Copyright © 1979 Kevin Desmond and Guinness Superlatives Ltd.

The Kelvin stand at the 1905 Motor Show; note the Kelvin
launch engine at the bottom right See Also

    In March 1906, Walter and Willie Bergius of Glasgow installed one of their four-cylinder, 12 hp Kelvin motorcar engines in a 23 ft (7 m) rowing gig, the Kelvin which was so successful in winning practically every race in its own class on the Clyde that the Bergius Car & Engine Company had soon changed over to marine engine production. A 7 hp unit was developed to drive an overside folding propeller. A 7 hp Kelvin engine was first fitted to a Scottish fishing boat, The Brothers of Campbeltown, in 1907. From then on the rehabilitation of the smaller, redundant vessels of the British inshore fishing fleet began.

    In 1910; after superb publicity from nine firsts by their racing launch Kelvin II, and with a total of 700 marine engines, the Bergius Launch & Engine Company moved to a larger factory at 254 Dobbies Loan. By 1913 seven models, from 3 to 60 hp were on the market and by World War I, 1000 fishing boats and 250 sailing yachts had been fitted with auxiliary Kelvin engines.

   Between 1908 and 1912, Bergius designed a series of standard motor-launches, ranging from 20 to 50 ft (6.1 to 15.2 m) plus, which he proposed to carry in stock. Hull construction was placed with various boatbuilders at home and abroad and the bare hulls sent to the company's boat shed in Glasgow, where engines, drives, and fittings were added.
Specifications accompanying the designs were very complete, so as to ensure standardization - even down to the size of the nails used. By 1939, the company had completed 1178 standard launches.

    In about 1920, the company acquired the right to use the Burt McCullum single-sleeve valve originally embodied in the Argyll motorcar engine. Several thousand Kelvin-Sleeve engines were turned out before 1935, when manufacture was finally given up, mainly due to public prejudice against the sleeve valve. A series of poppet-valve engines; designed by Sir Harry Ricardo, was introduced as the Kelvin-Ricardo in 1927, which formed the bulk of the company's output until the first diesels were produced in 1932.

    In spring 1930, the Newfoundland schooner, Neptune  II, fitted with a 60 hp Model G4 'Kelvin-Ricardo' auxiliary, crossed the Atlantic in 20 days the engine running at full power for 18 days, 4 hr. In summer 1934, Neptune II made a round trip from Newfoundland-Oporto (Portugal)-Newfoundland - a trip of 4850 miles (7805 km) - without even a grumble from the engine.

    The Kelvin J and K diesel engines, which first appeared in 1933, soon replaced the petrol-paraffin engine. During World War II, Kelvin engines were used exclusively in the small craft which carried out Commando raids on the Lofoten Islands.

    By 1954, about 80 of the 350 labour force had been employed by Kelvins for more than 25 years and 19 for more than 40 years.

    Walter Bergius died in 1949, and in 1954 the J and K engines were replaced by the smaller Kelvin Model P monobloc diesel (developing 10 and 20 hp) designed by W. M. Miller (formerly Chief Development Engineer at Petters). These units, still produced, are possibly the smallest water-cooled diesels in the world to be built entirely for marine use. The 'T' and 'R' range are the current diesel engines being produced and marketed by Kelvin Diesels Ltd (currently a subsidiary of GEC Diesels); they range from 10 to 720 bhp.

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