Metamorphosis: From Steel Yard to Show Grounds

Inspired by a Model Froelich, Idaho Man Builds His Own

| November/December 2003

1892 Froelich

Head-on view of D.J. Baisch's 1892 Froelich replica.

This project came about quite by accident, and was prompted when I received a model of the famous 1892 Froelich tractor (generally considered the first gasoline-powered tractor in the U.S.) a number of years ago as a present from my family.

I am disabled (the result of a bad head injury and a couple of other accidents), and I only have one good arm, one good eye and little or no short-term memory. For me, restoring old machinery is good - if sometimes frustrating - therapy.

An old cut of John Froelich's original tractor. Compare this with the photos at left and below and it's clear how faithful D.J.'s replica is to the original. Froelich's success with this tractor led to the creation of the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Co., Waterloo, Iowa.


A few years after receiving the Froelich model, I purchased an early 1900s Fairbanks-Morse 6 HP Type T vertical engine, and while restoring it an idea hit me. I looked at the Froelich model, then at the vertical FM. I went back and forth between the two a couple of times and said to myself 'I can do this!' The project was born.

The project, in case you haven't guessed, was to build a replica of the 1892 Froelich tractor. The FM engine was a perfect choice, as it looks very similar to the 16 HP (some sources say 20 HP) vertical hit-and-miss Van Duzen originally used by John Froelich in 1892.

After a lot of measuring and scaling I decided I could recreate the Froelich at a 12:1 scale. By allowing for the difference in the width of the FM engine and the model engine, and by fudging a little here and a little there, I knew I could make it look right. The first thing I decided to hunt down were the gears I would need.