Waterous Engine Works Co. Ltd.

A brief history of the Waterous Engine Works Co. Ltd.

Waterous Steam Roller

1912 Waterous steam roller owned by William Chambergain, Clear Creek, Ontario, Canada, at the Norwich District Historical Society’s Show.

Jack C. Norbeck

Content Tools

Failed venture gave rise to new company

Back in the early 1830s Philip C. Van Brocklin, who had learned the trade of a moulder in the New England states, moved to Canada to work in the iron foundry at Normandale, Ontario.

There he met with another New Englander by the name of Leonard and the two decided to pool their small resources and start a foundry at St. Thomas. The venture was not a success so the partners separated to try new fields.

Leonard went a few miles north to London while Van Brocklin moved on 50 miles east to the hamlet of Brantford, Ontario, where, in 1844, he built a small foundry, machine shop and began the manufacture of pioneer agricultural implements.

In 1849 Charles H. Waterous entered the firm and under his careful management the business began to grow, slowly but steadily. Steam power replaced the small tread horsepower, the buildings were enlarged and new lines of machinery were manufactured.

By 1860 the company was known as C.H. Waterous & Company and in 1874 was incorporated as The Waterous Engine Works Co., Limited.

Introduction of D. June’s Champion engine

In 1877, David June developed and patented the Champion engine and, being connected with the family, gave the patent rights for Canada to the Waterous Company. Nine engines were built in the first year; 85 in 1879; 210 in 1880 and so on until over 1,800 upright Champions were sold.

By 1886 Waterous was well known for its horse-drawn steam fire engines. In 1898 Waterous revolutionized fire fighting by introducing the first gasoline powered pumper. By 1906 the first gasoline powered self-propelled pumper was introduced.

Steam traction engines in Canada

The Waterous firm pioneered in the steam traction engine field in Canada, coming out with its first steam traction engine in 1881.

In 1896 the Waterous Co. began building steam traction engines in the 18 HP size with 8-3/4-by-10-inch cylinder, using the same gearing and controls as the Buffalo-Pitts steam traction engines made in the USA.

When the gasoline tractor came on the market, the firm dropped steam but never entered the gasoline tractor field. The last new steam traction engine was built in 1911, but steam road rollers were built for some years after. No separators were built but many sawmills.

Drift away from engine manufacture

New York City purchased its first self-propelled fire engine from Waterous in 1909. During the era of emphasis on manufacturing effectiveness through specialization, Waterous built the last complete piece of fire apparatus in 1929 and has since concentrated on fire pumps, hydrants, valves and accessories.

The grandson of C.H. Waterous, Fred A. Waterous, joined the company in 1920 and directed its operations from 1955 until it was sold to American Hoist & Derrick in 1965. After being acquired by American Hoist & Derrick, a new plant 140,000 square feet in size was erected on land in south St. Paul in 1973.

Today Waterous is part of the American Cast Iron Pipe Company, Birmingham, Alabama.

Charles H. Waterous was born in Burlington, Vermont, in 1814. He moved to Brantford in 1848. The Lord called him in February 1892 at the age of 77. IMA

This article was adapted from Encyclopedia of American Steam Traction Engines and information from the Waterous Company.