Fairbanks Co. Gas Engines

By Staff
1 / 3
2 / 3
Side view
3 / 3
Back side view of Walter's Fairbanks Co. engine.

Nameplate on Walter Sanborn’s Fairbanks Co. 2-1/2 HP gas
engine, date of manufacture unknown. This engine was probably built
by Bates & Edmonds Motor Co., Lansing, Mich., in the early part
of the 1900s. Fairbanks Co., New York, N. Y, never built any
engines, instead contracting with various companies to build
engines to suit. One of those companies was Blakeslee Manufacturing
Co., Birmingham, Ala., which built an engine almost identical to
the Bates & Edmonds vertical.

Several issues of Gas Engine Magazine have shown
pictures of Fairbanks Co. engines, along with discussions about who
manufactured them and when (see GEM, April 2002, page 5, and June
2002, page 3).

I own a Fairbanks Co. engine that came with a flat belt-driven
Fairbanks Co. three-piston triplex pump equipped with gear
reduction for slowing the pump’s speed. The pump (which I
haven’t restored yet) is complete, and it’s as heavy and
large as the engine itself.

The engine is in very good shape, just as it was when I picked
it up 20 years ago. I have it belted to a small, rotary-gear pump
that circulates the engine’s cooling water and also drives two
water motors. One of these motors is a water-driven fan originally
used for circulating air in a school ventilating system, and the
other motor is for show, setup driving a red wheel when I’m
exhibiting. My cooling tank is an old gas tank from a Farmall
tractor.

Other engine collectors have told me this engine was made by
Bates & Edmonds Motor Co. of Lansing, Mich., but in the recent
discussions in GEM other owners of Fairbanks Co. engines claim they
were made by Blakeslee Manufacturing Co. of Birmingham, Ala. A look
at pictures of Blakeslee engines and Bates & Edmonds engines as
shown in C. H. Wendel’s American Gasoline Engines Since 1872
shows just how similar they look to each other. But according to
Wendel, Bates & Edmonds made thousands of engines while
Blakeslee only made a few, so it would seem logical that most of
the surviving Fairbanks Co. engines were made by Bates &
Edmonds.

Fairbanks Nameplate

The nameplate is still on my engine, and on the very top it says
‘Junior,’ and below that ‘The Fairbanks Company.’
In the center of the name-plate the words ‘The Fairbanks’
are formed in a semi-circle, and inside the semi-circle is what
looks to be either a gear or a star. Just under this is the word
‘Improved,’ and under this it says ‘Gas & Gasoline
Engines.’ On the left bottom the name-plate is stamped number
4669 and on the right it’s stamped 2-1/2 HP. Each side lists
the cities in which Fairbanks Co. engines were sold:

Albany, N.Y.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Baltimore, Md.; Providence, R.I.;
Boston, Mass.; Syracuse, N.Y.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Montreal, Canada;
Hartford, Conn.; Toronto, Canada; New Orleans, La.; Vancouver,
B.C.; New York, N.Y.; Winnipeg, Manitoba; Philadelphia, Pa.;
London, England.

I still don’t know for sure what I have, but with any luck
someone out there will have the missing information so we can
finally determine who made these engines.

Contact engine enthusiast Walter Sanborn at: 53 Main St.,
Chichester, NH 03258-6509.

Gas Engine Magazine
Gas Engine Magazine
Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines