The Manufacture of Engines, Saw Mills and Grain Separators

Frick & Co.'S Wood-Working Shop


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The following article is reprinted from the March 17, 1883 issue of Scientific American. The illustrations have been taken from the original publications. This article provides a detailed description of the Frick Company as it existed in 1883.

In the picturesque and historical Cumberland Valley, under the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, in eastern Pennsylvania, lies the busy town of Waynesboro, the home of one of our most important industries. We refer to the extensive business of Frick & Company, which had its beginning in the year 1848, the present general superintendent being at that time engaged in the manufacture of threshing machines and agricultural implements in a small country shop near Waynesboro, and in the autumn of 1850 he built from his own patterns and for his own use his first steam engine, a two-horse power.

From this humble beginning the industry grew, the facilities were increased, and in due course the business was removed to its present location, where subsequently a company was organized, and extensions, changes, and improvements were effected from time to time, according to the demands of the business. At present the condition of the company is more promising than at any time during its long and successful career. The capital has been increased and working facilities extended, and still the demands upon the concern are such as to make it difficult to meet the business offered with entire satisfaction.

At the close of last year $300,000 was added to the capital, placing the company in an easy financial condition. Extensive additions are now being made to the works, and the number of expert mechanics is being constantly increased.

From its foundation the business management of the company has devolved upon Mr. George Frick, who, though advanced in years, continues to pay close attention to it, and while he has associated with himself a large and capable body of assistants, the present successes of the company are as largely due to his constant presence and supervision as was the origin of the business to his ingenuity and unusual mechanical skill.

The aim of the company has been to produce machinery which would yield the best possible results at a price consistent with permanence and durability. That these objects have been attained is forcibly shown in the widespread popularity and the ever increasing demand for their productions. A better proof than this of the merits of their goods could not be given.

It is worthy of record, that since the commencement, the works have not been stopped for want of business, having been kept constantly engaged even through the period of depression which this country experienced after the financial disturbances of 1873. Indeed, for the last five years or more, excepting only when occasionally shut down for repairs, they have run on extra time, amounting in the average to thirteen hours out of the twenty four. The extensive and constantly increasing application of steam as a motive power for agricultural and other purposes has led them to pay especial attention to the production of an engine made on the highest scientific principles, original in design, strong, powerful, and durable, and this claim to excellence seems to be well founded.

At the International Centennial Exhibition of 1876, the judges found, after minute examination, 'that the 'Eclipse' farm engine gave the best results of any that were tested.' We quote the above from the report of the award; the highest honors that could be awarded were accordingly bestowed upon Frick & Company's engine.

In the summer of 1880, an engine was shipped by them to Australia for exhibition at the exposition then in progress at Melbourne, and there their engine was recommended for the first award and gold medal of honor. This was a noteworthy victory, the contest being unusually severe and the competition great, as at this exhibition there were twenty-nine farm engines from England and other countries competing for the distinguished award that had never been won by an American manufacturer.

The highest awards were always won by Frick and Co. when competing for honors, and the last distinction paid their engine was in October last, at the St. Louis Fair, where they earned the first award of $100 in gold over fourteen competitors.

The factory, as shown in our engraving, is, as a whole, an elegant and imposing brick structure, and its equipments are unsurpassed: each department is conveniently arranged for the proper prosecution of its particular business, and the machinery and small tools employed are of the latest and best designs.

While it is impossible to convey a full and just idea of the magnitude and completeness of these works, something can be learned from the dimensions of the buildings, which we give below:


Machine shop, 2 floors ........ 56 x 300 each.
Foundry .............................. 50 x 120
Smith shop .......................... 50 x 120
Boiler shop .......................... 90 x 120
Wood ................................ 100 x 120
Pattern, 2 floors .................. 90 x 180 each.
Paint ................................... 45 x 90
Storeroom, 2 floors ............ 30 x 50 each.
Testing shop ........................ 40 x 50

The total floor area, including storage and other buildings not shown above, is over 100,000 square feet.

The view in the center of the group on our title page shows the extensive and systematic arrangement of the shops, eleven in number, which together with ample and substantial sheds, reservoir, force pump house, and stables, cover an area of over eight acres.

The office, seen in the foreground of the engraving is commodious and admirably arranged for the requirements of the business, and although isolated from the buildings, communication is had with each department of the works, and with the bank and business centers of the town, either by telegraph, telephone, speaking tubes, or a system of steam signals with which the works are provided. West of the offices will be seen the pump house and reservoir, and in the former is located a large duplex Worthington steam pump, and a boiler in which fire is kept constantly. Connected with the pump is a complete system of water mains, hydrants, and coils of hose, which, with a body of men trained for the work, constitutes an efficient fire department. The reservoir is supplied from the west branch of the Antietam, which flows within a short distance of the works, and on the banks of which is located a second pump house and pump.

