Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

Registered UK Charity (No. 115342)

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,165 pages of information and 245,632 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Robey and Co

From Graces Guide
Engine dug up in New Zealand in 2021.


1860. Self-Propelled Portable Engine.
1869. Traction Engine at the Manchester Show.
1869.Wheel Making Machinery Constructed by Charles Powis and Co
1869.Wheel Making Machinery Constructed by Charles Powis and Co
1870. Plate-Flanging Press at the Perseverance Iron Works, Lincoln.
1872. Winding Engine.
January 1872.
January 1872.
June 1872.
1874. Semi fixed engine at the Smithfield Club Show.
1886. High speed electric light engine.
1886. 40 hp semi fixed engine.
1886. Horizontal engine with Proell's cut-off gear.
June 1888. Steam engine and threshing machine.




1892. Erecting Shop.
1894. Underground hauling engines.
1894. 10 hp portable oil engine.


June 1898.
August 1899.
1899. High-speed compound engine.
1899. High-speed compound vertical engine.
1900. Compound electric light engine shown at the 1900 Paris Exhibition.
September 1902.


1902. Robey-Saurer Oil Engine.
1904.Compound winding engine.
1904. Compound winding engine.




1909. Combined steam engine and alternator.
1909. Winding engines at Newbiggin Colliery.
Steam engine plate removed before engine was scrapped.
1914. Steam wagon.
January 1920.
1921. 500 hp combined engine and boiler.
1921. 550 hp combined engine and boiler.
1922.Six Wheeled Steam Wagon.
1922. Robey winding engine, ex-Linby Colliery. Now on display at Papplewick Pumping Station
February 1922.
1925. 42888 Robey Steam Lorry at Training Centre, Ratmalana Works.
1925 Tandem roller, built for Devon County Council. Restored by the Robey Trust Engines Museum. New boiler made in 1988, the last to be constructed by Robey
1928. 43757 Robey Steam Lorry in workable order at Training Centre, Ratmalana Works, Colombo. (Originally for the British Ceylon Corporation).
1928. 43757 Robey Steam Lorry in workable order at Training Centre, Ratmalana Works, Colombo. (Originally for the British Ceylon Corporation).
1929. Sisal decorticator and its feeding conveyor.
February 1931. Boilers.
1942. No 49484. Large Robey portable engine at Great Dorset Steam Fair, 2011
c1945. Tandem footpath roller. Exhibit at the Museum of Lincolnshire Life.

of Canwick Road, Lincoln.

Robey and Co were producers of Traction Engines, stationary steam engines of all sizes, oil engines, gas engines, and boilers.


1854 The company was formed by Robert Robey at Perseverance Works (later of the Globe Works).

1855 Patent. '2166. To Robert Robey and George Lamb Scott, both of the city of Lincoln, Engineers, for the invention of "improvements in locomotive and other boilers." [1]

1855 The partnership of Watkinson and Robey was dissolved and was continued by Robert Robey and George Lamb Scott.

1856 September. '...the Partnership heretofore subsisting between us the undersigned, Robert Robey, George Lamb Scott, and Thomas Gamble, all of the city of Lincoln, and carrying-on business there us Engineers, under the style or firm of Robey and Scott was dissolved' [2] and continued as Gamble and Robey

1859 Showed an impressive threshing machine at the Manchester and Liverpool Agricultural Show [3]

1861 Employing 114 men and boys [4]

1861 The first traction engine built.

1862 May. At the Bath and West Society Show, they are shown as Taplin, Robey and Co with a traction engine. [5]

1862 Exhibited at the 1862 London Exhibition with a model with duplex cylinders and producing 10 bhp.

1862 Patent. '2166. Robert Robey and George Lamb Scott, both of the city of Lincoln, Engineers, for an invention of "improvements in locomotive and other boilers," [6].

1869 Patent. '3483. To Robert Robey and John Richardson, of Lincoln, in the county of Lincoln, Engineers, for the invention of "improvements in steam engine governors and apparatus connected therewith." [7]

1871 Employing 503 men and boys [8]

1875 Septimus Lowe, Frederick Andrew and Frederick Clench were appointed as liquidators of Robey and Company's Perseverance Iron Works Limited which would be reconstituted as a private firm with borrowing powers and the assets sold to the partnership of Robey and Co.[9]

1876 Exhibitor at the Royal Agricultural Show at Birmingham with a traction engine and a thrashing engine. [10]

1876 Details of an air compressor. [11]

1875 Septimus Lowe, Frederick Andrew and Frederick Clench were appointed as liquidators of Robey and Company's Perseverance Iron Works Limited which would be reconstituted as a private firm with borrowing powers and the assets sold to the partnership of Robey and Co.[12]

1876-84 Produced six steam railway locomotives.

