Rare 3 HP Abenaque Brought Back To Life

By Staff
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Photos taken shortly after engine was dug out of ground.
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Showing some of original parts.
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Finished restoration.

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.

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