Easthope Marine Engines, enameled steel sign, thumbnail.
Full-sized, 1600 x 538 px, ~94 kB.


The Engines and the People Who Built Them

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In 1929 the Canadian Hydrographic Service had at least three 26 foot boats built in Nova Scotia. They had redcedar or red cedar planking over white oak frames and were designed to be carried aboard the mother ship William J. Stewart and put afloat for surveying. Each boat was fitted with sonar transponders and an Easthope two cylinder, 10-14 hp engine. Between 1932 and 1975 the Stewart surveyed the coast of British Columbia.

Victoria dentist, John Calvin Foote purchased one of these launches named Brant in 1952 from Crown Assets Disposal Corporation. The family used the Brant with it's tireless engine extensively over a period of about four years. Calvin's son John recalls that she was anchored in Horseshoe Bay. The Easthope engine running at 400 R.P.M. drove the vessel at a speed of about 6 knots. The engine could run at 650 R.P.M. but John noted that there was no advantage---the Brant would only trim lower at the stern, produce more wake, burn more gasoline and move no faster. One morning John left Horseshoe Bay on a vacation and travelled north for 14 hours to Princess Louisa Inlet. During the entire run the engine misfired only once.

Biographical History

The county of Shropshire is in the west of England bordered on the west by Wales and on the east by Staffordshire. The southeast quarter of Shropshire is a rural landscape of rolling hills and dales with many streams and small rivers. In a North-South oriented valley is an area, noted for apple orchards, called Ape Dale. The small village of Easthope is located on the southeast side of Ape Dale.

Wolverhampton is in southern Stafford about 35 km east of Easthope. Birth records suggest that a family of Easthopes moved to Wolverhampton in 1777/1778. Ernest Easthope, first son of Edwin, was born there in 1852. Myrtle, grandaughter of Ernest, recalls that he had a quiet and pleasant personality. In 1873 Ernest married Anne Williams who's parents operated a pawn business where Ernest was employed. This era is described further by Ron Easthope in "The Easthope Family" in the Wolverhampton History & Heritage Website .

Family Members Employed in Easthope Shops
Production of two cycle engines, Vancouver
Easthope Bicycle Shop, 1898-1906
Easthope and Son, 1906-1908
Easthope Brothers, 1908-1910
Ernest Sr.
┌──── ─────┬───── ─────┬───── ────┐
 Ernest Jr. 
  Percy (Peck)
George Sr.

In the 1880s the British Empire flourished. The opportunity of a new life in a colony was irresistable for some. This story of Ernest was recounted by grandson Joseph to his wife Fern. In 1889 Ernest and his three eldest sons Fred, 15 years of age, Ernest, 13 years, and George, 12 years, travelled to eastern Canada by ship and across the country by rail. They stopped in the Okanagan Valley briefly and then continued to New Westminster. Colonization of mainland British Columbia had begun only about 1850. What an adventure, to arrive in the still mostly primitive British Columbia.

The parents of Anne Williams, wife of Ernest, were dedicated Roman Catholics and owned a business. Ernest invited Anne to follow him to New Westminster with the younger children, provided that religion was left in Britain. Anne came to New Westminster with children Ethel, Annie, Vincent, Arthur and Percy about 1890. The family settled near the intersection of Kingsway and Edmonds Street and the last child, Teresa, were born there.

In 1897 Ernest and Anne moved their residence to the vicinity of Pender and Rupert Streets in Vancouver. Ernest had been an avid cyclist in Wolverhampton. By 1898 he had established a bicycle shop at 521 West Hastings Street approximately midway between Cambie and Abbott Streets, in premises formerly occupied by Barr and Anderson Plumbing Supplies. There he repaired bicycles and sold C.C.M. bicycles. Within a year or two the shop was moved to 154 West Hastings. Subsequent to the C.C.M.s he built and sold bicycles of his own design. Ernest Sr. and his wife Anne separated in 1912. After retirement about 1920 Ernest lived at Langley, BC near his daughter Annie and at Gibsons Landing with his daughter Teresa. He died in 1944 at 91 years of age.

Frederick, second child of Ernest and Anne, had an interst in photography. His career began as an assistant in a studio on Columbia Street in New Westminster.

