Old Engines Are Still Out There

| 3/13/2018 12:00:00 AM

The quality of engines that continue to come out of the woodwork – quite literally in this case – continues to amaze me.

The engine I’m referring to is a rare, circa-1915 15 hp Ohio, found in a long abandoned pump house next to an old inn on an island off the coast of Maine. And the reference to coming out of the woodwork? The wood-framed roof of the old pump house had to be surgically cut open – and then replaced – so the engine could be lifted out with a crane!

Rescued by veteran engine man Mike O’Malley, the engine had been found some 30-plus years earlier by engine collector Alec Stevens. Buying it was another issue, the seller clearly intent on keeping it where it was. Undaunted, Alec routinely checked up on the engine and patiently waited for the opportunity to purchase the Ohio. Ironically, after all that time, when the opportunity finally came and the owner decided to sell, Alec’s personal circumstances dictated otherwise. Fortunately, he knew that Mike would give the engine a good home, so he handed the opportunity over to him.

It’s an incredible story from just about every angle. For starters, there’s the simple fact of Alec finding the engine in the first place. The Ohio had been out of operation for decades and few people even knew of its existence. It would probably still be sitting in the pump house if Alec hadn’t learned of it. Second, the engine was still plumbed, as if ready for service. Third, there’s the engine itself, a rare and extremely attractive tank-cooled 15 hp Ohio sideshaft engine with a vertical flyball governor. And it was complete, right down to the original igniter, which, after being replaced at some juncture with a spark plug, had been stored on a shelf, where it remained until the day Mike removed the engine from the pump house.

And of course there’s the extraction of the engine, which is indeed what this was, with the engine removed from the pump house using slings and a crane, but only after cutting the roof open for access. As was often done back in the day, the engine was most likely installed in the pump house after the foundation was poured, but before the walls and roof were erected.

Mike’s story has every element of the classic, unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime find, with an added twist: he had to hire a barge to ferry his truck and trailer to the island, and to get the now-loaded trailer back to the mainland.


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