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Thomas Worswick: Brown Engine Specialist

Guelph has several companies that have vanished in mind as well as time. Among the forgotten ones is a firm that produced fine engines, including the Brown Steam Engine. Although originally a partnership , it soon became the sole property of one man, Thomas Worswick – one of Guelph’s most prominent engineers.

Thomas Worswick first worked with Raymond’s Sewing Machine factory in 1862. He had learned his skills in the United States where he went at age 19. He was around 31 when he left to establish his own business with Edwin H. Arms under the name of Arms & Worswick. Initially located at Suffolk and Yarmouth, the company produced sewing machines but later the focus was one something dear to Worswick’s heart – steam engines and metal-working lathes. Fire destroyed the premises in 1872.

Worswick Engine Works

Worswick became sole proprietor by 1875. Although it was still often called Arms & Worswick, it soon became known as Worswick’s Engine Works or the Guelph Machine and Tool Company. The sewing machine company was sold to Charles Raymond. Worswick could now focus on what he felt passionate about – engines.

The factory was then located at the corner of Dublin and Norwich Streets. The foundry was of stone and rose 2 storeys. In the new premises Worswick improved his product, upped the power and increased the number of employees.

By 1875, the factory was operating on 30 horse-power of steam and employed 30 men. This was substantially more than the 6 horsepower the company had relied on in 1871. The number of employees had also increased from the original 20 workers hired in 1871.  Yet, still it was not enough space or horsepower to fulfill the orders coming in. In 1877, the company was refusing orders because Worswick personally did not feel he and his workers could deliver them on time. 

What was required to take the company to the next level was increased capitol. This came in the formation of a Joint Stock company formed that year. Ironically, the premises were then struck by fire. The factory was destroyed on February 25, 1878 and 30 men lost their employment temporarily. This led to a dispute with the insurance companies of the time.

However, instead of giving in, Worswick rebuilt. The factory grew in facilities although, the work force was always modest. Worswick continued to modernized, producing consistently high-quality products. In fact, Worswick and his company quickly established a solid reputation not only with local firms but across Canada for the undisputed quality of their engines.

Thomas Worswick held the licences to make several types of pattern engines including Brown, Porter and Armington & Sims engine.

The Brown Engines, in particular, were popular. Ads from the period remark on the capabilities of the factory as well as the products. It states the following characteristics for the Worswick ‘Brown’ Automatic Cut-off Engine:

“For durability, accessibility of parts and economy of fuel, this engine has no equal.” 

The ad went on to state the company made “Boiler of Steel or Iron, made to order. Shafting, Pulleys, and Hangers furnished on short notice. Repairs executed with dispatch.”

The company had many high-profile clients. The Toronto Globe ordered and installed one. In 1881, Worswick’s shipped one of 140 HP to Winnipeg. It was to “be placed in a large flouring mill.” A year later, the well-known distillery of Gooderham and Worts replaced their old engine with a “400 H.P. Brown Automatic-cutoff [steam] engine” from Worswick’s Machine and Tool Company. It was to remain in service well into World War I. 

Even after his death, his engines continued to function optimally. In 1905, the American Engineer and Railroad Journal listed the machinery at the Argus Locomotive and Car Shops in Montreal. Among them was an Engine Lathe. It has been made by Worswick’s.

Ads from the period remark on the capabilities of the factory as well as the products. the two below are from 1874 and 1876. 

About Thomas Worswick

Worswick was a strong personality. An engineer, inventor and entrepreneur, he established a sterling reputation in the business. Where he shone the most was as a mechanical engineer. In fact, he was the only Canadian member listed in the List of Members of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 1886-1887. His patents show where his interests lie. They include:

    • An Improved Switch for Railroads – 186
    • Improvements on Force Pumps – 1874

His “Improved Pump Mechanism” was published in Scientific America in October 17, 1874. It was discussed and explained thoroughly. It was no surprise to many engineers that he was appointed to be one of the experts to make the official test of the water system in Hamilton in January 1888.

Worswick also proved to be a mentor to several Guelph men. While many made their way into and through his factory, one of the most notable was William Boisfeuillet (- 1890) who went on to become manager of the Hamilton Electric Light Company and a respected electrician. He served as secretary for the Worswick Engine Company for many years.

Worswick did not spend his entire life in Guelph. He left after his company had been bought out by Polson Iron Works of Toronto and removed there. Worswick worked first for Polson’s to around 1893 before branching out on his own – freelancing as a mechanical engineer. It was a career he excelled at.

The Aftermath

Thomas Worswick died at age 52 on January 24, 1893 leaving behind his wife, two daughters and two sons. He and his Brown Engine are remembered only by a few. His contributions to Guelph and beyond are generally forgotten as is his work with the Brown Engine.

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