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The first locomotive produced in Plymouth, Ohio, was in 1912, by the J. D. Fate Company, and was modified from a motor truck chassis made by the Plymouth Motor Truck Company, which was owned by Harley Fate, vice president of the J. D. Fate company. The main business of the J. D. Fate company was clay extrusion machines to make bricks, using clay from local clay pits. Harley Fate, whose father, John D. Fate (John A. Root's father-in-law), was asked to build a machine to replace a mule at a local clay pit. Later locomotives built by the J. D. Fate company in 1914 and 1915 used the Plymouth name, using the name of its home town, much like the Lima works of Lima, Ohio. The "Plymouth Locomotive Works" name was used as early as October 1927.
Throughout the years of production, customers could order a locomotive of almost any size, from 2 tons, to the largest in later years of 120 tons. The type of engines varied from gasoline, to diesel, to propane and butane, and the type of transmission varied from plain friction disc drive, to mechanical geared drive, to electrical generator and traction motors. The very earliest locomotives were chain drive, connected to friction discs. One of the most popular was the CR-8 model, first offered in 1963, offered in weights from 45 to 65 tons, and ranging from 400 to 1,000 horsepower. The heaviest type ever-offered was the CR-8XT model, which could be ordered up to 120 tons. Five of these 120-ton models were built in 1975, 1976 and 1982.
Root-Heath Manufacturing Company had been incorporated in 1913 by its owners, John A. Root (born May 1878; died December 1964) and his brother-in-law, Charles E. Heath (born June 1871; died May 1937). The new company was a merger of the Root Brothers Company, and the Heath Foundry and Manufacturing Company, both of Plymouth, Ohio. The company's main business was machines to make and repair shoes, and machines to sharpen and grind hand-driven lawn mowers, which were very popular at the time. The Root-Heath Company had its beginnings in 1890 in Medina, Ohio, as the Root Brothers Company, founded by Clayton F. Root (born in 1853; died in 1931) and his brother George F. (or George A.) Root. The company moved to Plymouth, Ohio, in 1895 after a large building was offered by the village as the company's new home. After George left the company, he was succeeded in 1910 by Charles E. Heath. Clayton Root had three sons: John A., Percy H. and Halsey Root. The eldest, John A. Root, took over management of the Root Brothers company in 1908 after Clayton F. Root sold his interests.
As early as 1901, the J. D. Fate Company, along with the Root Brothers, and Plymouth Stone company, were the cause of a business boom in the Village of Plymouth, Ohio. The J. D. Fate company was producing extrusion machines for making bricks and roof tiles. Fate incorporated the J. D. Fate Company on April 22, 1902. In addition to John D. Fate (born March 1849; died September 1902), his two sons, Harley H. Fate (born February 1874; died May 1916), and a Harry S. Fate (born February 1876; died April 1918) were part of the organization of the new company. John D. Fate himself passed away on September 29, 1902, at age 55, but his company continued producing its products, mostly clay extrusion machines. (In December 1903, Harley Fate, senior member of the J. D. Fate company, was married in the home of John Root. Harley Fate was also vice president of the Commercial Motor Truck Company, also of Plymouth.)
In April 1919, with the death of the youngest Fate brother a year previous, the J. D. Fate Company and the Root-Heath Manufacturing Company merged to form the Fate-Root-Heath Company.
In 1921, as their locomotive business continued to grow, the Fate-Root-Heath company moved into an adjacent, vacant former brass foundry to gain more manufacturing and warehousing space.
In 1963, the locomotive business was split off into a separate Locomotive Division, known as Plymouth Locomotive Works. The extrusion machines were split off as their own F-R-H Ceramics Division, and all other products fell under the Special Products Division.
The Root, Fate and and Heath families (and just the Root and Fate families after 1937 when Heath died) owned and controlled the Fate-Root-Heath Company until March 1966, following the death in 1964 of John A. Root, the last of the founders of the original Root-Heath company. The company was sold in March 1966 to a group of investors for a reported $1.75 million.
(The December 30, 1955 issue of the News-Journal newspaper of Mansfield, Ohio, carried an excellent history of the Fate-Root-Heath Company.)
