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Crossley Brothers Ltd was originally founded in Manchester in 1866 by brothers Francis & William Crossley. Crossley Brothers had become involved with Otto & Langen of "atmospheric engine" fame and acquired their British patents in 1869. When in 7 years later, the Otto Silent Gas Engine was introduced, Crossley immediately commenced manufacture of their own horizontal slide-valve engine under licence.

The majority of oil engines produced before 1900 were low-compression models, but in the early years of the 20th Century, manufacturers of heavy fuel and crude oil engines realised that higher compressions could be used if small quantities of water were injected with the fuel oil into the combustion chamber and vaporiser. Crossley introduced such an engine in 1904.

Crossley supplied many engines for industrial use, and one 18hp engine worked in a mill in Yorkshire for about 50 years until 1965. Used almost daily, it was always hand started, the only modernisation being a propane burner replacing the blowlamp for starting. Another range was the high-speed series of vertical petrol engines introduced in 1908-10 and was very often coupled to lighting plant for country houses. Ignition was by gear-driven magneto.

One of Crossley's most famous engines is the twin-side shaft design, originally introduced in 1920. There are 2 models, the 1060 and 1075, available in either tank or hopper cooled versions, the former being the much more common on rally-fields. The upper shaft carries the magneto & governor, while the lower carries the cam gear for valve operation.

The more common horizontal enclosed engines were introduced around 1925, initially two models (1030 & 1050) being available, but the range expanded later (1040, 1060, etc). These are petrol/paraffin engines, usually hopper cooled, and were manufactured at the works of the Saunderson Tractor & Implement Co. Ltd. Of Bedford, after the site was acquired in 1923. Crossley had also acquired the shares of the Premier Gas Engine Co. of Nottingham in 1919.

Crossley also took a leading part in motorcar development and in 1906 a separate company, Crossley Motors Limited, was formed. Crossley went on to become a well-known supplier of commercial vehicle chassis in the 20s & 30s, and a reminder of this used to be seen around the rally circuits in the late 1990s, where a single-decker coach had been cut down and fitted with a turn-table loading ramp system to carry a small full-size steam tractors.

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