The One Lungers:

By Staff
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Acadias owned by Jim Simon: 3 HP with igniters, very rare 5 HP with Webster mag, 2 HP air cooled, and a 10 HP with Webster mag.
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Back view of the author's Acadias, with F14 in the background.

Submitted by Jim Simon, R.R.# 1 Shubie, Nova Scotia, Can. BON

It was during the First World War and the start of the Roaring
Twenties that Acadia Gas Engines Limited of Bridgewater, Nova
Scotia, was said to be the largest manufacturer of marine engines
in Canada.

Ships driven by sail and power tied up along the LaHave River
waterfront and unloaded Number 3 Albany moulding sand from New York
and soft coal and coke from Cape Breton. The moulding sand was used
to gather impressions from which marine engine parts would be cast.
The soft coal heated the company’s complex of six buildings and
the coke was used to fire the cupola or melting furnace.

A designer from Boston designed the parts and later a pattern
was formed. In the foundry, the patterns were used to mould
cavities into which molten metal was poured. The castings were
further refined in the machine shop.

Finally, the castings were assembled to produce a finished

‘Here was a small firm going through all the motions of a
giant,’ says Glendon  Feindel of Bridgewater who, for many
years, served as plant superintendent for Acadia Gas Engines

‘It was a small plant but it was set up on a mass production
basis,’ say Mr. Feindel. ‘The operation was very
specialized. One fellow would be there all day doing nothing but
boring out cylinders. Another would be machining crank

‘Other than a few purchased parts, the old two-cylinder
engine was pretty well made there,’ says Stan Forbes, who
served as a mechanical engineer for the company.

Company founder Winfred Theodore Ritcey, a man with a natural
bent for engineering and a solid academic background in accounting,
returned to his native Lunenburg County from Massachusetts with a
dream of making marine engines.

His dream was very timely. The inshore fishing fleet was
replacing its oars and sails with two-cycle marine engines.

‘They (the inshore fishermen), were dependent on oars and
sails. Once the marine engines were available, they were glad to be
rid of the oars and sails,’ says Mr. Feindel.

Mr. Ritcey founded his company in a small building on
Bridgewater’s King Street in 1907. Parts were machined and
assembled there.

At first, the company didn’t have a foundry and castings
were brought in from elsewhere. But by the time of the First World
War, there was a foundry.

The plant employed about 130. Because it supplied tools for food
producers, it was considered important to the war effort. There was
one of the most up-to-date machine shops east of Montreal.

‘The machinery would be antiquated today,’ says Mr.
Feindel. ‘Still, it was top-notch at the time.’

The success of the two-cycle Acadia gas engines was in their

‘They were primitive and anyone could do the repair
work,’ says Mr. Feindel. ‘This was important because the
engines were used in the outports. There were no service stations.
You had to use your own imagination.’

These engines also gave years of dependable service. In 1941, it
was claimed that 30,000 of the marine engines had been made and
that 20,000 of them were still in operation. ‘In fact,’
states Mr. Feindel, ‘some are still in use today.’

Naturally enough, the fishermen of Newfoundland took to the
Acadia gas engines. The single-cylinder engines, as they gasped
their way to and from the fishing grounds, were affectionately
nicknamed ‘One-lungers.’

Eventually, two and three-cylinder engines were made. An early
catalogue lists the price of a four to six horsepower engine at
$140. A six to eight horsepower engine sold for $175.

At one point, sales to Newfoundland accounted for 60 percent of
the Acadia Gas Engine Company’s output. A sales and service
operation was set up in St. John’s. 

The popularity of these make-and-break engines spread across
Canada. Engines were also marketed in South America, England and
the West Indies.

The company diversified. It constructed a stationary engine that
proved useful in the Canadian west. This engine was put to use
pumping water, grinding grain and driving saws.

As an automotive pioneer, Mr. Ritcey took over the local General
Motors dealership and constructed a stone storage garage. In the
1920’s when most cars were put away for the winter, an
innovative lift system whisked automobiles upstairs in the garage
where they were stored on blocks for the winter for a fee.

