Waterloo Boy Tractor Made its Mark in the UK – Under an Alias

“Overtime” tractors – disguised Waterloo Boy tractors – imported from the U.S. were reliable, inexpensive and easy to handle.

| April 2018

One of the first tractor companies in this country – with the unwieldy name of The Waterloo Gasoline Traction Engine Co. – was started in 1893 in Waterloo, Iowa, to make John Froelich’s tractor.

Based on its 52-day threshing run in the fall of 1892, the Froelich machine is credited with being the first successful gasoline-powered traction engine.

Froelich’s first tractor may have been satisfactory, but his subsequent efforts were less so. According to one source, four tractors were built that first year and only two of those were sold, both to be returned as no good. John Froelich kept tinkering, but the other principals in the company prioritized the manufacture of Waterloo Boy stationary gas engines since they sold well. A tractor guy, Froelich left the firm, which subsequently changed its name to Waterloo Gas Engine Co. and became quite successful with its line of stationary gas engines for farm use.

Eventually, in 1911, Waterloo Gasoline Engine Co. did build a tractor, a 9,000-pound, 25 hp machine with a 4-cylinder, cross-mounted engine and an exhaust-induced draft-cooling system similar to that used in many of its contemporaries. This model was available with standard rear drive wheels or with crawler tracks, in which case it was called the Waterloo Boy “Sure Grip, Never Slip” tractor.

Third time’s a charm

A lightweight (3,000 pounds) Model L (soon renamed the Model LA) was produced with a 15 hp, 2-cylinder, horizontally opposed engine. The opposed engine didn’t work out, but the lightweight, 2-cylinder design seemed ideal, so by 1914 Louis B. Witry had designed a horizontal, 2-cylinder engine with side-by-side cylinders.

The new machine was designated the Waterloo Boy Model R and rated at 12 drawbar and 24 belt hp. It had a single speed forward and the same in reverse, and did away with the exhaust-induced cooling by substituting an automotive-type tubular radiator and fan.