of the machinery still used, with open, flat belt drives that do not comply with modern OSHA and insurance regulations, the owner cannot employ any assistants.

Although the most friendly and congenial person one could hope to meet, he cannot spend time showing the engine and visiting with those that would come to see it, and continue the family reputation of quality workmanship at affordable prices. The shop is a marvelous place to have parts made and repaired to keep old engines running.

The engine is a Dirigo, made by the American Gas Engine Company, of Portland, Maine. C. H. Wendel's book, American Gasoline Engines Since 1872, on page 24, devotes less than a quarter page to this company. There is a picture of a Dirigo engine, and the following caption: 'American Gas Engine Company operated the Dirigo Engine & Machine Works at Portland. Incorporated in 1902, the company built vertical engines up to 16 horsepower under the Dirigo name. Eight sizes were built, beginning with the 1 horsepower model. Dirigo engines featured make-and-break ignition. Another feature of this early style was a fuel tank built into the base, eliminating the need for a separate fuel tank and piping. Each engine carried a two year unconditional guarantee.'

Obviously, little is known about this company today.

There is no tag on the engine. It appears to be about 6 HP in size. The owner knows of one other Dirigo engine, which is in a museum in Portland, Maine.

The engine has been in the owner's family at least three generations. It was purchased for general farm work, by either the owner's grandfather or great-grandfather. It was originally mounted on a wagon for portability. It was never used to power the machine shop. When taken out of service on the farm, it was stored at the shop.

Recently, the engine was taken out of storage, and restored to running condition. The engine is tank cooled, and obviously required a water pump, due to the small size of the water connections to block. There is a groove cut in the crankshaft inside a flywheel, as if to accommodate a round belt to drive a water pump. The original water pump and muffler have been lost over the years. The owner has installed a suitable water pump, driven from the crankshaft via a flat belt, and installed a copper hot water boiler for a cooling tank. He has mounted the engines on skids, and mounted an antique air compressor to be run by the engine.

The owner has a copy of an advertising booklet used by the manufacturer, which he permitted the author to make copies of. This book (reprinted below) lists eight sizes of engines, from 1 to 18 HP. It stresses the superiority of the Dirigo engines, especially the vertical design. The booklet also emphasizes the superiority of gasoline engines over steam engines, and the manufacturer's unconditional two-year guarantee.