Through it all, W.T. Ritcey kept tabs on everything that was
going on in every phase of the business. He was seldom at his desk,
preferring to be on the shop floor. He drove himself hard and his
mind was agile and inquiring.

‘He was always thinking up new ideas,’ says Stan Forbes.
‘He kept a notebook by his bed and jotted things down. His
house was across the street and I’d see him coming down to the
plant. He’d have an idea for something we were working on, a
new carburetor or something. We’d draw up a sketch for it.
We’d cast it in the foundry. It was always

Mr. Forbes found the company so interesting that he signed on
for a few months to do design and drafting work after completing
his engineering degree and stayed on for 38 years.

‘It was a very close-knit place,’ he says. ‘There
wasn’t any hiring a big crowd and laying off a big crowd. Some
of the fellows were there for years and years.’

Sales peaked during the spring months and often overtime hours
were needed to keep up with the orders. But by mid-summer sales
would start to drop off. Luckily, that was during the vacation
period and by fall the company would start building up stock. The
inventory build-up would continue through the winter months in
preparation for next spring’s rush. That way the labour force
was retained at a fairly constant level, says Mr. Forbes.

The thriving company brought in its rewards. It paid a stable
work force a good wage for the times. It was also good for its
investors, at one time paying a 50-percent dividend.

Company founder Ritcey became a community trendsetter and served
for a time as mayor. He was also the first in town to drive a
closed automobile. He was the first to heat his home with oil.
‘I never saw anybody before or since who could take his
place,’ says retired gas and diesel engine mechanic Don Pentz
of his former boss Mr. Ritcey. ‘He knew the machine. He knew
the engines. He knew the pattern shop. He was a hard working

Mr. Pentz, meanwhile, knew at an early age that a career in
mechanics was for him. He was a mechanic for a small freighter
working between Bridgewater and Riverport, but was very glad when
the opportunity arose to go to work for Acadia Engines. ‘I
don’t know where you’d go today to get the type of
mechanical experience the gas engine company offered,’ he

Mr. Pentz worked at assembling parts, assembling engines and
servicing them. Eventually he went on the road throughout the
Maritimes and Quebec to service the machines.

‘In a short time, I could straighten out the trouble,’
he says. If he couldn’t do it on the spot, he knew which parts
to send back for the repairs. Mr. Pentz also did some selling but
feels his salesmanship was not up to his mechanical ability.

‘I sold what, to the best of my knowledge, would suit your
boat,’ he says with a chuckle. ‘That was a poor

In all, Mr. Pentz worked for the company for 46 years.
‘There was no place like it for a young fellow to go and learn
a trade,’ he says.

The Second World War saw the company again encouraged to
continue making its engines to serve the fishermen who were
harvesting food for Canada. But the company also did contract work
for the Royal Canadian Navy.

Wartime was difficult for Mr. Ritcey, says Mr. Feindel, his
son-in-law. Mr. Ritcey was an individualist and the bureaucratic
red tape needed in dealing with government took a toll on him. It
is often felt that those wartime pressures led to the stroke which
claimed Mr. Ritcey’s life in 1946.

Mr. Feindel, meanwhile, joined the company in 1942 and served
for 25 years before going on to his appointment as the first
curator of Bridgewater’s DesBrisay Museum. Mr. Ritcey saw to it
that Mr. Feindel got a solid foundation in all facets of the gas
engine factory, sending him from the pattern shop, to the machine
shop and the foundry. Of the shops, Mr. Feindel jokes: ‘The
work I enjoyed most was the dirty old foundry.’

All told, his time at Acadia Gas Engines Limited ‘was a
great experience.’

The company ran under the regional management team until 1964.
The facility served in a number of industrial capacities until the

Today the site of the gas engine factory is visualized as a
luxury residential development. The firm of Acadian Landings
Limited is to build initially a multiple-unit residential

Golden days may well return to the site of Bridgewater’s
historic Acadia Gas Engine company.

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