George attended Edmonds School in New Westminster. At age 15 he worked as a bellhop in the Colonial Hotel. He and brothers Ernest Jr. and Vincent had an aptitude for work with machinery, similar to that of their father. In 1897 the three brothers began working at the Automatic Can Company which produced tinned steel cans for food.

Thus began lifelong careers in mechanical work, for each of these young men. These three and Frederick and Percy would not have forseen their future involvement in the marine industry of British Columbia.

Joseph DeForest Tisdale, a resident of Belleville Ontario, married Amy Ann Leader there around 1860. The family moved to Sapperton, a community directly upriver from New Westminster, seeking opportunity as had the Easthopes. In 1893 Joseph was working in his boatshop on the north bank of the Fraser River when a saw blade broke and inflicted a fatal injury. Joseph died of peritonitis and was buried in the Church of England Cemetary in New Westminster on April 17. The death of Joseph would have imposed emotional and financial hardships on Amy. Fortunately most of her children were old enough to work.

Elizabeth, seventh among nine children, was born in Belleville, April 25, 1881. She was only thirteen years of age when her father died and had to leave school to work as a domestic servant. After a year or two she became an assistant to a dressmaker -- employment which paid better than the domestic work. About age eighteen Elizabeth obtained a position on the production line of the Automatic Can Company. This was before safety standards and Elizabeth lost the tips of two fingers on her left hand to one of the machines.

Elizabeth and George met at their workplace. They were married 1902 December 27 at the home of brother Robert Dalton Tisdale. The pair established a home in Sapperton.

Between 1901 and 1905 George left the Automatic Can Company for a position as engineer aboard a tug boat belonging to the Armstrong-Morrison Company. Also during this time George and Elizabeth purchased a house at 2290 Dundas Street near the intersection with Nanaimo in East Vancouver. The tug assisted in construction of a new railway bridge over the Fraser River at New Westminster in 1909. Ethel (Easthope) Nyberg recalls being told of an accidental explosion. George was burned but was able to travel home on the electric tram. He was so dishevelled and grimy that Elizabeth did not recognize him immediately when he arrived at the door.

Vincent's Dream and the Two Cycle Engines, 1900-1910

During the late 1800s, compression engines, mostly two cycle, were being developed for a new fuel called gasoline. The technology spread from Europe to the American east coast but was not yet established in frontier British Columbia. By the age of seventeen Vincent had seen a description in an eastern magazine, of such an engine for use in a boat. He expressed to his father a desire to build an engine. In Wolverhampton Ernest sr. had worked with atmospheric engines which ran on natural gas and explained the mechanics to his son. Thus Vincent undertook the design of the first Easthope engine.

About 1901 Vincent began construction of the engine in the bicycle shop. The cylinder was described by Peck as being the size of a quart jar and operated on a two stroke cycle. The date when Vincent left employment at the Automatic Can Company is not known but the first appearance of the business name "Easthope and Son" is in Henderson's City of Vancouver Directory 1906.

This first Engine produced about 1/2 horsepower and was installed in a Peterboro canoe. The success of this engine encouraged Vincent to design a single cylinder, two stroke cycle prototype of about 3 horsepower. The Easthopes did not have their own foundry until the 1920s but this and subsequent engines were built from iron castings. Vincent is known to have had sources of ideas in addition to his imagination. For example he had a book by E. W. Roberts which gave drawings and instructions for a three-horsepower launch engine. Peck's description of the second engine matches the Roberts engine closely. This second engine was installed in a launch about 18 feet long, built by Dan Martin and named Swan. A family friend named Hodder was a commercial fisherman living on Barnston Island. He commissioned a third engine, about 5 horsepower, for installation in a 25 foot dugout canoe.

The vessel design known as a Columbia River boat was used by many fishermen of the Pacific Northwest. It was about 20 feet long and was originally powered by oar and sail. The Easthopes recognized that a market existed for an engine suited to this class of boat. With the experience of the early prototypes, a 3 horsepower two stroke cycle model was developed for the market. This new endeavour quickly outgrew the bicycle shop at 148 West Hastings Street. The premises at 150 West Hastings were rented and used as an office.

Waterfront property at 1705 Georgia Street was also rented or leased and there a machine shop was established for building the engines. Marine ways were also built. This allowed boat construction, installation of engines and ancilliary work. William Menchions, worked for the Easthopes at this time. From 1910 until at least 1928 he operated his own boatbuilding shop on the site.

