Shop Group

The Shop Group of the Flinchbaugh Manufacturing Company in 1909. Fred, the inventor, is to the right of the engine.

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Miss Helen Lehn was secretary for the Flinchbaugh Company for 18 years and gives us this history of Mr. Flinchbaugh and the company. She is also a niece of Mr. Flinchbaugh and knew all the men in the plant. She is quite an interesting person and talks very conversantly about these tractors.--Elmer Ritzman, 1959.

Frederick T. Flinchbaugh, a York County, Pennsylvania Dutch farmer boy, was always busy making attachments to his father's farm machinery, plows, cultivators, harvesting equipment and hay threshing equipment and his mother's household equipment. His parents, realizing the need for mechanical training, encouraged him to become a machinist.

He finally got a job with a local manufacturing company and served an apprenticeship. Those days, to become a machinist required four years. The start was cleaning castings and doing errands. Next, operating a hack saw or small machine lathe, drill press, shaper, planer, boring mill for about two years. Next, bench work, erecting and finally tool room.

There was no diploma to be had, but a good Master Mechanic was always known and in great demand; in fact, he could get a job in any factory.

It is interesting to know that apprentices had to work without pay until they could earn about one to two dollars per week and finish up the fourth year at about $4.00 a week; 10 hours or more a day and six days per week.

Fred made rapid progress at the trade and was outstanding. He was willing, energetic and ambitious. He was always in the front line when there was an opponent for service. While serving his apprenticeship with A.B. Farquhar Company, the valve mechanism on the engine that furnished power for the plant became loose. The men familiar with the valve mechanism were not on the job at that time and while several other men failed to make the adjustment, Fred suggested he could do it, and of course, Fred, an apprentice, was not given much consideration for such an important adjustment. Finally, the boss said, 'Men, stand back, give this boy a chance.'

Fred made the adjustment. They turned on the steam and the engine furnished the power to operate the plant same as before.

Fred became interested in gasoline engines. Before 1900, gas engines were very scarce. However, he decided to build one. With a few tools and a lathe he set up a workshop in a wood shed at the rear of his home. He designed a vertical 1? HP engine; made the patterns. After many years of work he built his first engine. 'What a joy when it made its first puff.'

He found a buyer for engine No.1, so he started building another. While Fred was building gasoline engines in his spare time, [brother] Eli worked his way to a Master Mechanic and was asked to do repairing about the shop. This spread rapidly and he received offers from out-of-town factories who were in need of a mechanic of his type. As time went on, he worked at Coatesville, Pennsylvania.

The management there decided to replace a large lathe and a planer with new machines. Here Eli got the idea that the lathe and planer could be bought at a low price. As soon as possible he made a trip to York and planned with Fred to buy the machinery and open a factory; after their father agreed to help with the finances. Not to lose any time, Eli made the trip back to Coatesville on Sunday, located the boss sitting on the porch and asked if he would talk business. 'Yes,' was the reply. He gave him a surprisingly low price for the lathe and planer.

Eli got right on the job, had the machinery shipped to York, quit his job at Coatesville, came home and the boys decided on a location, and started to build a factory. Fred kept his job for a while, but as time went on they had all the work they could handle and were doing business as Flinchbaugh Brothers. The date was about 1898.

We will let Fred tell about and describe the engines he built as was printed in an early catalog:

The York Standard

The 'YORK' standard gas, producer gas, gasoline and alcohol engines are designed with the governor operating on the fuel admission valve. This feature prevents waste of fuel by giving uniform charges. The sparker has some new features with advantages superior to other make engines. Material and workmanship are the very best that can be produced. All bearings are lined with bronze, there being no babbitt metal used. Crank shaft is forged steel, machined all over. Connecting rod is of stub and strap type with set-screw adjustments. Valves are poppet-type, turned out of solid steel, making but one piece. Valve stems are provided with long bearings and so designed that they can be oiled, giving long life and accuracy in seating. Speed of engine can be changed to any number of revolutions desired while the engine is in operation and without adjusting the fuel regulator. We guarantee all our engines to develop their full rated power and to do the same amount of work, if not more than the average of all correctly rated steam engines with one hundred pound steam pressure.

In drawing a comparison with that of other makes, kindly remember that our engines are not constructed to be sold at lower prices than our competitors, and especially those that are made to sell; durability first and then the engine. For a cheaper type engine, see our Farm type. But, do not forget that the latter is made of the very best material, only that the design is changed and finish omitted.

Our standard engines are recommended for stationary purposes to operate and furnish power for factories of any description. The design is such that we can guarantee absolute satisfaction, for economy of fuel and operating is superior to all other powers including electric furnished by water power. On the standard type we are able to connect a long exhaust pipe without any bad effects, which is not true of any engine with the governor operating on the exhaust valve. This includes our Farm type. The latter will do good work when long exhaust pipes are omitted, but for factory use this can not be done.

These engines are made for general farm work or any other kind requiring good reliable power. The design is different from that of our standards having less finished work; governor operating on exhaust valve, only operating sparker when charge is taken. Water supply is over cylinder. Gasoline tank is so arranged that fuel is fed by suction and gravity -- gas, gasoline or kerosene. The design is strictly high grade, which is the result of many years of study to meet the requirements so as to warrant satisfactory results, very simple, no complications, no vitals, no expensive repairs.

