THE ROBERT BELL ENGINE AND THRESHER COMPANY


| January/February 1985



Steam traction engine

117 Ruch Street, Coplay, PA 18037

Robert Bell 25 HP steam traction engine built in 1923 by the Robert Bell Engine and Thresher Company, Sea-forth, Ontario, Canada and owned by Allan Byers, Alillin, Ontario.

Photo taken at the Ontario Steam & Antique Preservers Association Show at Milton, Ontario by Jack C. Norbeck, author of Encyclopedia of American Steam Traction Engines and included in the third revised edition, second printing.

In June 1864, Robert Bell was born near the village of Hensall, Ontario, Canada. Close by was a water powered pioneer sawmill which fostered the young boy's natural liking for machinery and enabled him, while still a young lad, to build a sawmill of his own on his father's farm. Later he moved into Hensall, and built a much larger sawmill, a machine shop where he did general repairs and manufactured sawmills and farm implements of his own design.

In the 1890's, steam power for threshing had proven its worth and presented a great manufacturing opportunity. Robert Bell was greatly interested and decided to try his luck in this new field. A locomotive type boiler was purchased in London, Onatario, and enlisting the aid of John Finlayson, an experienced carpenter, they designed and made patterns for a side crank engine to mount on the boiler. The first portable engine was completed in time for the 1899 threshing season and proved a decided success.

A suitable plant, complete with a small foundry, was available in the nearby town of Sea forth so the move was made. The fast expanding business became established in its new location as the Robert Bell Engine and Thresher Company, Sea forth, Ontario.