An article in Pacific Motor Boat, October 1908 reports the "little combination boat" Ebros finishing second in a race from Seattle to Vancouver. The engine had rotary valves and a scavenging cycle and was an experimental prototype which had been developed by Ernest. During the race the rotary valves required manual oiling and did not operate well.

About 1907 the Easthopes had an open speedboat approximately forty feet long, most likely built by William Menchions. They installed a 2 cycle engine with three cylinders 6" diameter x 6" stroke and named the vessel Pathfinder. According to Percy Sr. the top speed was about 20 m.p.h.

Henderson's City of Vancouver Directory, 1907 notes that Easthope & Sons were distributing agents for Gray Motor Co., Detroit, Mich.

In 1910 F.T. Schooly had a sixty foot yacht built and named it Konomic. Schooly was commodore of the R. V. Yacht Club in 1919.

Early marine transmissions provided direct forward drive through a cone clutch. Reverse rotation of the propeller shaft, at the same speed as the engine crankshaft, was by planetary gearing engaged by a brake band holding the outer gear. Some early Easthope engines were fitted with a transmission with the trade name of Gees. Eventually Easthope Brothers built their own transmissions. From about 1945 onward Paragon transmissions were used with GMC truck engines and on Waukeshaw diesels in marine power plants.

When Vincent designed the early engines, carburators and magnetos were not commercially available. Ignition in the earliest engines was provided by a mechanism which opened and closed a low voltage circuit at each rotation of the crankshaft. In effect this mechanism was similar to the contacts in a distributor for a single cylinder engine. The mechanism consisted of a pair of concentric bronze poles separated by an annular shell of insulation. One end of this pole structure was machined to have a flat surface. A pin was held in contact with the flat surface and moved in a circle so that it repeatedly passed over the end of the inner pole. Each contact with the inner pole would close the low voltage ignition circuit. The contact pin was mounted on a link and the circular motion of the pin resulted from rotation of a cam on the crank shaft. The low voltage circuit passed through a coil similar to that used in contemporary ignition circuits. The current induced in the high voltage circuit passed through the spark plug. Power in the low voltage circuit was provided by a battery or by a generator rotated by friction with the flywheel of the engine.

About 1910 Schebler began selling carburators. Magnetos were produced by Bemis and Cuno. These magnetos made the old bronze pole mechanism obsolete. Some engines relied on a single ignition system while others had both a distributor system and a magneto system---dual ignition. The single ignition system was usually based on a distributor, generator and lead-acid battery. In addition to powering the ignition the generator and battery would power cabin and navigation lights. Dual ignition normally included two spark plugs in each cylinder. If the distributor ignition failed in one of these engines the magneto would keep the engine running. This was an important factor of safety and reliability for boats often at the mercy of bad weather and a rugged coastline.

In 1908 Vincent developed an infection of the mastoid sinus. This was long before antibiotics. Surgical drainage was attempted but resulted in Vincent's death. According to family legend, the surgeon committed a lethal error while the certificate of death reports "ether anesthesia" as the cause.

Vincent, was only 17 years of age when he began work on the first Easthope engine. Tragically, he died just 8 years later. Nevertheless his dreams and work influenced the course of many lives.

We can not fully appreciate the impact of the death of Vincent on the family and their business. Ernest sr. then fifty-six appears to have lost interest in the business and left it to his remaining sons to carry on. In Henderson's City of Vancouver Directory 1908 the company was listed as Easthope Bros. Launch and Boat Builders.

By the time of Vincent's death, brothers Ernest Jr., George Sr. and Percy Sr. had joined Easthope and Son. When Easthope and Sons encountered financial difficulty Percy joined his brother Albert to operate a dairy farm in East Ladner. Clifton Cameron became a financial backer of the engine business. Percy Sr. also mentioned the name of Hesket as a backer. In spite of the added capital the business failed and by 1910 assets were liquidated. In his recollections, Percy Sr. describes it as "quite a sad time". With the business gone brothers Ernest Jr. and George Sr. found independent employment.

Early Four Cycle Years, 1911-1918

During the early years of the century the design of four cycle engines was being refined. After the failure of Easthope and Sons in building two cycle engines, George Sr. and Percy Sr. decided to try again in the four cycle market. In 1911 they rented premises at 1717 West Georgia Street west of their previous location and established Easthope Brothers. A nearby lot with address 1729 was rented about a year later.