1877 Exhibitor at the 1877 Royal Agricultural Show at Liverpool.[13].

1880s Started building i/c engines under the Richardson and Norris patents [14]

By 1885 of Globe iron Works, Lincoln

1888 Compound Horizontal engine for Glasgow Exhibition. [15]

1889 High-speed vertical engine combined with a dynamo by J. H. Holmes and Co.

1893 Public company. The company was registered on 22 December, to take over the business of engineers of the firm of the same name. [16]

1894 Compound Underground Hauling Engine. Article and Illustration in 'The Engineer'. [17]

1894 Charles Merz left Newcastle to become a pupil at the Robey engineering works in Lincoln but soon after moved to London[18]

1894 Nine Hundred HP Compound Engine. Article and illustration in 'The Engineer'. [19]

1894 Smithfield Club Show. Showed an improved starting lamp and fan for their engine. [20]

1894 100-hp Power Gas Engine. Article and illustration in 'The Engineer'. [21]

1895 Engine type 4P. Exhibit at Anson Engine Museum.

1899 Advert. High-speed compound vertical engine and dynamo. Horizontal and portable engines. [22]

1900 June. Royal Agricultural Show at York. Showed fixed steam engines. [23]

1900 Paris Exhibition. Compound Electric Light Engine. Article and illustration in The Engineer. [24]

1900 Offering oil engines in stationary and portable forms

1910 Produced steam road rollers.

1910 Steam engine generator set. (Exhibit at Birmingham Thinktank museum).

1912 Introduced a vertical two-stroke engine

1913-1917 For a list of the models and prices of Steam Motor Wagons, Tractors and Ploughs etc. see the 1917 Red Book

1913 Advert for drop valve winding engines, air compressors, drop valve horizontal engines, crude oil engines, semi-portable engines and locomotive engines. [25]

1914 Specialities: High-class Engines for driving purposes up to 3,000 horse-power, Mining Machinery, Air Compressors and Engines of all types including Tractions and Portables of all sizes. [26]

WWI Maker of aeroplanes.

1917 Advert for Air Compressors, Drop Valve engines, Uniflow Engines, Steam and Electric winding Engines, Boilers etc. [27]

1919 Advert for Air Compressors, Drop Valve engines, Uniflow Engines, Steam and Electric winding Engines, Boilers etc. [28]

1920 Issued List 263 detailing medium-stroke engines in vertical and horizontal types. [29]

1920 Showed a 5-ton steam wagon with rubber tyres; a uniform horizontal engine and other products at the Darlington Agricultural Show. Showed it again at the Commercial Motor Exhibition in October. [30]

1926 Supplied horizontal twin-cylinder, cornish and drop valve winding engine for South Celynen Colliery.

1927 See Aberconway for information on the company and its history

1955 Still producing steam engines at the Globe Works. In production are the Uniflow, Long Stroke Horizontals with either Drop, Positive, Piston, Corliss or Slide valves; High Speed Vertical; Portable and Semi-Portable including Superheated.

1956 Ransomes, Sims and Jefferies sold the steam engine part of their business to Robey and Co.

1961 Manufacturers of road and quarry plant, mining machinery, winding engines, air compressors, prime movers and boilers. [31]

1985 Babcock International Group acquired Robey of Lincoln to enhance the boiler product range[32]

1987 FKI Electricals acquired Babcock International[33].

1988 The company ceased trading

By 1989 FKI had shut down a quarter of Babcock's manufacturing plant.

1989 Babcock was spun out of FKI (except for Babcock Robey)

1994 The Wellman Group acquired the Babcock Robey boiler operations amongst a clutch of other businesses from FKI[34].

Engines. Exhibits at Anson Engine Museum.

Drop-valve engine in the London Science Museum.

Road Locomotive

Extract from Steam Locomotion on Common Roads by William Fletcher. Published 1891.

Soon after the introduction of Thompson's rubber tyres, the orders for road steamers, both for heavy haulage purposes in Great Britain, and fast speed travelling in foreign countries, came to hand so rapidly that Messrs. Tennant and Co., were unable to meet the demand. Messrs. Robey and Co., of Lincoln, were one of three well-known firms who took up the manufacture of these engines for Mr. Thompson.

In 1870 the Lincoln firm made a large road steamer, called the 'Advance,' for Woolwich Arsenal, fitted with rubber tyres and " pot " boiler.

Fig. 70 shows the engine clearly, while Fig. 71 gives a sectional elevation of the road steamer to a large scale. The engine was of the vertical type, having two cylinders, each 7.75 in. diameter and 10 in. stroke; the crankshaft was 3 in. diameter, the countershaft was driven by spur gearing from the crankshaft as shown.