In the machine shop are employed two hundred hands, each being skilled and practiced in his particular work. This shop, as well as all the others, is furnished with the electric light, and with facilities for handling work with ease and economy. About half-way down the machine shop is located the office occupied by the master mechanic, together with the tool room, below which is a space devoted to the erection of machinery, as shown in one of our engravings. The basement of this entire building is used as a store room for all the numerous castings used in the business, which are so classified as to be readily accessible.

Beyond the erecting shop is an area used for temporary storage of finished work. From this point it is loaded on cars running on a sunken track, and on opposite sides of this track stand the testing shop and store house. This is a very convenient arrangement for the reception and shipment of goods. All engines and boilers are run into the testing shop for examination and trial. The store house is a large two-story building, containing all classes of small finished work, whether made at the factory or purchased elsewhere. Seven buildings are seen in the engraving, with their ends parallel to and separated from the machine shop by a railroad track.

The first of these is the foundry, which contains two cupolas, each of ten tons capacity, also cranes, core ovens, and the customary appurtenances of a well equipped shop of this character.

The next building contains an 80-horse power horizontal engine an excellent specimen of the company's work the dynamo machine, pumps, blower, etc., and the boilers, two of 80 and one of 50 horse power, and the brass foundry. Under this roof we also find an apartment in which castings are cleaned, also an artesian well, and at the end of the building there is a wheel and spoke shop.

Beyond this building stands the pattern shop, which is not shown in the engraving. It is a fine and roomy two story structure, combining office, shop, and store house. Here is also the flask shop.

Next in line with the engine and boiler house is found the smith shop, containing twenty fires, steam hammers, Webb's revolving bolt furnace, and a large bolt header. The next building is the boiler shop, having forges, shears, punches, steam riveters, and rivet heating furnace. A hundred men are here employed, and the work of the shop averages about twenty boilers per week, ranging in capacity from 2-horse power to 200-horse power.

At the end of this building a series of racks is arranged for the reception of boiler iron, and the building is provided with a system of tracks and turn tables to facilitate the handling of materials.

In the wood shop, which is next, the company's well known 'Waynesboro Eclipse' grain separator and thresher, and their portable saw mills are made. An interior view of this building will be found in the illustration.

The next in order is a long metal roofed building, in which are stored portable and traction engines, saw mills, threshers, and horse powers, and beyond this is located the paint shop and drying kiln adjoining the extensive lumber yards of the company.

The buildings are of very tasteful design; they are all constructed of brick and have slate roofs; each building is separate from and independent of the others, and a system of tracks runs through the entire works to facilitate the handling of heavy machinery and material.

Some idea of the capacity of the works can be formed when it is stated that during last year they turned out very nearly a thousand engines alone, to say nothing of the boilers, horse powers, grain separators and threshers, and saw mills, which they make in great numbers. Five to seven hundred men here find constant employment, and the works are being extended for the accommodation of a still greater force.

The company's great specialties are the 'Eclipse' traction and portable engines, the latter being built both on sills and wheels. This engine is so widely and favorably known as to render a detailed description superfluous. The popularity of the 'Eclipse' traction engine has grown out of its great success in accomplishing the work for which it was designed, and in many important features it is a decided departure from its class. Much care and attention has been given its construction, with a view to overcoming the many difficulties which are experienced in the successful propulsion of a traction engine when hauling heavy loads through a rough and uneven country. The engine proper is mounted on the crown of the boiler, but it is fastened to it at the cylinder end only by an expansion joint, the other or crank end with its gearing connections being secured to and supported by wrought iron side plates riveted to the frame or sills of channel iron that extend partly along each side and under the boiler to the front axle. The smoke box end of the boiler is carried in a saddle, on which is cast an arm or bracket supporting the ends of the frame. Within this saddle casting the fifth wheel, or king post, for the front axle revolves, the axle being partially covered by a casting with two spring chambers, thus relieving the front end of the boiler of shocks while passing over a rough road. The sills are well braced together. The fire-box end of the boiler is carried in a saddle or wrought iron band riveted to the sills, and by this arrangement it will be seen that allowance is made for boiler expansion without transmitting any strain to the frame, engine, or gearing.

