Rare 3 HP Abenaque Brought Back To Life

Small part of one flywheel exposed

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R.R.#1 Cabot, Vermont 05647

The last part of August '93 I had nearly finished restoring my 3 HP Abenaque. Looking through the kitchen window, my wife noticed that for the last 10 minutes or so I had been leaning on an old maple tree with my eyes fixed on the engine. I was reminiscing on what I had started with a few years before, and also admiring the lines and mechanical ideas of the inventor, John Ostenburg, who had patented the engine in the mid-1890s.

The story begins with an engine friend of mine, Jim Fehl of Fort Edwards, New York, stopping by to talk to a farmer, Mr. Kilburn of Greenwich, New York. The conversation got onto gasoline engines and in a while Kilburn asked, 'Ever heard of an Abenaque engine?' Jim said that he had, and Kilburn said, 'We used to have a small one that went through the barn fire in '53.'

Talk went on for a while and Jim was about to leave when he asked, 'What ever happened to that old Abenaque'? 'Well, I think that it's still back of the shed over there,' Kilburn replied. It was, buried in the ground with a small part of one flywheel exposed.

I'm sure Kilburn wondered why anyone would want it, but he gave Jim permission to dig it out and take it away.

Word got to me through another collector, Lee Houghton, that there was a 3 HP Abenaque in New York. I had a few Abenaque engines and had been interested in the company for 15 years or so, but had never seen or heard of a 3 HP.

I finally met Jim at one of the Vermont engine shows, and shortly afterwards drove to New York to see the engine.

I have seen rough engines over the years, but this was certainly one of the worst--parts missing, pieces broken, babbitt gone, nuts and parts rusted beyond recognition. The whole engine was a solid mass of rust.

Because of its rarity and because it was an Abenaque, I had to try and get it.

I called Jim now and then, and stopped by once or twice. I guess a couple of years had gone by when I got a surprise phone call: 'I guess if you still want that engine you can come and get it.' I did, and drove to New York right away to pick it up. Getting home and driving back into the yard, our youngest son, Aaron, who was eight years old at the time (seven years ago) said, 'That thing will never run again.' I've got to admit that it was a little hard to be optimistic.

The first few months I disassembled it with a lot of heat and patience, made a few replacement parts, and had a crankshaft made. For the next three or four years I worked on it off and on, but mostly it just sat in the cellar and I'd walk by and glance at it once in a while.

Finally, in the winter of '91, I decided that if I didn't concentrate on this one engine, I'd never get it done.

I planned out how I would make the framework to hold everything in place, including the sideshaft, crankshaft and connecting rod, while the babbitt bearings were poured.

Dave Curtis had offered to help many times, and he is very good at this sort of thing. He had helped before to pour the rear sideshaft bearing on my 8 HP.

In March of '92, we finally poured the babbitt. It went very well. We poured the mains and the sideshaft together and a few minutes later, the connecting rod.

Dave jokingly stated that maybe I should keep this framework in case someone else needed it.

There is another that I have heard of since I got this one. It is not running and has never been to an engine show.

Cortis Bean of Massachusetts was kind enough to get photos of it, which helped a great deal in fabricating the gas tank, crank guard, muffler, and other parts. He also proved that the five-ball Kingston carburetor was the original. It's the only Abenaque that I've seen a carburetor on.

Another few months went by after the babbitt job. After the '92 deer season, I started in earnest on it and worked nearly every day for about nine months. Working some days minutes, and some days hours, I replaced nearly every part.

I intended to get to a Vermont show, but wasn't ready. I finally made it to the Dublin, New Hampshire show in September of '93, making it the first 3 HP Abenaque to be shown at an antique engine show.

I'm grateful for the help of my friends, Dave Curtis, Cortis Bean, Chet Bomba, Harry Huntley, Elaine Metcalf for taking photographs of the finished restoration, and especially Jim Fehl for giving me the chance to bring back this rare engine.