This gearing was keyed fast to both shafts, so the countershaft was always running when the engine was in motion, the pump being driven from this shaft. For obtaining two travlling speeds, both the crankshaft and the countershaft were fitted with spur pinions sliding on fixed keys, either of which could be made to gear with a spur ring on the road wheel. As this arrangement of gearing was adopted on all Thompson's engines, we give diagrams to illustrate it. See Figs. 72 and 73. It will be obvious that if the pinions on the crankshaft are in gear with the travelling wheels, the engine will travel at a fast speed, and when the countershaft drives, the slow speed is obtained. For turning sharp corners, one of the pinions could be readily thrown out of gear. The driving wheels were 6 ft. diameter, and the leading wheel 4 ft diameter; the rubber tyres were 5 in. thick.

An interesting test was carried out with this engine in December, 1870, as follows: — "The first experiment was to show the adaptability of the road steamer for passenger traffic, and for this purpose a break and an omnibus were attached at Messrs. Robey's works in Canwick Road, and, with a load of 45 passengers, proceeded at a smart pace — not less than six miles an hour — along the level and slighter inclines making two sharp curves, and running over a very awkward short and steep hummock, formed by the iron bridge over the Witham, in the route to the Lindum Hill, the steepest gradient on which — i in 9 — it did at a speed of between four and five miles. The 'Advance' then turned on the hill-top with its train in a circle, the inner diameter of which was about 18 feet. The run down the hill, which is a full half- mile, was made at times at a great speed, the crowd of sight-seers all running to keep up with it. At other times the engine was checked and brought almost to a stand upon gradients of every degree of severity up to the extreme one.

After the return to the works the carriages were unhooked, and a train of two four-wheeled trucks, weighing three tons each, and carrying loads of two tons of deals, in all ten tons attached. With this the 'Advance' proceeded along the macadamised turnpike road, up the Canwick Hill, the heaviest gradient of which is one in eight. The purpose of this experiment was to show the capacity of the Steamer for drawing heavy loads on ordinary roads, and the test was a severe one, in consequence of the surface coating of slippery mud. The hill nearly three quarters of a mile on the rise, was handsomely got up at the rate of two and a half miles, the engine with its train — in all 46 ft. in length — turning within circles of the following dimensions: Exterior diameter of engine track 24 ft. 6 in., and exterior diameter of truck tracks 30 ft. The journey down hill was again literally at the run, the trucks having each a slipper on one wheel; the speed kept up in the descent was quite six miles, the control and steering being perfectly kept in hand by Mr. Stanger, the instructor of engine-driving at Woolwich and Aldershot, who took charge personally throughout the day, and handled the engine in a masterly manner.

The 'Advance' started with this load at 1.45 p.m., and was stopped at the works on the return at 2.15 p.m., the journey including two stoppages, one to put on and one to adjust the slipper skids, occupying exactly half an hour. Part of the distance was over newly-metalled road, of which, however, the wheels made not the least disturbance — it being one of the characteristic features of these engines that they do no damage whatever to the roadways, and, indeed, they do not injure grass lands, as was convincingly shown in the runs which were next made in the large meadows expressively known locally as the 'Cow Paddle,' but otherwise the South Common. This land, lying low, was exceedingly spongy, and the 'Advance' in places sunk at times from three to four inches in some of the soft places. The purpose, indeed, of the third experiment was to show the capacity of the Road Steamer for going over soft land, and the 'Cow Paddle' was an undoubted test of this qualification. A measured mile was stumped out, and the engine run round the course, doing the whole distance in seven minutes, notwithstanding one-third was over ground so soft and wet that the engine worked over that portion with an average sinking of at least two inches. Several very short turns were made by the 'Advance' upon this grass land at sharp speed, in one case the inner diameter of the wheel tracks being only seven feet, measured across the second or innermost spiral.

In making another circle the 'Advance' passed over a hollow ten inches deep in seven feet of length, one wheel sinking into the soil five inches below this; and yet there was no arrest, not even instantaneous, in the progress of the engine. A speed of nine miles an hour upon such ground as this is a wonderful accomplishment, and the steadiness with which the 'Advance worked upon ground of the most uneven nature shows clearly the great value of these machines for the roughest locomotive work. The indiarubber tyres are guarded by an outside band of steel plates, 18 in. broad and 5 in. deep, with intervals of l.5 in. between them. At almost all times there were four of these plates bearing firmly on the ground through the elasticity of the rubber, so that the surface adhering to the roadway was generally 24.5 in. by 18 in., or about 2.75 square feet superficial. The traction power, in comparison with that of ordinary rigid wheels, is thus clear at a glance."

In July, 1871, another road steamer was made to draw two large omnibuses, filled with passengers, from Lincoln to Grantham, and the trip was in every way satisfactory. This engine and the omnibuses were made for Greece, and after their arrival at their destination, in 1872, they were again put to the test; the conveyances were loaded with seventy passengers, the engine hauling this load up an incline of one in seventeen at the rate of three miles an hour, and on the level road at eight miles an hour.

Mr. Thompson's 'pot' boiler as made by Messrs. Robey and Co. for their road steamers is shewn in section by Fig. 74. "The boiler consists of a vertical steel shell, 0.375 inch thick, 2 ft 9.5 in. diameter and 7 ft. 9.5 in. high. Within this is placed a fire-box 2 ft. 3in. diameter. Within the fire-box is suspended the copper 'pot,' 2 ft. inside diameter, connected with the fire-box in the following manner: The 'pot' has a straight neck, as shewn, 4 in. long and 9.5 in. diameter. The fire-box has a very similar neck into which the 'pot' fits easily. This neck is lightly bored out. On the neck of the 'pot' is secured a brass ring, outside which goes a second brass ring. The 'pot' is put into place from the inside, and the second ring is then secured to it by a number of half- inch bolts. The lower edge of the second ring and the upper edge of the fire-box ring are turned, and a ring of indiarubber is interposed between the two, and kept in place by making the surfaces slightly conical. The upper portion of the boiler is traversed by tubes 3 ft. 4 in. long and 2J.25 in. in diameter.

We may here mention that Messrs. Robey and Co. were successful makers of road locomotives many years before Mr. Thompson's engines were built by them, but these early engines were chiefly designed for agricultural purposes, this being still an important branch of their large business.

Farm Machinery

Engines - Large

Engines - Small

List of Models

Built Reg No. Works No. Name
No 10364 10364
1908. AO 9832
1910. AD 9899 29333 Waly
1911?. 31055 31055
1912. 31964 31964
1913. DE 2592 32387
1918. No 37598 37958 Jill
c1920. No 40575 40575
1923. FE 5377 40991 Shamrock
1924. MF 3946 41493 Our Nipper
1924. No 41802 41802
1924. RL 75 42129 Bullet
1924. No 42522 42522
1925. MY 318 42657
1926. FE 5464 42522
1925. FE 7490 42693
1930. VL 2773 45655 Herts Wanderer

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. [1] Gazette Issue 21798 published on the 12 October 1855
  2. [2] Gazette Issue 21926 published on the 26 September 1856
  3. Liverpool Mercury etc, Friday, September 9, 1859
  4. 1861 Census
  5. Trewman's Exeter Flying Post or Plymouth and Cornish Advertiser, Wednesday, May 28, 1862
  6. [3] Gazette Issue 22668 published on the 3 October 1862
  7. [4] Gazette Issue 23564 published on the 10 December 1869
  8. 1871 Census
  9. London Gazette 23 March 1875
  10. The Engineer of 25th August 1876 p129
  11. The Engineer of 21st July 1876 p40
  12. London Gazette 23 March 1875
  13. The Engineer 1877/07/13
  14. A-Z of British Stationary Engines by Patrick Knight. Published 1996. ISBN 1 873098 37 5
  15. The Engineer of 4th May 1888 p361 & p364
  16. The Stock Exchange Year Book 1908
  17. The Engineer of 2nd March 1894 p177
  18. Biography of Charles Merz, ODNB [5]
  19. The Engineer of 7th December 1894 p488
  20. The Engineer of 14th December 1894 p524
  21. The Engineer of 14th December 1894 p546
  22. Mechanical World Year Book 1899. Published by Emmott and Co of Manchester. Advert p283
  23. The Engineer of 22nd June 1900 p650
  24. The Engineer of 21st September 1900 p296
  25. Mechanical World Year Book 1913. Published by Emmott and Co of Manchester. Advert p31
  26. 1914 Whitakers Red Book
  27. Mechanical World Year Book 1917. Published by Emmott and Co of Manchester. Advert p151
  28. Mechanical World Year Book 1919. Published by Emmott and Co of Manchester. Advert p271
  29. The Engineer of 27th Feb 1920 p208
  30. The Engineer of 9th July 1920
  31. 1961 Dun and Bradstreet KBE
  32. The Times, Jul 16, 1985
  33. Funding Universe [6]
  34. The Times, July 19, 1994
  • Traction Engine Album by Malcolm Ranieri. Pub 2005
  • Aeroplanes of the Royal Flying Corps (Military Wing) by J. M. Bruce. Published 1982 ISBN 0-370-30084-x
  • British Steam Locomotive Builders by James W. Lowe. Published in 1975. ISBN 0-905100-816
  • Steam Engine Builders of Lincolnshire by Ronald H. Clark. Published 1955 by Goose and Son
  • The Steam Engine in Industry by George Watkins in two volumes. Moorland Publishing. 1978/9. ISBN 0-903485-65-6
  • The Engineer of 16th November 1900 p487
  • The Engineer of 22nd October 1920 p400