The Little Engine that Almost Got Away

| August/September 2003

  • Carlisle and Finch Engine

  • Carlisle and Finch Engine
    The HP Carlisle & Finch. A coffee table center piece, it seemed too small to have been designed with work in mind.

  • Carlisle and Finch Engine
  • Carlisle and Finch Engine

On May 28, 2002, Bear Creek, Pa., received over 5 inches of rain in just a few hours. In a house just below Bear Creek Dam, a HP Carlisle & Finch engine sat on a coffee table. Fifteen miles away where I was working the sun was shining, and I was thinking about Bear Creek. But I wasn't thinking about the storm I had no idea what was happening I was thinking about that Carlisle & Finch.

First Look

Shortly before the spring of 2002, a friend from work told me about a small engine he thought looked like a hit-and-miss that his cousin was selling. I went to have a look at it, and when I first saw the engine I thought it must have been built as a toy or a salesman's sample. Sitting on a coffee table, the engine was so small it didn't seem possible it was really made to work for a living. I made an offer but I left empty handed, and it wasn't until I was almost home that I realized what I had just seen. I remembered a friend who had one, and who had sold it for a good buck, and I think I must have been so excited when I saw it my brain just froze.

On the day of the storm the dam broke. The house was badly damaged and the water reached the coffee table on the second floor. The owners, after trying to save the house, had to be rescued from the roof. I'm not sure, but that they may have moved the engine to a higher spot in the house as the water rose, because when the water receded the engine was still there, untouched by the ravaging flood. In July 2002, after some competitive bidding, I finally bought the little engine.

Carlisle & Finch

Green in color, this little HP engine has dual 8-inch flywheels with 1-inch faces. It's outfitted with a Lunkenheimer carburetor, and it weighs in at 60 pounds. Carlisle & Finch Co., Cincinnati, Ohio, built this little engine, and a 1913 catalog cover I've seen says the company made electrical novelties, dynamos, motors, experimental apparatus and gas engines. From the late 1800s to about 1915, Carlisle & Finch also made model trains, which are highly collectible today.

From what I've learned, these engines were available either as kits or as complete units, and were both igniter and spark plug equipped. I've heard they could be used to run a popcorn or sewing machine. Carlisle & Finch is still in business today, a major manufacturer of spotlights and searchlights for ships. I would like to hear from other owners.

Contact engine enthusiast Stan Matlowski at: 118 Hunlock-Harveyville Road, Hunlock Creek, PA 18621; (570) 256-7422; or e-mail:


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