Victor Marine Engine
The Victor Engine Story - By Anthony S. Atkinson
Victor Gas Engine Specification Sheet
The advent of small marine gas engines in Atlantic Canada and the recovery of the fishery after 1906 created opportunities for local small business. Later, wartime prosperity fueled the demand for new fishing technologies,and many gasoline engines were being installed in fishing boats by 1918. Along the South Shore of Nova Scotia firms retooled to serve the fishery, and companies were started. Some like Atkinson & Bower, Lunenburg Industrial Foundry & Engineering, and Hawbolt Industries remain in business today. The engines and hardware produced by these local firms made a lasting contribution to the technological heritage of the province and enhanced economic development by liberating fishermen of the day from the vagaries of wind and tide. This is the story of the early days of one such company, the Etherington Gas Engine Company, my family's business, in Shelburne, Nova Scotia.
On Armistice Day in 1918, at age 40, Clarence Atkinson founded Etherington Gas Engines. The brand name "Victor" was given to the engines in honor of the recent end of World War I. The company was named after John Etherington who was a local yacht builder and friend. John was likely an early shareholder, and may have helped with the initial capitalization of $25,000, a fortune in those days.
At this stage of research into the Victor engine, the following details are known by the author: The Clarence and Bessie (his wife) engines, as they were affectionately known, were of a 2-stroke cycle type. Make-and-break ignitions or jump spark ignitions were supplied, but it is not known which were more common. Lubrication was accomplished either by mixed gas and oil or by sight feed oilers. The cylinder block/head was considered to be a good design for those days because it was a one-piece casting. The engine's base was also an up-to-date split type. Although some other brands used gear pumps, the Victor's seawater coolant was circulated with a bronze plunger type pump that was driven by an eccentric. Not much is known about the type of carburetor used, but the two-cylinder model had 2 carburetors.
Having been born and raised in a fishing community, Clarence Atkinson knew the needs of the fishing industry well. As well as marine engines, his firm manufactured and sold a line of accessories like propellers, shafts, and stuffing boxes. Other marine hardware produced by the company included heaving outfits, hoists, winches and the ubiquitous lobster pot hauler. Parts for competitors' engines could be custom made in the foundry if they were unavailable. And it is possible some Acadia Gas Engine parts may have been made under contract. Since Clarence was a plumber, the foundry began to produce cast iron pressure pumps that were in demand by the public as rural electrification fed the demand for indoor plumbing.
Many Victor engines were sold to Newfoundland. As recently as 1995, a Victor engine was seen in a front yard near the Fogo Island Ferry. Victor engines were still in use in Newfoundland in the 1960s. In 1965, Clarence's son, Ashton, was vacationing in Port Aux Basques. When a noise woke him up at 4:30 in the morning, he shot bolt upright in bed and exclaimed: "That's got to be a Clarence and Bessie!" Later when the fisherman returned to port, Ashton met him at the wharf. Sure enough, it was a Victor engine. The fisherman was impressed when Ashton told him that there was a chance his engine was one of the units he had helped manufacture at the Atkinson machine shop in Shelburne.
By the late twenties automobile engines were becoming popular as boat
engines. These readily available, lightweight, high performance engines
were widely converted for marine use. This sounded the death knell for the
slow and heavy make-and-breaks. In 1946, at age 68, Clarence Atkinson passed
away, and Norman Bower bought into the firm. Although the foundry closed
many years ago, Atkinson & Bower serves the marine industry to this
very day with its machine shop and welding shop.
Last modified April 20,2001