Bridgeport Engine: Worth the Wait

By Staff
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Paul Luckman first encountered this single-cylinder Bridgeport while deer hunting on Raquette Lake.
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The eccentric rod connected to the water pump.
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The piping to and from the cylinder head for cooling.
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The Bridgeport nameplate.
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The original Schebler carburetor still on the Bridgeport engine.

Bridgeport Gasoline Marine Engines
Bridgeport Motor Co., Bridgeport, Conn.
HP: 5-1/2
RPM: 450
Bore: 5-1/4-inch
Stroke: 5-1/2-inch
Balance wheel dia.: 17 inches
Crankshaft dia.: 1-3/4-inch
Height above crankshaft center: 21-1/2 inches
Weight: 415 pounds
Propeller dia.: 16-20 inches
Boat length: 17-30 feet

While deer hunting at the north end of Raquette Lake in the Adirondack Mountains of New York state in November 1962, I happened upon two boats sitting on some rather rustic cradles in the woods near the lake. One was a daggerboard sailboat, the other a skiff approximately 20 feet long, pointed at each end somewhat like a canoe, with an inboard single-cylinder engine. “WOW!” I had to see more of that.

After digging out years of accumulated leaves and twigs, as well as some rodent work, I found the engine appeared intact with a brass tag that identified it as a Bridgeport engine.

Although I knew nothing about it, I had to have it! The following fall I was lucky enough to locate the owner of the property, a gentleman named Burt D. Hawks. Burt said that both boats had been adrift at different times and were rescued by him, but no one had ever claimed either one. He thought that the powerboat had been the mail boat on the lake at one time. However, at that time he did not feel that they were his to sell. Although disappointed, I left my name and address but did not expect I would ever hear from him.

Sometime in the summer of 1968, I got a note from Mr. Hawks saying that because of his age he planned to sell his property on the lake. Also at this time he would sell the boats, as no one had claimed either one. He felt that for his time and trouble of saving them he should receive the reward of $50 each.

I promptly sent him a check and a note. Within a week or two I received another note saying to go ahead and get the powerboat or any parts off it as I wished.

I went up with my boat that fall, as there is no other way to get there, and along with my two young sons, 5 and 7 years old, we got the Bridgeport engine and a few tools and spare parts loaded into my boat, camped on the beach and came home the next day. At this time, I noticed that the boat was named “Polly Wog.” It had narrow seats the full length on both sides … why?

Once at home, careful examination showed the engine to be quite complete except for the gas tank, battery and coil. The spare parts turned out to be mostly worn out.

During the winter of 1969, I sat the engine on a wooden frame and removed most of the brass parts, including one half of the igniter, which is threaded into the head, so that none of these parts could be damaged.

The following summer, I noticed that mice had found the igniter hole and moved into the cylinder. Now, of course, the piston was stuck tight. The Bridgeport engine stayed there like that for more than 40 years while I worked on other engines and tractors as well as my trucks and logging equipment.

In December 2009, I decided it was time to restore it. I got the crankshaft out as the castings split at the crankshaft center. I pressed out the piston; only about 8 tons of pressure to start it moving! The piston and cylinder were both good. It was a restoration quite like any other.

I believe the engine is ready to run, but there is still no gas tank or mounts for one. But the Bridgeport sure does look nice and I show it as it is.

Unfortunately, no pictures were taken until restoration was complete in 2010.

Research around Raquette Lake village and school, as well as information from the oldest resident in the area in 2001, indicate that the Polly Wog was the school boat in 1910 and 1911, possibly earlier or later. It was leased to the school. No more information was available, but now we know the reason for the long narrow seats. What an adventure it must have been taking a school boat to school every day!

As a point of interest: Water from the pump is driven by an eccentric on the crankshaft. It first goes into the exhaust manifold, then through the dry head into the jacket around the cylinder. From there it goes into the cast iron muffler and out with the exhaust.

The clamps on the water hoses are cast in brass, bearing a patent date of 1890. This even includes the one I foolishly broke trying to get it off an original hose.

If anyone has information on obtaining a gas tank, please contact me.

Contact Paul Luckman at 4006 Hall Center Rd., Walworth, NY 14568 • (315) 926-4455 (evenings only)

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