Waterloo Gas Engine Research Continues ...

One of the Largest Stationary Engine Manufacturers, Waterloo Engines were Chosen by Over 60 Companies


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Our hobby had an exciting announcement in 2001 when the Waterloo Gas Engine Co. serial number list was discovered in the John Deere Archives and published in the November issue of Gas Engine Magazine. Finding the list was a major break-through, allowing an owner to finally determine the year of production of his Waterloo engine. The serial number list is also available at: www.majesticengine.com

Majestic is just one on the many names found on the Waterloo gas engines. Waterloo was one of the "big four" manufacturers along with Fairbanks-Morse, Hercules and International. They used an ingenious, unique and quite successful method of merchandising their product by selling through dozens of other companies.

From the beginning of production of Waterloo Boy engines in 1906, engines were shipped directly to their customers either from the massive Waterloo, Iowa, facilities or from one of their branch warehouses located around the country. Engines would be shipped with the customer's own personalized nameplate attached. Production at their Hedford foundry also included Associated, Galloway and some other brands. The company was sold to John Deere in March 1918 for $2.1 million. Production of the original Waterloo Boy model continued by Deere until 1921, when sales of Waterloo engines through their 63-plus-customer base ceased.

From mid-1919 through 1925, Waterloo produced the H gasoline and K kerosene models with minor mechanical changes. In 1921, production of the renowned John Deere Type E began and continued through 1946.

Frank Eddy, the "Waterloo Expert," began research on the Waterloo Gas Engine Co. many years ago. Our hobby lost a great asset when Frank passed away this year. Over many years, Frank compiled a list of Waterloo customers by simply recording what he saw at the shows he attended. As the customer list grew, so did Frank's interest in compiling a complete list of every name Waterloo's were sold under. Many of us knew there were several names, but only Frank knew just how many.

Frank also discovered that a few of the engines had a casting date. I began working with him many years ago to find more casting dates. Dates have been seen only on the 1911 through 1915 Waterloo engines. Dates are usually located on the subbase under the crankshaft on the side opposite the igniter and are easily visible through the flywheel spokes. One casting date has been found on the igniter side of the subbase, as well. If you have a Waterloo or see one at a show, check it all over. There may be other locations to be discovered. Contact me if you find a new casting date and I will add it to the research.

You will note from the list that the serial number and casting date generally correspond, as would be expected. My theory on casting dates is that the first subbase produced each day was given a date. All subbases and other parts produced that day, in various horsepower sizes, were lined up in a field or large warehouse. Some of the parts were able to cure for a few months while others were assembled immediately to fill an order. The more thermal cycles cast iron can experience, the stronger the engine. You will note that one engine was cast and shipped in three days, indicating it may have been a rush order.

Casting and Ship Dates

Some dates are on the weekend, indicating seven-day per week production and shipping. The ship dates on the list were also obtained from the John Deere Archives. Since foundry furnaces would not be shut down, production continued around the clock.

Waterloo claimed production capability of 100 engines per day in their massive facilities. Their best year was in 1912, when production averaged 75 engines per day or one every 19 minutes working around the clock. Including the other companies they contracted with, such as Associated and Galloway, 100 per day was probably achievable. Fairbanks-Morse at 200 engines per day in 1918 seems to hold the annual production record. That is at a rate of one every seven minutes.

Production at the Waterloo foundries seems to have begun in 1895, with annual production averaging some 450 engines during the next 12 years, then increasing dramatically. The oldest known engine is serial no. 86 for 1895, owned by C.H. Wendel. Engine no. 219 has also been located. Production of the well-known Waterloo Boy began in 1906. Their customer base grew to a point where the following names (see sidebar) would appear on their engines during the next 16 years.

Waterloo engines have 3/8-inch diameter igniter/magneto studs on 2-1/8-inch centers. No other engines have these type igniter studs. Igniter stud information is available under "Technical Index" at www.oldengine.org courtesy of Ted Brookover.

If your Waterloo has a casting date, please contact me so we can collect the number. Thanks for your support in this continuing research.

Contact James W. Priestley at: 117 Lind St., McMinnville, TN 37110; (931) 473-7775 (after 4 p.m., CST); jimmypriestley@hotmail.com