Hometown Pride

Cities we love and the engines named for them

| March 2006


The Waterloo Boy logo on a 1-1/2 HP engine of the same name is very well-known and has brought the Iowa city much recognition.

Civic pride was certainly one of the reasons gas engines were named after the cities in which they were manufactured. But there were other, more practical reasons, as well. In the days when most of the economy was local, it paid to have a gasoline engine that farmers could use that was named after their area city, and at least 170 companies took advantage of this idea.

Engine-City Connections

Though two Anderson, Ind., companies had "Anderson" in their name - P. Anderson Motor Co. and Anderson Foundry and Machine Co. - only the latter made Anderson engines. They were produced from about 1917-1920 in 10 to 100 HP sizes, and 1-, 2- or 3-cylinder styles. Blowtorches were required to start the engines. The company claimed Anderson vertical engines were superior because of their easier maintenance compared to other gas engines of the time. The largest Anderson engine clocked in at 325 HP and used six cylinders. It weighed 57,000 pounds, and required 17-1/2 cubic yards of concrete for the foundation.

Angola engines were manufactured by Angola Engine and Foundry Co. of Angola, Ind., starting in 1904. Their small 2-1/2 HP engine weighed an incredible 700 pounds, and its sideshaft design was typical of Angola engines. Other Angolas ranged from 1-1/2 to 20 HP. Angola portable engines, with a large cooling tank, were self-contained power units, and attractively painted, to boot. By 1911 the company was out of business.

Des Moines, Iowa, had 10 different engine manufacturing companies, only two of which had "Des Moines" in their names (Des Moines City Gas Engine Works and Des Moines Gas Engine and Electric Co.), but only the latter company produced Des Moines engines, starting in 1904. The 2 HP air-cooled model was their only production, and when the company relocated to Chicago in 1905, it became Phillips Motor Works, and like so many small engine companies, it disappeared.

Elgin Comet engines were the product of three different companies: Elgin Gas Engine Co. of Elgin, Ill., Auten Machinery Co. of Chicago (which sold the Elgins for EGEC), and Parcelle Engine Co. of Elgin (the successor company of EGEC). The Elgin Comet was a 75-pound engine of 1-1/8 HP, 2-cycle design and 1,000 RPM speed. It had a 2-1/2-by-3-inch bore and stroke. It sold for $39.25 in 1916.

A trio of companies had "Fairmont" in their names, but two were from Philadelphia, and the third, Fairmont Railway Motors Inc., was from Fairmont, Minn. Many people over the age of 50 would recognize the distinctive sound of the Fairmont engine carrying sections gangs down the rails looking for breaks.