"The Fate-Root-Heath Company remained family owned and operated until March of 1966. It was then sold to Harold Schott, and in 1969 it became a wholly owned division of Banner Industries, Inc. of Cleveland, Ohio and renamed the Plymouth Locomotive Works. In 1987, employees of the Plymouth Locomotive Works, Banner International Inc. and Plymouth Supply Company purchased the operation from Banner, and a new employee owned company was born, and the name changed to Locomotive International, Inc. On December 9, 1996 after 9 years of employee ownership, the shareholders voted to sell their interest in the company to American Hoist and Derrick of Bucyrus, Ohio. The name was changed to Plymouth Industries, Inc. and the firm continues to manufacture industrial locomotives, lift trucks and ceramic extrusion machinery." (Silver Kings of Yesteryear, SKY Club)
Plymouth Locomotive Production
The first formal Plymouth locomotive, given serial number 1, was completed in March 1914, built by the J. D. Fate Company, of Plymouth, Ohio. It was a small 3-ton, 36-inch gauge, gas-friction drive. It was built for National Fireproofing Company, of Haydenville, Ohio.
The first production locomotive completed by the Fate-Root-Heath Company, was serial 584, completed on May 6, 1919.
The last Plymouth locomotive was serial number 7578, built May 1999, a 25-ton, 42-inch gauge, diesel-torque-converter locomotive, built for Doe Run Peru, San Isidro (Lima), Peru.
Robert Lehmuth wrote: According to final Plymouth records maintained by W. W. Williams Co and checked 1/20/2004, 7578 was the last locomotive built. Some data shows an additional locomotive built, but this cannot be confirmed. If built, it is presumed to be built from "left over" parts.
Plymouth serial 7579, built from parts in 2002, was a 30-inch gauge, diesel-hydraulic, 15-ton locomotive, built for INCO Alloys International, Huntington, West Virginia.
The CR-4 had a center cab design, and was introduced in 1960. It was available in weight ranges from 20 to 60 tons, in track gauges from 30 inches to 48-1/2 inches, and with 150 to 700 horsepower. Although only offered in the Plymouth catalog as narrow gauge locomotives, of the four domestic versions built, three were standard gauge, built in 1960, 1962 and 1965, and the fourth, built in 1960, was 42 inches gauge. The first CR-4 built, a standard gauge version for Jones & Laughlin Steel is today  preserved at the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, after a brief three-year stay at Mount Union Connecting Railroad in Pennsylvania.
The most unusual spotting feature of the CR-4 locomotive is the inward sloping nose at each end, a feature that only the CR models had. There were three CR Plymouth models planned. Two were actually produced. The CR-4 (four wheel) and the CR-8 (eight wheel). A CR-6 (six wheel) was planned but never built. The Plymouth CR-4 is a very rare locomotive. Plymouth Locomotive Works only built five CR-4s in 1960 to 1965. The entire CR line was discontinued when it became apparent the CR was no improvement over the MDT model. Of the five CR-4s built, one was for export, and four were for domestic customers. Although few of the full-sized CR-4 locomotives were built, thousands were sold as HO scale model locomotives, made by Mantua/Tyco.
1912 -- First Plymouth locomotive built, by J. D. Fate Company of Plymouth, Ohio.
1914 -- First production model Plymouth locomotive; serial no. 1.
1919 -- Fate-Root-Heath Company continues Plymouth locomotive production.
1928 -- First Plymouth locomotive with diesel engine, known as "Dieseler."
1933 -- First gasoline-electric Plymouth locomotive; first reference to Plymouth Locomotive Works.
1966 -- Fate-Root-Heath Company sold to Schott Holdings, a private group of investors.
1969 -- Fate-Root-Heath Company sold to Banner Industries Inc., a private group of investors.
1977 -- First reference to Plymouth Locomotive Works, Inc., as a division of Banner Industries.
1987 -- Fate-Root-Heath and Plymouth Locomotive Works, sold to employee-owned company called Plymouth Locomotive International, Inc.
1996 -- Plymouth Locomotive International sold to Ohio Locomotive Crane Company.
1999 -- Plymouth locomotive production ends; Plymouth factory closed.
April 23, 1902
The J. D. Fate company was incorporated, to make clay working machinery.
September 30, 1902
John D. Fate passed away, at age 53. he was survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter.
December 23, 1908
The Plymouth Motor Truck Company was placed into bankruptcy, sued by J. D. Fate Company to collect on a $5,500 loan. Harley Fate was president of both companies.
January 18, 1912
The Plymouth Motor Truck Company began building a line of gasoline locomotives that used a friction drive. The January 18, 1912 issue of Iron Age magazine included a photo of one of the earliest locomotives, if not the actual first, along with a drawing of the friction drive, which used a driven disc turning against a perpendicular wheel connected to the locomotive's axles by a chain drive to drive the locomotive.
The first locomotive built by the J. D. Fate company was for the Bigelow Clay Company, and was in response to a customer request, saying "Why don't you fellows make a locomotive to use in the place of that contrary mule we have working in our clay pit."
The firm at the time was building clay working machinery including cars to haul clay from the pits, so it was a case of doing what came naturally and build a locomotive to pull them. The first machine was a two-cylinder engine with 18 H.P. and the simplest form of friction type transmission. This transmission consisted of a large dish attached to the crankshaft of the engine and a fibre-faced wheel running against it. The wheel was connected by chains and sprockets to drive the axles and wheels. This locomotive weighed two tons and all speeds forward or reverse were obtained by shifting the fibre-faced wheel across the driving wheel.
June 9, 1913
Root-Heath Manufacturing Company, of Plymouth, Ohio, was created by the merger of the Heath Foundry and Manufacturing Company, of Plymouth, Ohio, and the Root Brothers Company, also of Plymouth, Ohio.
The first Plymouth production locomotive, serial number 1, was built in March 1914, for the National Fireproofing Company, of Haydenville, Ohio. It was built by the J. D. Fate Company, owned and operated by Harley H. Fate, son of John D. Fate, after the elder Fate's death in 1902.
This was the first "cataloged" locomotive, Model AL.
January 2, 1915
The Plymouth Motor Truck Company closed its doors and sold three property lots in Plymouth, Ohio, to the J. D. Fate Company, for $1.00.
The J. D. Fate company was producing an average of four or five locomotives each week.
May 27, 1916
Harley H. Fate, president of J. D. Fate Company, passed away at age 45. His brother Harry S. Fate became president of the company.
July 6, 1917
The J. D. Fate Company had built gasoline locomotives for use by large contractors all over the world, and was far behind on filling orders.
May 26, 1918
Harry S. Fate, president of J. D. Fate Company, passed away at age 43.
May 29, 1918
The Root-Heath Manufacturing Company increased its capitol stock from $10,000 to $200,000, to fund expansion due to continued growth.
June 15, 1918
The J. D. Fate Company was reorganized due to the death of Harry S. Fate, president and general manager of the company. Harry's older brother, Harley H. Fate had passed away in 1916, and their father, John D. Fate, had passed away in 1902. The new president and vice president for the J. D. Fate Company were John A. Root and Charles Heath.
July 18, 1918
The J. D. Fate Company increased its capitol stock from $60,000 to $300,000, to fund expansion due to continued growth.
May 6, 1919
Fate-Root-Heath Company was incorporated in Delaware, to acquire the property and business of the J. D. Fate Company and the Root-Heath Manufacturing Company. John A. Root was shown as the new company's president.
June 19, 1919
The following comes from a prospectus for the new Fate-Root-Heath Company:
The J. D. Fate Co. has been in continuous successful operation for 25 years. Its business consists of the manufacturing of brick and tile-making machinery. In 1914 a gasoline locomotive for construction work and intra-plant switching was developed and the present demand and future prospects of this line are excellent.
The Root-Heath Mfg. Co. was started 24 years ago making a line of hardware specialties, and a reputation and established trade with jobbers all over the United States has been developed and is being maintained.
The management will be in the hands of men who have built up and successfully handled the Root-Heath Mfg. Co.
February 21, 1923
The Fate-Root-Heath Company was very busy manufacturing its line of clay-working machinery, and building gasoline locomotives. On February 21, 1923, the company shipped five locomotives to various parts of the country, the most in one day.
March 5, 1928
Fate-Root-Heath Company completed built its first diesel-powered locomotive. Diesel engines cost half to operate, compared to gasoline engines. On Monday March 5, 1928, a 15-ton "Dieseler" was shipped to Chicago. On Tuesday March 6th, a 12-ton Dieseler was shipped to Crestline, Ohio, for construction work on the Pennsylvania Railroad, and within a few days, a 25-ton type, 36-inch gauge, 24 feet, 6 inches long Dieseler, was to be shipped to a company in St. Louis.
September 21, 1928
Fate-Root-Heath Company completed its heaviest locomotive to date. "The new 60-ton Diesel locomotive manufactured by the Fate-Root-Heath Co., was transferred from the factory to the B. and O. tracks last Thursday," and was "the first direct gear driven locomotive built in this country." (Research finds that there were other direct-drive locomotives built before this in the United States. This may have been the first Diesel-powered version, or possibly the first in "this country," meaning Ohio and the surrounding region, including Lima, Ohio.)
July 17, 1933
Fate-Root-Heath Company shipped its first gasoline-electric locomotive, a 35-ton locomotive for the Du Pont company at Gibbstown, New Jersey.
November 11, 1933
Fate-Root-Heath Company announced production of a line of Plymouth farm tractors, after 15 months of development. The first demonstration was on Saturday November 11, 1933. (Read more about Silver King tractors)
November 18, 1933
The earliest reference to "Plymouth Locomotive Works" in available online newspapers, was in the the November 18, 1933 issue of The Conneautville Courier, of Conneautville, Pennsylvania. The earliest reference in local Ohio newspapers was in the Mansfield News-Journal for September 16, 1941.
May 20, 1937
Charles E. Heath, vice president and general manager of Fate-Root-Heath Company (or its predecessor company) for 40 years, passed away at age 65.
December 23, 1964
John A. Root, president and co-founder of Fate-Root-Heath Company, until 1961, passed away at age 86. In 1961 he had retired and passed the company to his son, H. James Root.
March 23, 1966
All of the outstanding common stock of the Fate-Root-Heath Company, principally held by members of the Root and Fate families, was sold to a single buyer, reported as an investing syndicate informally known as Schott Holdings, headed by Harold C. Schott, a Cleveland industrialist. The reported purchase price was $1,750,000. The Fate-Root-Heath Company was placed under the control of Jackson Iron and Steel Company, which Schott had bought control of in July 1964.
June 6, 1969
Fate-Root-Heath Company, and its parent company, Jackson Iron and Steel Company, were sold to Banner Industries, Inc., of Cleveland, Ohio. The reported purchase price was $5,625,000, with Fate-Root-Heath's value reported as $1,625,000. Banner Industries was a holding company owned and controlled by Samuel J. Krasney, of Cleveland. Krasney had created Banner Industries in January 1968 with the merger of his Patterson Industries and Banner stores, a retail outlet chain.
Fate-Root-Heath Company began manufacturing a line of industrial heavy-lift trucks.
November 30, 1977
Plymouth Locomotive Works, Inc., was shown in a newspaper advertisement as a subsidiary of Banner Industries, Inc.
May 29, 1986
Employees and managers agreed to start the process for Plymouth Locomotive Works, Inc., to be spun off from Banner Industries as an employee-owned company. Controlling interest in Banner Industries had been sold earlier in 1986 by Samuel Krasney to a group of European investors, and the new owners wanted to sell the locomotive manufacturing company.
March 30, 1987
The new employee-owned Plymouth Locomotive International, Inc. was incorporated on March 30, 1987.
The sale of Plymouth locomotive works to the employee-owned Plymouth Locomotive International, Inc., was finalized on a date between May 22 and May 31. There would be a delay in the final sale while company officials, and local government leaders arranged a loan from area banks, and the local county and state agencies, to prevent foreclosure by another bank.
(In the period between May 1987 and November 1996, a total of 107 locomotives were completed.)
The sale of Plymouth Locomotive International, Inc., to Ohio Locomotive Crane Company was finalized between November 1996 and March 1997.
Sales of locomotives and other machines during 1997 were more than $3 million, but were not meeting the costs of payroll, and debts to vendors for spare parts and materials.
June 30, 1998
Plymouth Industries was sold to International Tug and Tote of Cleveland, Ohio, on June 30, 1998, at the same time that IT&T bought Ohio Locomotive Crane Company.
The last production Plymouth locomotive, serial 7578, was built May 1999. It was 42-inch gauge, with a diesel-torque-converter drive, built for Doe Run Peru, San Isidro (Lima), Peru.
(A total of only 11 locomotives were completed in the 2-1/2 year period between November 1996 and May 1999.)
May 14, 1999
The owners of Plymouth Industries announced that the Plymouth, Ohio, location would be closed on or before July 18th. A small number of employees would be moved to the Bucyrus, Ohio, location of Ohio Locomotive Crane Co., which was owned by the same parent company, American Hoist & Derrick Co., of Wilmington, North Carolina. (Mansfield [Ohio] News-Journal, May 14, 1999)
The following is the news release of the closing:
"CLEVELAND, May 14 /PRNewswire/ -- International Tug & Tote, Inc., the parent of Ohio Locomotive Crane Company, Inc. and Plymouth Industries, Inc. today announced the closing of the Plymouth Industries Plant in Plymouth, Ohio. Operations at the Plymouth plant will begin immediately to be transferred to the Bucyrus, Ohio plant of Ohio Locomotive Crane Company, Inc. Both companies are wholly owned subsidiaries of International Tug & Tote, Inc.
The Company stated that the move was required to reduce operating costs to make the product lines of both companies more competitive in the marketplace and to increase cash flows for the purpose of debt reduction. Assets of both operating companies, which will no longer be required, are expected to be sold within the next ninety days. It is expected that some Plymouth employees will be offered positions at Ohio Locomotive Crane, which was selected as the surviving operation due to its larger manufacturing facilities and more modern equipment.
Ohio Locomotive Crane is engaged in the design, manufacturing and marketing of locomotive cranes and is the only manufacturer of such equipment in North and South America. The Company also produces truck mounted cranes for handling cement block and bricks, hydraulic articulated boom cranes for scrap processing and material handling and equilibrated counter-balancing cranes used in wide ranging material handling applications including those at dockside. Plymouth Industries produces equipment for extrusion of organic, clay and recyclable products, locomotives for wide ranging applications, industrial trucks for heavy-duty material handling, applications and special application designed material handling equipment under the Fate, Plymouth Locomotive, Aut-O-Lift and Schreck brands.
July 16, 1999
International Tug and Tote closed the Plymouth Industries factory in Plymouth, Ohio, and all designs and production capacity, along with 49 employees, were transferred to the Ohio Locomotive Crane factory in Bucyrus. The combined company was changed to Ohio Industries, Inc.
(Bucyrus is about 23 miles southwest of Plymouth)
Plymouth Industries, formerly Fate-Root Heath Company, in addition to building and selling its line of Plymouth small industrial locomotives, also manufactured Fate International extrusion equipment, Aut-O-Lift lift trucks, and Schreck industrial trucks for heavy-duty material handling. After the initial auction of the former Plymouth plant in July 1999, the buyer apparently lost interest and a second auction for what was called "Plymouth Industries II" was held on January 13, 2000. Included in the auction were all manner of industrial manufacturing machines, as well as trucks, forklifts, and unfinished locomotives.
Following the bankruptcy of Ohio Industries in June 2001, the rights to Plymouth locomotive designs and spare parts distribution were sold to W. W. Williams Company of Columbus, Ohio. As of early 2018, the company remains as a source for hard-to-find Plymouth locomotive parts. On May 29, 2002, W. W. Williams Company, LLC, registered the Plymouth Locomotive trademark.
Since 2002 a group of former Plymouth employees have been in business as Plymouth Locomotive Service LLC. Located in Shiloh, Ohio, just five miles southeast of the original site in Plymouth, Ohio, the company has a stated purpose of "maintaining the Plymouth locomotives that are in service all over the world." The company apparently moved into their present facility in June 2004.
The following comes from the Plymouth Locomotive Service LLC web site.
Established in September 2001. Plymouth Locomotive Service LLC was created to provide service parts and service for the owners of Plymouth Locomotives.
The owners and associates at Plymouth Locomotive Service are all former service and parts technicians of Plymouth Locomotive Works (no longer in business) and have over 100 cumulative years experience on Plymouth Locomotives.
We are also the servicing dealer for Williams Distribution. Williams Distribution is the current owner of all Plymouth Locomotive technical drawings, tooling and vendor data.
August 1, 2022
Plymouth Locomotive Service LLC is in negotiations with the Village of Plymouth, Ohio, to return to the village, moving from its current site in Shiloh, Ohio. The site in Plymouth being considered is the former site of Firelands Manufacturing, at 500 Donnenwirth Drive in the northwest quadrant of Plymouth. (Willard [Ohio] Times-Junction, August 1, 2022)
Plymouth Motor Trucks
The Commercial Motor Truck Company was a maker of electric delivery trucks.
The Commercial Motor Truck Company, of Toledo, Ohio, produced a friction-drive truck, and interested several businessmen from Plymouth, Ohio, into investing in the company.
The Commercial Motor Truck Company opened a new plant at Plymouth, Ohio, and later changed the name of the corporation to the Plymouth Motor Truck Company.
December 10, 1908
A receiver was appointed for the Commercial Motor Truck Company on December 10, 1908, and the company was declared bankrupt on December 31, 1908. With a reported debt of $31,700.00, the bankruptcy and receivership was requested by both the truck company, and the J. D. Fate company.
January 11, 1909
The property and assets of the motor truck company were sold at auction on January 11, 1909 to Harley Fate, for a reported $7,500.00, with the creditors receiving 25 cents on the dollar. Within 10 days, Fate organized the Plymouth Motor Truck Company to succeed the previous company, and the new company set about building motor trucks, and motor cars.
The later Plymouth Motor Truck Company only produced one handcrafted Plymouth touring car, which was powered by a four cylinder Wisconsin engine and had a double disc truck transmission and chain drive. On top of the hood was a dome which contained a gravity feed gasoline tank. The eight inch filler cap was large enough to accommodate the lip of a three gallon bucket. On July 8, 1911, the Plymouth automobile was taken for a test ride to New York City. On the return trip, the Plymouth motor car broke a cylinder casting at Atlantic City and was returned home by rail.
Before production ended in about 1914, the company produced between 150 and 200 vehicles, including two- and three-ton stake trucks, sideboard trucks, covered vans, 20 and 24 passenger buses and 20 to 40 passenger sightseeing vehicles.
As part of the closure of the Plymouth Motor Truck Company, in January 1915 the company sold three adjacent lots in Plymouth, Ohio, to the J. D. Fate Company.
The next Plymouth automobile was the first Plymouth passenger car built by Chrysler Corporation on June 14, 1928 at its Highland Park, Michigan plant.
Silver King Tractors
Local newspapers in the vicinity of Plymouth, Ohio, did a very good job covering the events surrounding the Fate-Root-Heath Company, and its predecessor and successor companies. The most active was the Mansfield [Ohio] News-Journal, published in Mansfield, just 20 miles southeast of Plymouth, and the county seat of Richland County where both Plymouth and Mansfield were located. Other newspapers include the Sandusky Register.
Newspaper Clippings and Photos -- An online album of 117 newspaper clippings, and a few photos and advertisements.
Plymouth Locomotive Works at American Industrial Mining Co. -- Information about builders of industrial locomotives, including Plymouth.
Waide Collection of Vintage Railroad Advertisements -- A few Plymouth locomotive ads from railroad periodicals.
"Critters, Dinkys & Centercabs" by Jay Reed. Published in 2000 by Rio Hondo. 192 pages. Includes summaries and brief histories and photos of a wide variety of small industrial locomotives, from all of the known builders. Meant to be used as a field guide, this excellent book includes a 48-page section devoted solely to Plymouth.
Plymouth Builder List -- A PDF of Bob Lehmuth's 2013 list of Plymouth locomotives, accounting for the 7,579 known Plymouth locomotives. (PDF; 530 pages; 4.2MB) (Bob Lehmuth passed away in 2019.)