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
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
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
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