The H. K. Porter Company
was a manufacturer of light railway locomotives. Over the course of their locomotives manufacturing history between 1867 and 1950, the company built over 8,000 locomotives making it the largest manufacture of small industrial locomotives in the U.S.
Founded in 1866 by Henry Kirke Porter John Y. Smith, the original name of the firm was Smith & Porter
, which specialized in building various industrial equipment. The company received their first order for a locomotive in 1867 and would go on to specialize in small industrial locomotives. The original company would go on to produce a total of 43 under this firms name.
In 1871, a devastating fire broke out and completely destroyed the original shops. At this time, the partnership between Porter and Smith was dissolved with Smith going on to form Smith & Dawson Locomotives which eventually became National Locomotive Works. After the fire, Porter went on to form a new partnership with Arthur W. Bell to create the Porter, Bell & Company
, which lasted until 1878 with the death of Bell. A total of 223 locomotives were built during the time the company was named Porter, Bell and Company. in 1878.
In 1878, after the loss of Arthur Bell, Porter renamed the company after himself under the name of the H. K. Porter & Company
. In 1899, the company name was further simplified to the name H. K. Porter Company
The capacity of their original shop of Smith and Porter Co was 15 to 25 locomotives per year. After the fire destroyed the first shops 1871, new manufacturing facilities were built with the capability to increase production and between 1872 through 1880, about 75 locomotives were produced per year. In 1881, the company enlarged their shop space and increased production to around 125 locomotives per year between 1881 an 1893. In 1894, the shops were once again enlarged which increased production capacity to a peek of around 400 locomotives per year in 1906.
Illustration showing the H. K. Porter erecting floor from the 1908 catalog.
Production of locomotives continued to be very successful up until the start of the Great Depression in 1929, at which time the company began a long decline until they were forced to declare bankruptcy in 1939 when Thomas Evans acquired the company. Locomotive production increased again during WWII and Evans began purchasing other manufacturing companies to diversify his holdings. The H. K. Porter company built their last locomotive in 1950, at which time the parts business was sold to Davenport Locomotive Works in Iowa.
The company has continued to manufacture other products under the H. K. Porter name to this day.