6 HP Bessemer Engine

Elwin 'Doc' Cunningham in his shop with a 6 HP Bessemer gaso-kero he restored.

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RR 1, Box 5840 Gardiner, Maine 04345

In 1913, the year Elwin 'Doc' Cunningham was born, gas engines could be heard throughout the countryside on a daily basis. As fall approached, activity stepped up in order for folks to build up their woodpiles for those long Maine winters.

Doc operates on gas engines of all sizes, designs and conditions. I've seen him tackle engines that the stone wall rocks that they were hauled from were in better condition than the engines. He saw the gas engine develop through its heyday and gradually give out to the advances of technology. As head of maintenance at the Central Maine Power Company plant in Wiscasset, Maine until his retirement about ten years ago, Elwin has watched the growth of producing electricity 1940's style to the coming of nuclear power. Perhaps it is for this reason that the mysteries and challenges of the most temperamental gasoline engine enable him to ply his trade with such finesse.

Being an inventor at heart, Doc is not above improvising a little and adding a gidget or two that 'should have been there in the first place.' He was working on a 2? HP Empire and had to convert 'a whole mess of stuff' so it would run with a Webster magneto. A whole new design was born and this unique Empire now just needs paint as we are still trying to find Empire paint color numbers.

A certain CT-4 Stover comes to mind that had just about everything broken, bent, cracked or damaged, and which he restored to superb condition. The list goes on and on and the public can see engines that were long ago given up for junk appearing at shows.

It was in 1983 that I first knew Doc; he tackled a 1? HP headless Fairbanks-Morse for me. Since our first meeting, I've spent many hours with him talking about this engine or that one or how problems were overcome through a frustrating troubleshooting process. Always good for laughs are the stories about getting shocks from Model T coils, magnetos, and the like. 

As you approach Elwin and his wife Myrtle's house, you may hear the sound of his 15 HP sideshaft Mogul echoing over the neatly trimmed grounds of the quaint coastal Maine home. A Fairbanks-Morse may be pumping water on its test run or a Little Jumbo might be asking for more tinkering. Whatever it is, a visit to Doc's home with his sincere Maine hospitality is a treat indeed. A lot of us who are relatively new to this hobby always enjoy a trip down Memory Lane.

At Maine Antique Power Association events this season, Elwin 'Doc' Cunningham will again be exhibiting engines while always having time to do a little tinkering and help someone with a cantankerous piece of cast iron.