THE CHRISTMAS TREE ENGINE

Content Tools

5 Brissette Avenue, Newburyport, Massachusetts 01950

The low rolling hills of southern New Hampshire in mid-December were covered with a fresh fall of eight inches of powder snow. Maureen and I searched the narrow country road for the farm that sold 'cut your own Christmas trees,' as the sign had promised. We drove between lichen and snow covered fieldstone walls piled, labor in vain, a hundred and fifty years ago. The road ran along and around a very large ancient apple orchard.

A string of parked cars told we had found the correct farm. Many families were carrying out their freshly cut trees. We followed them in the opposite direction, out across the fields to the stand of trees. A quarter of a mile out of the barnyard, we noticed a flywheel poking out of the snow.

Upon investigation, the flywheel was found to be attached to a hopper-cooled gas engine. As we brushed the snow away, we saw it had not run for quite a few years, for the structure it was erected on was rotted away. When the last person had finished, they had removed the magneto and covered the engine with canvas. The canvas was now deteriorated but had served its purpose for many years, keeping the rain and snow from rusting the crankshaft, bearings, connecting rod and back of the cylinder.

The engine is a Fairbanks Morse three horsepower Model Z throttle-governed, with the type of carburetor which may be started with gasoline and, when hot, switched over to run on kerosene. The 'treasure' lay in a hollow of the fields along the edge of a small stream where it performed faithful duty for many years pumping water to the orchard.

The prospect of cutting our Christmas tree was the making of a fine day, and this enhanced the experience. We walked the rest of the distance to the wood lot and cut a very nice blue spruce tree. As we pulled the tree out of the wood, I related the many fruitless years of searching for an antique engine.

The orchardist was willing to sell the engine. We negotiated a price, consummated the deal with a handshake and promised to haul the engine from the field in the spring. Spring came in warm and dry, so we were able to drive in the field early. The engine loaded easily, and the orchardist even found the magneto where he had stored it away long ago in the barn.