Speed of the engine can be varied from 200 to 500 revolutions; time of ignition changed suitable for speed. A combination gas and gasoline connection if desired; operates on either, changed from one to another without missing a charge. It is not cheap on first cost, but guaranteed to be the cheapest engine that can be bought, as it will not require immediate repairs.

We equip all engines with a magneto, batteries not necessary. All small sizes are started on magneto without batteries. Should liquid batteries be preferred instead, same will be furnished at equal price.

Mr. Flinchbaugh was a pioneer in the tractor building. Not the first, but one of the very few firsts to build a tractor rivaling the steamer. We take the following from an early catalog which explains somewhat the tractor and its makeup.

Gas and gasoline engines have gained favor among power users over that of steam on account of the advantages they possess. The question has been, why cannot a gasoline or any internal explosive engine be made to answer the purpose of a steam traction engine. Steam tractions have proven to be a success. Manufacturers have spent thousands of dollars to develop a traction driven by gasoline engines. Some have given up and consider it impossible. Others have put some on the market, and have, and are at the present time experimenting at the buyer's expense. The first essential for a successful internal explosive engine operated by gasoline, kerosene, or alcohol is to develop an engine that is equal to that of a steam engine under equal rating.

To start with, to make a successful traction propelled by a gasoline, kerosene or alcohol engine, we first developed an engine that would pull a dragging load and recover speed under ninety-five percent, of its full rating. All of our engines are tested and rated under a given normal speed and by increasing speed the power will increase with the speed of the engine which will compare with that of a steam engine. By having our engines to give the same amount of power per rating under a fixed steam pressure of 100 pounds or more depending under what pressure they are tested, we are able to produce a traction that will compare with steam tractions.

Flinchbaugh's stationary tandem. 'Among our many recent developments we have a two-cylinder stationary tandem. This has proven to be a decided success. We have some of these in use for special duty running ten hours daily. There are many advantages gained by using them in tandem style. Economy of fuel is a great consideration; speed has proven to be very uniform, giving a very accurate and regular speed and is an engine adapted for operating generators, factories, etc. The cylinders are of the four-cycle type, so arranged that the effect on the crank is of the two-cycle principle. Under a full load it will receive an impulse on every revolution. The two pistons being connected by a piston rod on the same principle as that of the steam engine, a stuffing box being provided and the box well provided for cooling circulation, giving the very best results. We would recommend this type engine above that of any other for stationary work on 2 HP and larger.' Picture courtesy of M. L. Winter.

The general make-up of the manipulating parts of our engine is different from anything that has ever been known to the gas, gasoline, kerosene and alcohol engine industry. First, charges are accurate and uniform, governor having full control. The charges are ignited by our specially arranged igniter.

Our gears compare with those of steam tractions. We use but three extra gears to make up the reverse of the traction. They are so arranged that they are not burdensome to the engine and use up unnecessary power. Three clutches are used, two positive and one friction. The two positive clutches are used for forward and backward motion. In reversing from either motion, we first release the friction clutch which in turn releases power on gear transmission and clutches, allowing the positive clutch to be shifted without friction or strain on any part of gears or clutches. After making the shift on positive clutches, the friction clutch on the engine shaft is thrown in action again, transmitting power through gears and moving traction backward or forward as operator desires.

The two positive clutches cannot be engaged at one time. Why? If we should have one separate lever to operate each separate clutch, we should have at times, the operator or the one using them, trying to run both directions at one time. The result would be broken gears or some other parts that would cause serious delay. All this we avoid by using one lever to operate all clutches in their turn, moving but one clutch at a time. Having engines in motion with lever on center of its space of operation all clutches are disengaged. To move traction forward, we push lever forward. This in turn engages forward positive clutch, then friction clutch on engine shaft. To move backward, having lever in center of shift pull lever backward. This will in turn engage backward positive clutch, then friction clutch on engine shaft. To reverse from forward to backward motion, lever is pulled from forward to back shift. This in turn releases friction clutch on engine shaft, then disengages forward positive clutch, and engages backward positive clutch, then friction clutch on engine shaft. One shift of lever produces four shifts of clutches, making it impossible to shift more than one clutch at one time. By using our reversible engine, when engine is reversed to backward or under motion, the reverse bar is pulled back to run traction forward and shoved forward to run traction backward. By this operation the traction is under low gear.

For different speeds of traction, we change speed of engine, from one hundred to four or five hundred revolutions per minute, by shifting small lever, having engine to maintain its power to each explosion, with our specially arranged sparker.


There have been many interesting articles in past issues of Gas Engine Magazine and Iron Men Album. Since many of our newer subscribers have never seen the older issues of our magazines, we will reprint selections from time to time. This article first appeared in the September-October 1959 issue of Iron Men Album. The suggestion to reprint it was made by John R. Heath, 494 Twp. Road 232, Sullivan, Ohio 44880.

If you can recall an article you feel would be of particular interest to today's readers, please let us know!