Depot Street Waldoboro, Maine 04572
They say, 'the best things are close to home.' After a ride through the Maine countryside a few weeks ago, I could not agree more.
The adventure began when I heard of a small gas engine being built from scratch by Ernest Hallo-well in Augusta, 25 miles from my home. Though the 'engine grapevine' I had learned that the small wheeled wonder was a model of an I.H.C. Screened Cooled Famous engine and was attracting much attention at area engine shows. I had known Ernest for a number of years and had only to make a telephone call to confirm the rumors that the illustrious little engine was complete and running. I never need an excuse to visit Ernest, so his invitation to view the engine began one of the nicest day trips I have experienced.
Before leaving for Augusta, I decided this was the time to immortalize the little engine on film and record Ernest's account of its construction, so along came my camera and notebook and this story was already in the works. On the way to Ernest's, I reflected on the great contribution he has made to the engine-collecting hobby in the state of Maine. Many of the restored engines in the state at one time have had a part or piece rebuilt by this infamous 'engine doctor.' He also donates many hours of machine work each year in helping to restore and keep the fly-wheels turning at the Owls Head Transportation Museum, located on the coast.
Ernest greeted me warmly at 11 AM at his workshop door. The shop was wall-to-wall engines and machinery. Engines of every size, shape and state of repair were lined up, patiently awaiting Ernest's delicate attention. It took no time at all for Ernest to unveil his pride and joy, and he began a wistfil recollection of the first engine his father owned, some seventy years before.
Ernest still remembers the day his father hauled the engine home in the back of a wagon pulled by the family mare. 'The engine seemed to be ten feet tall,' recalled Ernest with a gleam in his eye. The engine was a 6 horsepower I.H.C. Famous Screened Cooled, 'the best in the neighborhood and the best running engine around.' Young Ernest spent many years with that engine and fed many cords of hardwood to the saw it powered.
It was the memory of that first engine which sparked Ernest's desire to recreate an important childhood influence in miniature. He had never seen a model of a Famous engine and was determined to build one. The result graces his workshop like a polished jewel, mirrored by the tools hanging behind the very bench on which it was built.
With a flip of the flywheel, the engine came alive, emitting the distinctive sound much like the gallop of a team of horses made by the linkage unique to the IHC Famous engine. Every detail was an engineering wonder, from gas tank to carburetor. Ernest applied the back of his hand to the rim of the flywheel and the engine began to bark in miniature the familiar song of a working hit 'n' miss governed engine. With a flick of the ignition switch mounted on the battery box, the engine coasted to a stop after rocking back and forth against compression.
The engine has a bore of 13/8' and a 2' stroke, and the flywheels have diameters of 10'. Features include a constant level carburetor, working fuel and water pump, bronze bearings and all of the character of its larger counterparts.
A glance at the shop clock prompted my suggestion of a bite to eat at the local coffee shop. While waiting for bur sandwiches, Ernest recommended that we complete the afternoon with a trip to Andy Anderson's. Andy is an engine enthusiast who lives in the small town of South China, about 10 miles out of Augusta and but a few miles from the old homestead where Ernest was born. Andy and Ernest have worked together on many engine projects over the past few years. Andy carved the pattern which was used to cast the block on Ernest's I.H.C. model.
On the way to Andy's, Ernest told me I was in for a real surprise. That turned out to be an understatement. As the tour of Andy's 'engine room' began, my attention was captured by three rather large horizontal steam engines, each mounted on a separate foundation and completely restored in every detail.
Andy proceeded to climb up on a small platform which gave him access to a number of polished brass valves and pull cords. He put on an engineer's cap, lit his pipe and turned the first large valve, bringing life to a vertical Nagel 8 horsepower bottle engine. Before I knew it, a large boiler feed pump began to reciprocate in the corner of the building, followed by the deep hiss of a 35 horsepower Ball center crank horizontal engine. My favorite engine, an 1865 Penny side crank with an ornate curved spoke flywheel, followed suit, stirring with the delicate movement of its flyball governor. The grand finale was the awakening hiss of a 50 horsepower Atlas mill engine which Andy restored and was exhibiting for the Maine Antique Power Association. The engine room also houses over a dozen gasoline engines of various shapes and sizes in all their restored splendor.
The sound of a 6-inch chime whistle echoed through the hills of South China, signaling the end of a most special afternoon spent in the Maine countryside. It was these same hills which once echoed the Sound of the Exhaust of the I.H.C. Famous engine that inspired Ernest's proud accomplishment. The clockwork mechanism of Ernest's I.H.C. model and the massive moving parts of Andy's steam engines share a common blessing-the hearts and hands of the individuals who have dedicated much of their time to the preservation and appreciation of our mechanical heritage.
After returning Ernest to his home in Augusta, I spent 25 miles thinking about the wealth of the Maine countryside and people like Ernest and Andy and their engines close to home and heart.