Family Members Employed in Easthope Brothers, 1911-1955
Production of four cycle engines, Vancouver
        ┌──── ─────┬───── ─────┬───── ────┐
        George Sr.
 Ernest Jr. 
Percy (Peck)
╭──── ───┬─── ───┬─── ───┬─── ────┼──── ─────╮  
George Jr.
ca. 1940
John Nyberg
m. Ethel E.
Fitter, 1943-45
  Vincent Jr

None of the other brothers were involved in this partnership. Ernest Jr. appears to have continued working with gasoline engines between 1910 and 1919 but did not work at Easthope Brothers. No original records of the business prior to or during World War I remain.

Initially Easthope Brothers sold the Frisbee engine. This was a 4 cycle single cylinder rated at 5 horsepower. Percy Easthope Sr. reported that the Frisbee engine had a solid head with valves in cages. The head would overheat resulting in misfiring. The manufacturer requested that Easthopes purchase the engines in larger numbers. Percy and George were not satisfied with this and became concerned that the agency would be given to a competitor. Their solution was to design and build a four cycle engine of their own. Percy cited four advantages of their design over that of their closest competitor, Bill Vivian. The Easthope was claimed to be better balanced. Secondly, it had a "slow down" adjustment on the rocker arm shaft which allowed the valve clearance to increase so that the engine would run slower for trolling. Finally, the Easthope had a decompression cock which was opened to vent the lower part of the cylinder to the atmosphere during starting.

After the WW I, Easthope Brothers purchased two Jones and Lamson turret lathes which had been used to turn shell casings. One of these machines continued to be used in the shop until the business was liquidated in 1987.

Years of Prosperity, 1918-1929

Easthope Brothers prospered during the 1920s. About 1924 a lot at 1745 West Georgia Street was purchased. A two story wood frame building about 22 feet wide and 28 feet deep was constructed adjacent to the sidewalk at the front of the property. The main floor contained sales and accounting offices. The upper floor with the address 1747 was a residential apartment. A machine shop with a conventional wood frame structure was built behind the office. This shop was sheathed only with shiplap and there was no insulation. Below the shop was a basement with approximately ten feet of headroom nearest the waterfront and tapering to a low crawl space next to the office. A coal burning furnace was installed in this basement but it was so inefficient that it was not used. Small coal burning heaters were installed in the machine shop and the responsibility of stoking fell to apprentices. During winter cold spells the shop was not comfortable although usually the temperature could be kept above freezing.

A marine railway was built behind the machine shop with the winch for hauling the carriage situated in the basement. A vessel up to 50 feet long could be hauled out. This railway permitted repair and installation of engines, propeller shafts and propellers. With the marine railway and machine shop Easthope Brothers was able to offer comprehensive marine engineering services for vessels up to 50 feet in length.

Within a few years the business purchased a second lot to the west of 1745 West Georgia. A building was constructed adjacent to the street and rented to ??. Behind that a foundry was built and then a second railway was installed behind the foundry. This was rented to a boatbuilder. A driveway along the east side of this second property was just wide enough to permit a truck to back in from Georgia Street. The property is clearly visible in an aerial photograph by B. G. Moodie about 1932 and in the photograph in Peter Vassilopoulos' Antiques Afloat.

Propeller shafts were usually machined in a lathe situated at the south end of the machine shop. A long shaft would extend through a small door in the wall of the shop and into the driveway. The hazard would be marked by a trouble light with a red bulb. This was not adequate warning on at least one occasion; Allan Easthope recalls hearing of a shaft being bent by a truck backing into the driveway.

Another odd accident involved a planer situated at the south end of the shop. The desk of George Easthope was in the office on the other side of the wall. The planer had the usual heavy reciprocating table. On one occasion the mechanism which reversed the motion of the table failed and it with a heavy iron casting attached went through the wall and came to rest beside George's desk. Fortunately there was no human injury.

Ingenuity of the Easthopes was not restricted to marine applications. Between 1922 and 1937 they produced stump pullers of their own design. Most of these were powered by single cylinder two cycle engines made by other companies. Stover was the brand most frequently used. These engines were cooled by water in an open reservoir surrounding the upper part of the cylinder and head and were normally used in non-marine applications.

