A Rare Engine

By Staff
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P.O. Box 6, Wilmington, Vermont 05363; e-mail

Permission to write this article was granted only with a solemn
promise that the owner’s name or location of the engine would
not be revealed.

The owner is the third generation owner of a machine and welding
shop. Due to the antiquity of some of the machinery still used,
with open, flat belt drives that do not comply with modern OSHA and
insurance regulations, the owner cannot employ any assistants.

Although the most friendly and congenial person one could hope
to meet, he cannot spend time showing the engine and visiting with
those that would come to see it, and continue the family reputation
of quality workmanship at affordable prices. The shop is a
marvelous place to have parts made and repaired to keep old engines

The engine is a Dirigo, made by the American Gas Engine Company,
of Portland, Maine. C. H. Wendel’s book, American Gasoline
Engines Since 1872, on page 24, devotes less than a quarter page to
this company. There is a picture of a Dirigo engine, and the
following caption: ‘American Gas Engine Company operated the
Dirigo Engine & Machine Works at Portland. Incorporated in
1902, the company built vertical engines up to 16 horsepower under
the Dirigo name. Eight sizes were built, beginning with the 1
horsepower model. Dirigo engines featured make-and-break ignition.
Another feature of this early style was a fuel tank built into the
base, eliminating the need for a separate fuel tank and piping.
Each engine carried a two year unconditional guarantee.’

Obviously, little is known about this company today.

There is no tag on the engine. It appears to be about 6 HP in
size. The owner knows of one other Dirigo engine, which is in a
museum in Portland, Maine.

The engine has been in the owner’s family at least three
generations. It was purchased for general farm work, by either the
owner’s grandfather or great-grandfather. It was originally
mounted on a wagon for portability. It was never used to power the
machine shop. When taken out of service on the farm, it was stored
at the shop.

Recently, the engine was taken out of storage, and restored to
running condition. The engine is tank cooled, and obviously
required a water pump, due to the small size of the water
connections to block. There is a groove cut in the crankshaft
inside a flywheel, as if to accommodate a round belt to drive a
water pump. The original water pump and muffler have been lost over
the years. The owner has installed a suitable water pump, driven
from the crankshaft via a flat belt, and installed a copper hot
water boiler for a cooling tank. He has mounted the engines on
skids, and mounted an antique air compressor to be run by the

The owner has a copy of an advertising booklet used by the
manufacturer, which he permitted the author to make copies of. This
book (reprinted below) lists eight sizes of engines, from 1 to 18
HP. It stresses the superiority of the Dirigo engines, especially
the vertical design. The booklet also emphasizes the superiority of
gasoline engines over steam engines, and the manufacturer’s
unconditional two-year guarantee.

Gas Engine Magazine
Gas Engine Magazine
Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines