In May 1904 Walter MacDonald Bergius, aged 23,
founded The Bergius Car & Engine Company at 169 Finnieston Street,Glasgow.
The first car was on the road by Christmas that year, a good effort
for five 'workers', bearing in mind that the engine, transmission,
axles,wheel-hubs, radiator and bodywork were all made on the premises.
After fifteen cars had been built Walter's elder
brother William, in 1906, suggested putting a car engine into a 23ft
Rowing Gig which he obtained for £7. The 4 cylinder 3 1/2 bore
* 4 3/4" stroke engine developed 14hp @ 900rpm and 'KELVIN',
as she was named won practically every race it was entered for on
the Clyde Estuary. In the summer of 1906 three 4 cylinder engines
were installed in Scottish fishing boats and a 2 cylinder version
was installed in William Bergius's 28ft sailing yacht 'DODO II' which
he had designed and had built with James Litster, a joiner/carpenter
in Kirn in 1903. Also in 1906 a 'KELVIN' car was entered in the Scottish
Reliability Trials covering 800 miles, over 4 days, of some of the
worst hill climbs in Scotland such as the Devil's Elbow.
As only fifteen cars had been sold
in the first two years and the demand for marine engines was increasing
it was decided to concentrate on producing marine engines and a range
of standard motor launches. The range of engines was extended by making
them suitable to run on paraffin in addition to petrol. By 1908 a
heavier range 5 1/2" bore * 7" stroke was introduced with
1, 2 and 4 cylinders and the company name changed to 'The Bergius
Launch & Engine Co.Ltd '.
the company moved to larger premises at 254 Dobbie's Loan,Glasgow
and also brought out a heavy duty range 7 1/2" bore * 10"
stroke with both 2 & 4 cylinders and with the addition of a 3
1/2 " bore single cylinder in 1915, now had sixteen models covering
3 - 60hp. This range was known as KELVIN Poppet Valve Engines and
approximately 16,800 units were sold until the last of the range was
produced in 1968.
The next range of engines to be
designed by Walter Bergius, in 1921 & 2, were single sleeve-valve
models in three bore sizes:-
||3" bore * 4 1/2" stroke
||2 cyl - 7 1/2hp & 4cyl - 15hp
||4 1/4" bore * 6 3/8" stroke
||2 cyl - 15hp & 4 cyl - 30hp
||6" bore * 9" stroke
||2 cyl - 3Ohp & 4 cy l- 60hp
All three sizes were available
for running on petrol only or petrol-paraffin. The KELVIN Sleeve Valve
Engines were extremely silent running, as they had no reciprocating
valves or noisy tappets. However wear at the top end of the sleeves
where they overlapped the top-hat cylinder heads was more than a company
which prided itself in the longevity of it's products was prepared
to accept. The last sleeve valve engine was built in 1946 and by that
time approximately 3,750 had been sold. During the Second World War
a special order was received for three Model C2's, it was later learned
that they were, because of their quietness, used on the Commando raid
on the Lofoten Islands in North Norway.
To replace the sleeve valves, though
they were still supplied if asked for, the KELVIN-RICARDO range was
designed between 1927 and 1930. These were designated Models E, F
& G, size and power- wise they were the same as the sleeve valves
A ,B & C .Many of the components were common to both, such as
gearboxes, pistons, con- rods, flywheels, silencers etc. Sir Harry
Ricardo was, what we would call to-day 'a consulting engineer' and
specialized in combustion chamber design amongst many other internal
combustion engine facets, his ideas were and still are used by many
engine makers. By the time production of KELVIN-RICARDOs
ceased in 1971 approx; 6,700 had been sold.
In 1931 the first KELVIN-DIESEL
was sold it was a Model K2, 44hp two cylinder engine. The model K
range was 6" bore * 9" stroke 22hp per cylinder and was
made in 1, 2, 3, 4,& 6 cylinder models. In those days electric
starters which were only 12 volts were not man enough to turn such
heavy engines, so a special petrol-start system was employed. By 1933
a smaller range, Model J, was put into production. The J's were 4
1/4" bore * 6 3/8" stroke developing 11hp per cylinder and
produced in 2, 3 & 4 cylinder models, they were available as petrol-start
or plain hand-start with larger diameter flywheels. The last Model
K was built in 1974 after approximately 5,000 had been sold, the last
Model J was built in 1970 after approximately 2,650 sales.
The Model L's were freshwater cooled
Model Ks, made in 2, 3, 4 & 6 cylinders,they came out in 1945
and continued until 1966, by then just over 300 had been built.
In 1956 the first KELVIN engine
not designed by Walter Bergius, who died in 1949, was the Model P
KELVIN-DIESEL with either two or four cylinders developing 10 or 20hp.
This range was designed by Wm. Miller who joined the company from
Petters c1954. The Ps used the Model A & E gearbox first built
in 1921 for the Model A sleeve valve engines, a simple, practical
and well tried unit, otherwise the Model P bore little resemblance
to earlier KELVINS. During their twenty years in production 1,750
Engine output over the years 1910 to 1950 varied
|Poppet Valve engines only
|Poppet & Sleeve Valves
|Poppet, Sleeves & Ricardos
|the above plus J & K Diesels
|Poppet, Ricardos, J & K & L's
During the years covered by this
early history of the company it also manufactured steering and control
gears, marine service pumps, fuel-tanks, stern gear, propellers and
Up until the mid-1940s almost 1,500
standard KELVIN launches were sold. Designed by Walter Bergius but
the bare hulls built by various boat builders and then finished at
the Company's Boat shed on the Forth and Clyde Canal at Port Dundas,
Glasgow. The range varied in size from eighteen to over forty feet
in length, many of the more common models were
kept in stock and could be delivered within 2 or 3 days of receipt
of an order.
Due to the demand of death-duties
after Walter Bergius's death, in 1953 the Company ceased to be a family
firm when it was taken over by The Associated British Engineering
Company and after a number of name changes is now known as KELVIN
DIESELS plc and is based at Uddingston near Glasgow.