The Crossley Brothers, Pioneers of Power

Josephine Robert’s nephew comes across across a Crossley engine made by Crossley Bros. that was well cared for but hadn’t been run in 15 years.

| March 2019

 old-engine-welsh-meadow
The timeless scene of an old engine in a Welsh meadow. Except that, of course, back in the day, the engine would have been securely fixed to the concrete floor of a barn or engine room, and not sitting in the great outdoors atop a trailer. However, this engine travels to events (and powers Damian’s and his partner Rosie’s camper van at shows), so it has to be mobile.

Crossley Bros. was launched in 1867 by brothers Francis and William J. Crossley. Both brothers had served separate engineering apprentices, and were looking to build their own businesses. With the help of his uncle, Francis bought an engineering business in Manchester city center, and William soon joined him.

The Crossleys manufactured pumps, presses and small steam engines. Said to be devoted Christians totally opposed to the consumption of alcohol, the Crossleys refused to sell equipment to breweries, as they did not approve of their machinery being used for the production of alcohol. In 1869, the brothers obtained the rights to the patents to a gas-powered atmospheric internal combustion engine designed by German engineers and inventors Nikolaus August Otto and Carl Eugen Langen. These engineering icons were responsible for the development of the modern internal combustion engine, so acquiring the rights to these designs was an extremely smart move by Crossley.

Crossley-parts-fine-tuned
Everything looks and feels well made on the Crossley, and now that it’s been fine tuned, it is running smoothly and economically.



Atmospheric engines weren’t around for long, and 4-stroke was to be the next step. In 1876, Crossley’s rights were extended to the famous Otto 4-stroke engine, and business boomed. The company moved to larger premises, became a limited company, and made several significant technical improvements, such as the poppet valve, the hot tube ignitor and the carburetor. Their “heavy fuel” oil engine, which would secure the future of the company, came out in 1891.

Progressive company built noteworthy engines

Never a company to miss an opportunity, Crossley also acquired the rights to the diesel system in 1891 and produced its first diesel engine in 1898. It’s no exaggeration to say that the Crossley company was a pioneer in engine history. The quality of their engines and their forward-thinking methodology put them center stage as far as engines were concerned. The company’s assembly line-style production methods contributed to its manufacturing success. It is said that Henry Ford took great interest in Crossley’s methods when he visited the factory at the turn of the last century.



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