In 1857, 25-year-old Edward Tips opened a hardware store in Austin, which was taken over by his brother Walter in 1865, following the Civil War. The business thrived under Walter's leadership and soon the company began to expand to other locations and to begin several major building projects. (There is still today a Walter Tips Company, a successful wholesale hardware and automotive parts dealer serving throughout the central Texas area.)
In 1899, Walter Tips founded, with several partners, another company for the purpose of servicing steam-powered machinery. Like many other small concerns, the firm soon became involved in manufacturing its own small gasoline-powered engines for irrigation systems. Larger engines for cotton gins came next, and then the fledgling company scored a major coup by hiring Charles W. Gardnerone of the country's leading internal combustion engineers away from the Fairbanks-Morse Company.
Gardner designed what came to be known as the Tips Vertical Diesel Engine, 1-, 2-, 3-, 4- and 6-cylinder engines ranging from 30 to 250 horsepower. They were manufactured from wooden patterns, iron cast in sand, and carefully machined for final operation.
Tips diesels were renowned for their durability, many operating 24 hours a day for months on end without being shut down. They were delivered to customers from California eastward as far as Alabama, and from Oklahoma down through Texas into Mexico. They were used in a wide variety of agricultural applications to power small manufacturing plants and mills, to pump water in municipal systems, and to help supply electricity to numerous small towns. The engines continued in production until about 1950.
A restored 80 HP 2-cylinder Tips diesel made during the 1920's has been restored by the Franklin Savings Bank and can be seen in the Tips Building in Austin. The engine weighs approximately 12 tons and was used by a local rancher for irrigation for over a half century.
Back in February of 1982, we received a letter from Doug Lapham of 11102 Alhambra Drive, Austin, Texas 78759 who was then a new subscriber.
Doug told us that although there were few antique engine shows in Texas, he had come across a curious vertical diesel engine made by a firm named Tips.
What follows is a short history of the Tips engine derived from a brochure published by the Franklin Savings Bank, whose main office is now located in the restored Tips building in Austin.