The first site for the forerunner of the Lima Locomotive Works was the small shop of the Carnes, Agerter & Company (later Lima Machine Company) on the east side of downtown Lima. They entered into small logging locomotive construction in late 1878, and while the firm is noted for its Shay locomotive construction, at the same time they built a number of small rod locomotives for lumbering operations. They also built steam traction engines about the time of the United States Centennial. Thus they had a grasp of steam engines and boilers. Railroad Gazette noted on December 2, 1881: "The Lima Machine Company at Lima, Ohio, proposes entering upon the manufacture of narrow gauge and other light locomotives. The company will also make car wheels." The venture was fully successful and when the Panic of 1893 struck, The Lima Machine Company had come into control of the LaFayette Car Works facility at South Lima and entered upon the construction of freight cars in addition to its line of locomotives at its Market Street plant.
FREIGHT CAR CONSTRUCTION -- EARLY: The fling with freight car construction is noted in August 1884, with the Lima Car Works closed because of financial problems and possible reorganization. This plant was located on the site where Lima Locomotive Works would eventually relocate all locomotive construction.
On January 21, 1887 the railroad trade press was reporting "The shops at Lima, Ohio heretofore owned by the Ohio Car and Mfg. Co. have come under the control of the Lafayette Car Works of Lafayette, Indiana. Machinery and buildings are now being put into order and new machinery being added to produce 15 box cars per day. The business of the Lima Shops will be conducted and directed from Lafayette where all correspondence should be sent." Beginning in March 1893, Lima Locomotive & Machine was building freight cars for a number of midwestern railroads. Production continued at least through 1898 at South Lima. In addition some locomotive manufacturing was being shifted from the Market Street Plant to the car plant at South Lima. By the turn-of-the-century all car construction had ended with the focus being on locomotive production.
This is the earliest known photo of a Lima Machine Works rod locomotive, an 0-6-0, likely the "Fair Play", c/n 3, built in August 1879. -- Allen County Historical Society collection
This is early Shay c/n 10 built in November 1880 for a Michigan logger, it weighed 8 tons. -- Allen County Historical Society collection
The office of the Lima Machine Co., between 1875 and 1880. It stood at the corner of East Market and South Jackson Streets on the east side of down town Lima. The building stood until the early 1990s when it was destroyed in a fire. -- Allen County Historical Society collection
The map below dates to 1887. Lima Machine built its patented SHAY and small industrial switchers in a rather compact facility. The site today is a vacant lot on the east side of downtown Lima, Ohio.
Among early rod locomotives was this 0-4-0t built for Clifton Iron Company in Alabama in 1890 c/n 260 -- Allen County Historical Society collection