A LAMBERT ADVENTURE

By Staff
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Results of a conversion from sideshaft to 'gearless' in the early 1900s.
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The Lambert before final restoration.
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Photo taken in 1985, with a long way to go.
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An original sideshaft Lambert in Antique Power Museum, Akron, OH.
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Owner Prince Stevens and the Lambert during restoration, Spring, 1988.
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On display at the Windsor Fair.
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Lambert ready for the parade, Labor Day Weekend 1988.

RFD #3,Box 5840 Gardiner, Maine 04345.

Should I investigate a lead that might end up in one of those
famous wild goose chases that we have all been on? Seems to be a
never ending dilemma in this engine hobby of ours. The ‘when
to’, ‘how far’, ‘how much’ and other assorted
‘hows’ all, for some reason, take a back seat when the
thought of what might be out there arises. Off we go again!

Such was the case when me friend and fellow engine enthusiast,
Prince Stevens, heard about an old engine that was left to enjoy
the quiet serenity of a wooded area not far from our homes in
central Maine. Another friend and engine collector, Bill Ellis, had
seen the engine while hunting and we all wondered if it could be
the same 8 HP rumored to be in the area sometime around 1973. Bill,
who felt he couldn’t handle it due to its size, suggested that
Prince look into it. What was to follow is a story filled with
doubt, frustration, expense and the work of a lot of great
friends.

The decision was made to try to obtain the engine and add it to
the ever growing collection of old iron. After some dooryard
negotiating, Prince was able to come to terms and the adventure of
bringing it out of the woods began.

Just getting to it with a ton truck was an exercise all by
itself. With son, Alec, the engine hunters proceeded across the
dooryard past an electric fence and through a pasture. Next came a
ravine that was so steep that the bottom had to be filled with old
fence rails so the bumper wouldn’t drag and the tail of the
truck wouldn’t hit going up the other side. The engine sat
about 250 feet into the woods on its original frame, less its
wheels. The original frame was, in turn, sitting on a rotted wooden
frame and the cylinder end was at a 45 degree angle to the ground.
Over the years water had frozen and thawed in the cylinder and you
can imagine what that was like. Prince got the truck turned around
and backed up to the cylinder end. The frame had a hole where the
axle was missing and with planking and a come-a-long Prince and
Alec eventually got it up over the truck body. They guessed the
engine would weigh between two and two and a half tons. This put a
lot of strain on the homemade boom on the truck. The old road
through the woods was pretty well grown up and after bending over
several trees it was time to tackle the ravine in reverse
order.

Slowly they crawled down the bank and stopped on the old rails
to level everything. Up over the bank, through the pasture, past
the electric fence (making everyone nervous) and into the dooryard
rolled the truck, engine and assorted bushes and turf. Of course it
was then realized that a logging skidder should have been used in
the first place. It might be noteworthy to add that it was raining
all this time as well. When the sun came out, the words C. Lambert
and Sons showed up on the water tank and seat box.

After arriving home, Prince thinking he might have a gearless
Olds, found that part of the engine was missing and was back to
square one, not knowing what he had actually found. Someone told
him about Norm Anderson, in Ohio, who had a beautiful 20 HP Lambert
all restored. When Prince told Norm that he had a gearless Lambert,
Norm very nicely mentioned that there was no such thing as a
gearless Lambert. Getting this mystery unraveled would be no easy
chore. In the meantime, seeing if the engine could be made to run
was the next order of business.

Nature had provided an open air engine unloader in the form of a
very large oak tree in Prince’s dooryard and the Lambert was
soon disembarked from the back of the truck. Something had to be
done so the engine would sit level, so Prince made a rear axle and
used a front axle off an old cement mixer. Three head bolts had to
be drilled out as they had rusted off where the water had set for
so many years. The engine sitting at that 45 degree angle had
created a regular birdbath which wasn’t in the best interest of
the bolts. The old engine was taken all apart and everything
cleaned up. It was necessary to put a new top and bottom on the
water tank and use an old gallon can for a gas tank. The ignitor
needed to be drilled and pried out and machinist Ernest Hallowell
made a completely new ignitor. Ernest was later to tell Prince that
he thought, ‘That was the worst looking thing that you have
ever hauled into the yard.’

