On July 7, guests of Boothbay Railway Village viewed stationary engines that innovated work on farms and in households of late 19th and early 20th century America. Members of the Maine Antique Power Association (MAPA) had some familiar names on display such as Briggs and Stratton, Maytag and Olds, of Oldsmobile and REO fame.
Of the nearly 30 engines running on the green, historically most were used with belts to power farm and household equipment and machinery such as corn grinders, large belts, saws and washing machines, said MAPA president Joe Kelley.
MAPA started in 1973 with about 20 members who decided to band together, collect and refurbish old engines and begin sharing the history behind a largely forgotten innovation. Kelley said that, today, members of the association – "the only and oldest of its kind in Maine” – come from all over the state to put on displays at events and fairs. MAPA even has an annual show in Skowhegan and hopes to expand at the Cumberland Fair.
"We enjoy all aspects of the hobby – the collection of the old antique equipment, the restoration of it, the operation and the showing of it to the general public who have never seen one of these and doesn't know anything about the history of it,” said Kelley. “Butter churns, threshing machines, grinders, cut-off saws, wood splitters – anything you didn't want to do by hand, you could put a flat belt on the engine, belt it up to the piece of equipment, and let the engine do the work for you."
One of the standouts at the meet was Jim Perry’s 1914 1.5 horsepower Waterloo Boy. Perry explained that in 1918, the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company was bought out by Deere and Company – later rebranded John Deere Tractor Company. Deere bought out Waterloo for its field tractors' unparalleled performance and because Deere was struggling in the market. Deere continued to sell the popular tractor series "Waterloo Boy" under the original maker's name until 1923 when Deere released its Model D series.
For contrast, Perry also had a 1943 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Model E-3 generator manufactured by O’Keefe and Merritt Co. with a Hercules ZXB engine, next to an Ohlsson & Rice Tiny Tiger Model 300. That is a four cylinder, 13.5 horsepower engine next to a 0.85 horsepower engine, one used to power parts of camps during wartime while the other was typically used as a grab-and-go power source for power tools on the farm or job site.
If you ask Kelley, engines certainly are not made like they used to be.
"After World War II, they stopped making these engines with the flywheels and stuff on them … They went to smaller, enclosed flywheels, oil lubricated bearings and faster RPM's – everything changed …(But) we enjoy it and it's fun to work on a particular restoration during the wintertime and be able to bring it out and demonstrate it."