The Champion Engine

In the mid 1880’s, David June of Ohio designed what turned out to be one  of the most popular of the early threshing engines, the Champion steam engine. With a vertical boiler mounted between the two rear wheels, it was of a very simple design, although somewhat cumbersome in appearance. The centre crank engine was mounted on a vee shaped casting that extended horizontally in front of the boiler and was suspended at the crank end on the front axle swivel. The engine used a simple rotary steam valve, and the vertical boiler was renowned for much faster steaming from cold than a conventional horizontal boiler.

A prominent feature of the Waterous Champion steam engine was its spark arrester.

Section through spark arrester

This was a must for these engines, working all day driving threshers among piles of dusty straw, or driving sawmills in the sawdust laden atmosphere. It was an option installed on a very high percentage of the production. Patented by David June, he assigned the Canadian rights to the spark arrester to his nephew, Charles Waterous Jr., who collected $25 per engine built at his father’s company in Brantford, the Waterous Engine Works.

Waterous began building these engines under license, making 9 units in 1877, rising to 210 units a year by 1880. Over 2,500 of these engines were made at the Brantford factory. Many of the later engines were built as self-propelled traction engines, using a chain drive to the rear wheels.

They were sold all over Canada and their popularity

Self propelled Champion engine

generated numerous stories and anecdotes. One customer stated that he had bought the first one built by Waterous and had done 73 days threshing that year without a breakdown on account of the engine. He also claimed that he could do 30 to 50 minutes of work before other engines with horizontal boilers could get steam up!

A mailing in 1911 from the Winnipeg Telegram showed the Champion engine driving a saw in the yard of the Winnipeg penitentiary with the caption “Number 733 was sentenced on May 25, 1883 to life term by Frank J Waterous”. (Frank was manager of the Winnipeg branch of Waterous.)

Another 1903 letter stated that the customer had bought his engine in 1880 for $1,200 and over 23 years of hard work had spent only $128 in repairs in that time!

The Champion engine demonstrated the company’s excellent workmanship, and during its lifetime, established itself as a legendary machine on the Canadian farm and in the lumber business.

(See my book Iron Steam and Wood for a history of this company