After seeing that all the moving parts were free and lubricated
and the new ignitor installed, the engine was ready to test
run.

It is interesting to note that the new ignitor resembled an Olds
due to the fact that years before someone had made the engine over
to work like a gearless Olds. The old engine fired and ran along
with all the ills that could be expected. Over the next several
years new 1/2′ x 8′ rings were added, but still there was
too much blow by, and the piston was removed and the grooves were
turned to 3/4′ and additional 1/4′ rings were installed.
Everything went downhill after that and stayed that way, until the
final restoration. As each new thing was tried the realization of
more work to be done could not be disregarded.

The Lambert engine continued to be an interesting topic of
conversation as it was taken to shows at the Boothbay Railway
Museum in Maine, the Owls Head Transportation Museum (also in
Maine), and Dublin, New Hampshire. The last time the engine was
taken to a show before the final restoration was in the summer of
1987. Several of us tried to start it with no success. I can
remember Prince saying, ‘That engine got me down there and
embarrassed me in the hot sun. It will never go anywhere again
until it is resolved.’

Actual identification of the engine began to take an odd twist
as C. H. Wendel’s book, American Gasoline Engines Since 1872,
lists Lambert Gas and Gasoline Engine Company but not C. Lambert
and Sons, yet very clearly marked on the engine was this name.
Perhaps C. Lambert was in some way related to, or associated with,
the Lambert Company which is listed on page 271 of Mr. Wendel’s
book. Any information would certainly be welcomed.

The present clue to the original construction of the engine is
the arm, still remaining on the head, that identifies it as an
original sideshaft. Had the arm been ground off, the water tank
rotted away or lost, the seat box gone, identification may have
been impossible. Many questions remained to be answered. When did
the conversion take place? Was it done locally and if so, where?
And perhaps most importantly, what impact did it have on further
engine construction? I took the opportunity to talk with Philo
Hewett of East Winthrop, Maine, concerning the history of the old
engine. Philo has been an active and much respected collector and
restorer of engines for many years, and he was able to trace much
of the history as anecdotes have been passed along through the
years. Not too long after the turn of the century the Lambert ran a
cider mill on a local farm. From there it ran a lineshaft in a
blacksmith shop, as well as a planer. Apparently the design, or
redesign as it appears, was copied from the Olds gas engine and
according to legend the Olds people and the Lambert
‘redesigners’ nearly landed in court around 1909 concerning
the rights of design. As a result the Stevens (no relation to the
present owner of the Lambert) engine was put into production. A
link from the Stevens to the Lambert lies in the connecting rod.
These rods are different from those that appear on other engines
and are unique. So far as can be determined three Stevens engines
were known and only one remains, which is in Philo’s
collection. Mr. Hewett takes great pride in showing visitors his
engine, and rightfully so.

The restoration of 1987 soon turned into the ‘great
restoration of 1988’ as many previously unforeseen difficulties
were soon to surface. Cylinder blow by caused the greatest headache
and the decision was made to try and insert a sleeve into the
cylinder. Locating a sleeve was finally accomplished only to be
broken in the first attempt at installation. After more honing and
the help of many friends, including Ernest Hallowell, Paul
Tewksbury, Bill Ellis, Philo Hewett and me, the second sleeve was
finally in and the piston installed. The tanks were repaired and
the painting, assembling, repiping and striping followed.
Adjustments were made and the Lambert was ready for its first
‘new’ show. After making a horse drawn wagon from old
parts, the engine was taken to the Windsor Fair on Labor Day
weekend to be drawn by horses in their parade as well as to be on
exhibit. The wheeze, pop, bang, hiss and other as sorted noises
drew many spectators and the old engine performed beautifully. We
can just imagine these sounds some ninety or so years ago as this
engine of C. Lambert and Sons provided its owners with the most
modern piece of machinery available. To see this engine fully
restored, running and a prize winner gives this story a very
rewarding ending.

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