The Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company was the first company to manufacture and sell gasoline tractors. The company was formed in 1893 by John Froelich and a group of Iowa businessmen. Froelich built the first successful gasoline tractor in 1892 using a VanDuzen engine mounted on a chassis built by the Robinson Company. This tractor completed a 52-day threshing run in the fall of 1892. As a result of this successful operation, Froelich decided to go into tractor manufacturing, forming the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company and building four tractors. However, only two were sold and both were returned as unsatisfactory. The company decided to abandon tractor manufacturing and instead concentration on making stationary engines.
In 1911, Waterloo moved back into the manufacturer of tractors after several years of research and experimentation. By 1914, the company had introduced the Model R. By the end of R production in 1918, 9,994 tractors had been built. The Model R was subject to considerable design change during its production. Some changes were minor such as the substitution of flat spokes in the rear wheels for round ones. However, some changes were major such as the introduction of a detachable cylinder head part way through production. The Model R was rated by the company as a 12-25 tractor.
In 1916, Waterloo introduced the Model N which also proved to be a good seller. The Model N stayed in production until 1923. Late Model Rs were quite similar to the Model N with the exception of the transmission. The N had a transmission with two speeds forward and one reverse. The R’s transmission had one speed forward and one reverse. The N started production with chain steering gear; however, part way through production, steering changed to worm gear. In total 23,034 Model Ns were built. Both the N and the R were rated as 12-25. However, in a Nebraska tractor test, the Model N was tested at 16 horsepower on the drawn and 26 horsepower on the belt. As the Model R was out of production by the time the Nebraska tractor tests were instituted, the R was never tested.
By 1915, John Deere recognized that without a tractor in its product line, it was in a weak position against IHC which offered a full line of farm equipment. The introduction of the Fordson Model F tractor in 1917 was a great success for Ford and posed further problems for John Deere, which was experimenting with tractors but had developed no promising designs. Deere liked the Waterloo Boy designs as they were simple, reliable and could be built at a price farmers found reasonable. In 1918, John Deere put in an offer of $2,350,000 for the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company and it was accepted. Waterloo Boy tractors continued to be sold under the Waterloo Boy name until 1923. Production ended to allow the Model D to enter production. John Deere discovered after its purchase of Waterloo that the company had been experimenting with a new tractor design that used the basic engine design used by the Waterloo boy tractors combined with a cast iron “bathtub” enclosing the transmission with the final drive. John Deere continued development of this design which resulted in the Model D design. Production of the Model N ended in 1923 to allow the Model D to enter production.
The Manitoba Agricultural Museum’s collection holds two Waterloo Boy Model N tractors. One Model N is a 1917 model with chain steering which was donated by the Mayhew Brothers of Treherne, Manitoba. The other N is a later production model with worn gear steering. It was donated by the estate of August Eliason of the Gimli area.
See also: Waterloo Boy Model N
Page revised: 8 December 2022