THE ROBINSON TRACTION ENGINE

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Bismarck, Mo 63624

The Robinson Traction Engine, once numbered with the 'well knowns' seems to be now almost forgotten. A few words of history might be of interest, especially to the Old Timers.

The Robinson Company, which manufactured portable and traction engines as well as threshers, saw mills and hay bailers, was located at Richmond, Indiana. The firm was founded in 1843 by Francis W. Robinson. For many years only portable engines were manufactured but with the growing popularity of the traction engine, the company entered this field also.

The plant, located in Richmond, was only a short distance from the plant of the Gaar-Scott company, and we are advised that Mr. Robinson and Mr. Gaar were closely related, (some say they were Brothers-in-Law). There are many points of similarity to be noted in the two engines, indicating that plans and patterns might have been exchanged.

The Robinson Company made their boilers strictly by hand. The wet bottom principle was used; all engines were equipped with 2 inch flues. Crown Sheets were arched instead of flat. Water glass was placed so that when the water was barely over the crown sheet, it showed in the bottom of the glass. Engines were constructed with the cylinder toward the rear of the boiler with the fly-wheel well to the front. An extra long connecting rod was used. A crosshead pump, as well as an injector was standard equipment.

One unusual feature was the method of mounting the drive wheels. A solid axle was used that was curved to pass completely under the bottom of the boiler, and the boiler was mounted on springs. Another unusual feature of the Robinson was that the clutch consisted of a wood rim mounted inside the flywheel on the boiler side; pulling on the clutch lever forced steel shoes into the wood rim.

The Robinson Company was owned and controlled entirely by the Robinson Family, who were members of the Quaker (or Friends) Faith. The firm was incorporated in 1889, but continued under family control. Both portable and traction engines were made in the following sizes: 10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 22 and 25 Hp. This is according to the Robinson catalog for 1906. However, the writer purchased a Robinson engine early this year, and was told it was a 20-hp made in 1910. Since the 1906 catalog did not list a 20-hp I compared the specifications in the catalog with the actual measurements and found that the measurements did not match either the 18 or 22 horsepower. Also the catalog stated that an 18 hp. was No. 5, and a 22 hp. was No. 6. On the side of the engine cylinder inside the outline of a large star is the number 5 which would indicate that between the printing of the 1906 catalog and the year 1910, the company started making the 20 hp. Rather than disrupt their numbering system they called the 20 hp. the 5.

I have advertised in various engine magazines to find how many Robinson engines are in operation at present. I heard from only one owner, a gentleman at Rives Jucntion, Michigan. I am told that there is another somewhere in Ohio. So far as I know, I have the only 20-hp Robinson left. If there are other Robinson engines (any size) I would appreciate hearing of them.

The Robinson engine was known as the 'Corliss Conqueror' although the Corliss valve is not used, rather the valve action is of the well known Locomotive Link design.

The Robinson 'Bonanza' thresher was made in various sizes from 28-in. to 40-in. cylinder, with the Robinson designed self feeder available if desired.

The company made several types of hay balers, including one that used a double-action plunger; it was equipped with a self-feeder located in the center of the baler and the plunger pushed hay in both directions. . that is that bales came out each end of the baler. The writer put in a few seasons wiring an old long-coupled International gasoline powered baler and that certainly gave me all I could do, and if one man had to take care of both ends of the Robinson, I would certainly like to have seen that man work.

We understand the Robinson Company ceased making engines in 1920.

Since purchasing my Robinson, I have spent many hours restoring it. New cab has been put on, new rear platform, tool boxes and coal bunker put on, and now in process of cleaning and painting the entire engine in its original colors. I plan to exhibit it in some of the shows next season.

Have you ever wondered if your mechanical engine oiler was working when the steam pressure was high? Remove the oiler from the engine, and connect a pressure gauge to the outlet pipe and give the hand crank a few slow turns. This will tell if the pump will inject oil under pressure. Watch the gauge closely as the pressure mounts rapidly, and the gauge may be damaged if pressure builds too high.