The Short-Lived Townsend Tractor Company

The rare Townsend tractor featured a unique boiler frame, giving it the appearance of a steam engine.

| September 2013

  • Townsend 30 60 Tractor
    A Townsend 30-60 Oil Tractor at Rollag, Minnesota, in 2006. The 2-cylinder, horizontal engine can be seen on top of the large steam boiler-like round radiator. 
    Photo By Sam Moore
  • 1931 La Cross 12 25
    The 1931 La Cross 12-25, identical to the Townsend 12-25 inherited by La Cross Boiler Co. when that company bought the Townsend firm. 
    Illustration Courtesy Sam Moore
  • Gas Traction Engine Drawing
    Patent drawing of Roy Townsend’s unusual “Gas Traction Engine,” issued in February 1916. 
    Illustration Courtesy Sam Moore
  • Townsend 30-60 Oil Tractor
    Front view of a Townsend 30-60 Oil Tractor. 
    Photo By Sam Moore

  • Townsend 30 60 Tractor
  • 1931 La Cross 12 25
  • Gas Traction Engine Drawing
  • Townsend 30-60 Oil Tractor

A long time ago, my late cousin, Peg Townsend, asked if I’d ever heard of a Townsend tractor. Of course I had, and I’ve even seen one or two at antique tractor shows, but they are pretty rare. I decided to do some research on the company. While there isn’t much information out there, this is what I found.

Roy C. Townsend was born Oct. 9, 1884, in Magnolia Township, Rock County, Wis., about 15 miles west of Janesville, Wis. His father, Arba F. Townsend, was a farmer. Young Roy worked on the farm, attended the local public schools and apparently had some mechanical ability as he reportedly scratch-built a 1-inch working scale model of a Case steam engine as a teenager.

In 1905, Townsend went to work for Fairbanks, Morse & Co. in Beloit, Wisconsin, as an apprentice machinist. While learning the machine trade, he also took correspondence courses and eventually worked as a draftsman and an engineer for the firm.

Roy C. Townsend was born Oct. 9, 1884, in Magnolia Township, Rock County, Wis., about 15 miles west of Janesville, Wis. His father, Arba F. Townsend, was a farmer. Young Roy worked on the farm, attended the local public schools and apparently had some mechanical ability as he reportedly scratch-built a 1-inch working scale model of a Case steam engine as a teenager.



In 1905, Townsend went to work for Fairbanks, Morse & Co. in Beloit, Wisconsin, as an apprentice machinist. While learning the machine trade, he also took correspondence courses and eventually worked as a draftsman and an engineer for the firm.

Fairbanks-Morse had started out manufacturing scales but by 1910 was heavily involved in building gas and kerosene engines and had begun experimenting with a tractor. Townsend became involved in FM’s tractor program and was made head of tractor engineering.

RandyPa
4/8/2014 2:13:17 PM

Robert B. was a brother to Roy C. , according to the 1900 census of Rock County, Wis. Five years younger.