Two styles of traction engine are built in three sizes, the styles varying to suit different sections of the country. One is made with powerful springs under the main or driving axle in connection with a universal coupling in the countershaft, to allow for rocky and uneven roads, the other without these springs and flexible countershaft for flat or prairie country.

The power in all cases is transmitted from the engine to the traction wheels through an ingenious patented elastic spring connection and compensating gear, which allows one traction wheel to rise vertically without straining the gearing and connections, and by a novel locking device in the hub of one traction wheel, both wheels can be locked upon the axle when passing over a slippery road. By excellent mechanical arrangement, the weight of the engine and gearing is concentrated over the driving axle, thus greatly increasing the attractive power.

The traction wheels are of excellent design, light in appearance, with spokes and fluted rims of wrought iron and hubs of cast iron. The axle, made of the best forged cast steel, is very large and heavy, and has long bearings, and throughout the engine provision has been made to secure bearings as large as possible. A powerful brake is used upon this engine, by which its momentum can be controlled sufficiently to bring it to a standstill within its own length. Another peculiarity of this engine is the high rate of speed of which it is capable. The advantage of this is apparent when the engine is employed in hauling a thrashing outfit from one job to another. Much time is thus gained over an engine that is capable of making but slow progress with its load, or, where the roads are unfavorable, can scarcely haul itself. Owing to its peculiar construction, the 'Eclipse' traction engine gives this additional speed without increased cost.

The patent steering mechanism of this engine consists of a shaft supported between the sills in front of the fire-box, on which is wound a chain carried to each side of the front axle and having elastic links inserted in it, so that no shocks are conveyed when the front wheels strike obstructions. The chain shaft is operated from the platform by a standing shaft with worm and worm gear.

It is a great convenience to the engineer when running to have the throttle, reverse motion, blower, brake, steering wheel, pump, injector, fire and ash pit doors, whistle, and all bearings within easy reach. These engines are furnished with a water tank under the platform and coal boxes upon it, or with a two or four wheeled tender attached to the rear of the platform, while in some cases the water tank is carried upon the sills under the boiler and forward of the fire-box, and the crown sheet is so designed as to be always under water when going up or down hill.

The 'Eclipse' portable or agricultural engine, of light and graceful design, is mounted on strong wheels, with boiler high enough above the ground to allow the front truck to make a very short turn, which is an especial advantage. The engine proper, of the well known 'Eclipse' pattern built by this company, is simple and compact. Its design is the result of years of practical experience in meeting the wants of a large number of users. It is attached to the crown of the boiler by expansion joints and bolts in such manner as to equally divide the weight between the forward and rear axles. Special claims are made for improved methods of mounting the boiler so as to relieve it of all strain. Instead of passing the rear axle through the fire-box, as is customary with many builders, it is carried under the firebox and up through improved spring-chambered brackets, bolted securely to each side of the fire-box. The weight of the boiler and engine is carried by two iron rods passing under the fire-box, one on each side of the axle and extended upward through caps that cover the brackets and against which the springs bear; in turn the axle bears against these springs, relieving the boiler and brackets of all strain consequent upon carrying the weight upon them as is usually the case, and thus loosening of the bracket bolts and leakage is prevented.

The springs are accessible by simply removing the nuts on the rods and lifting off the cap. Each bracket is furnished with a set screw to bear against the axle when running the engine, thus preventing vibration. The front axle is also provided with springs, insuring safety and ease of transportation, and preventing shocks to the boiler and engine.

The boiler and engine just described are also furnished securely mounted on substantial frames or sills, as seen in the cut showing the portable sawmill.

The company also manufactures stationary engines and boilers of all sizes, grain separators and threshers, horsepowers, circular sawmills, mill gearing, and the customary adjuncts of an engine factory.

Situated in the midst of the iron and manufacturing regions, Frick & Co. have all possible advantages in the selection of material and as their works are reached by three railroads, two of which connect with the Pennsylvania and Baltimore and Ohio systems respectively at a short distance from Waynesboro, it will be seen that they have every facility for the favorable operation of a business of the character described.

Mr. John Philips, cashier of the First National Bank of Waynesboro, presides over the affairs of the company. His office is elective annually, but has been held by him since 1873, in which year the company was organized.

Like most of the large concerns of the day, it will be seen that the firm of Frick & Co. had its small beginnings. Its present unparalleled reputation is but the natural outcome of intelligent, persistent, honest effort exercised by its management, the merits of their productions, and by making quality their first great consideration.

With the fairest of reputations, and an adequate capital at their command, and their determination to maintain the advanced position gained, it will be no difficult task for them to keep at the front.