The Tips Vertical Diesel Engine

By Staff
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Charles W. Gardner B
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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

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

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.

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Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines