The Classic Kelsey Steam Boiler

This is a portrait of the classic Kelsey steam boiler. This design was manufactured by Bill’s company from around 1952 until 1960 or so. Several thousand where built and sold from Bill’s little manufacturing shop on Waverly St. in Delhi Ontario.

Click on the picture to download a high resolution TIF (18 Meg)
Family Portrait

The boiler was used to sterilize the soil in tobacco greenhouses and to humidify and ‘condition’ cured tobacco so that it could be handled without shattering.

The boiler featured a number of innovative features for the time, including low pressure operation (70 PSI as opposed to 150 PSI that was more commonly used by the old converted steam engines that some farmers used.) Numerous safety features including a firebox fire suppression system (a lead plug at the top of the firebox that would melt and use the boiler water to put out out the coal fire if it got to hot), an overpressure relief valve, and insulated jacketed exterior. None of these features were particularly innovative, but they were unique for an industry that used old converted steam engines that tended to blow up from time-to-time.

The design also featured a “superheater” to make the steam super hot (800F) as it was believed that hotter steam made sterilization go faster. (Something that Bill would disprove in later years.)

It is probably not an exaggeration to say that this boiler was the leading edge of a massive modernization movement of the tobacco industry that Bill launched with Kelsey Manufacturing. Up until this time the farming of tobacco was highly labor intensive using antiquated equipment and techniques.

50 years later I believe that there are still some of these boilers in operation in Southwestern Ontario, although they are probably exceedingly rare now that the tobacco industry is in its waining years.

Scott (my brother) would love to get his hands on one of these intact boilers. If anyone knows where there may be one, let Scott know by email at

Posted by: Ron Warris | 11-27-2005 | 07:11 PM
Posted in: Kelsey Manufacturing


  1. Hello!!!

    I am in the process of restoring one of these boilers, and I happen to see that the Kelsy Co. logo is at the top of the screen. I was wondering if someone with the website happens to have the image file of the logo, as I would like to have it made up to put on the boiler’s jacket just like in the picture above.

    Please get back to me by email!

    Comment by Andrew — May 2, 2012 @ 8:44 pm
  2. Actually I do have a high resolution scan of the Kelsey logo. Will send you an email with details.

    Comment by Ron Warris — May 2, 2012 @ 10:12 pm
  3. I would also like that image.the boiler is in great shape but needs a good clean up. I

    Comment by mark slegers — January 30, 2013 @ 6:15 am

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