On the North Pacific Coast logs were routinely moved to a mill in floating booms pulled by tugboat. The perimeter of a boom was a floating framework of logs held together at the ends with chains. Holes for the chains approximately 4 inches in diameter had to be bored in the logs and the Easthopes recognized that there was a market for a portable boring machine suitable for this heavy work. A framework to hold a spindle for a boring bit was designed to clamp to a log. A rack and pinion drive allowed the bit to be advanced and withdrawn. The spindle was driven by a stump puller connected by pulleys and a flat belt. An Easthope stump puller with the boomstick boring attachment was useful and efficient equipment for any coastal logging operation.

Through the 1920s Easthope Brothers prospered. At the new location, 1745 West Georgia, the business focused on marine engineering, stump pullers and boomstick boring machines. There is no record of the company offering boatbuilding services.

During the 1920s and '30s George's four sons and Percy's son Vincent all learned to work in the family business. George, eldest of the five, began apprenticing as a machinist in 1921 and became a journeyman July 17 of 1926. Vincent, Percy and Eugene also served apprenticeships and became machinists. Joseph worked as an engine mechanic. At that time there was no apprenticeship for that trade.

Ernest Joseph was first employed at Teportens Wholesale Drug Co. Soon he moved to a junior position at the offices of the Province newspaper. This work appealed to Joe and he aspired to a future as a reporter. Concurrently Joe's brothers George and Percy were progressing as apprentice machinists in the Easthope plant at Coal Harbour. Without doubt George Sr. would have felt some disappoinment that Joe was not working in the family business beside his brothers. The extent to which George expressed this dissapointment is not clear but about 1922 Joe left his career at the Province and joined the workforce at Easthope Brothers. Joe did not pursue the apprenticeship as a machinist but worked as a fitter installing engines and propeller shafts in boats.

Percy (1911-1981) left public school after the nineth grade and spent one year at Vancouver Technical School in preparation to be an apprentice machinist. Following the completion of that year he began an apprenticeship at Easthope Brothers. He was a good machinist. When Stan Stigant was away from the shop Percy served as substitute foreman. He was also a skilled draftsman and sometimes worked at a drafting table in the office between the foundry and Georgia Street.

H. Eugene (1912-2005) became an apprentice machinist in 1930. Served in the Canadian Merchant Marine from 1939 to 1942.

Of the four daughters of George Sr., only Myrtle worked in the family business. For a short time she worked in the office.

Joe told that he and Percy had salvaged a hydroplane which had been used by the RCMP and sunk in Coal Harbour. They installed a six cylinder Studebaker engine. It could achieve 60 miles per hour and was the fastest launch in Burrard Inlet at the time.

The earliest time book now available shows Ernest Jr. (b. 1876), the eldest of the three brothers in the business, working at Easthope Brothers in May of 1924. Ernest had ambitions beyond the business at Coal Harbour. The Everett City Directory shows that he established Easthope Gasoline Stump Puller Company in Everett, Washington in 1928. The circumstances of the departure of Ernest from Easthope Brothers are unclear; apparently there was dissatisfaction or a disagreement. As did several of his relatives, Ernest had an inventive talent. Figure ?? shows him at Green Lake near Seattle with a hydroplane he had built. It was clocked at 100 miles per hour.

The stump puller business remained at 2806 Hewitt Avenue in Everett until 1941 when Ernest retired at age 61.

\special{pict=: hydroplane}

Samples of Weekly Payroll Records

Attendance record for Week ending 1924 May 10. According to the time book, each worked eight hours per day for Monday through Friday and four hours on Saturday.

The adaptation of automotive engines to marine service was not uncommon. Automotive engines operated at 1500 to 2500 RPM. This was too fast to drive even a low pitch propeller directly and reduction gearing was required. Unlike a land vehicle, a marine vessel presents a constant load. Consequently a marine transmission requires only a single forward gear ratio and a reverse gear at the same ratio. When the automotive transmission was used in marine service only the highest forward gear was used. There were also transmissions designed and built specifically for marine application of automotive engines. A chain drive modification increased the reverse ratio. Both diesel and gasoline automotive engines were used in marine service. In the mid 1920s the Chevrolet 470 and the Star were common choices for marine adaptation.

Family Friends and Domestic Life

About 1913 three brothers named Leask, born in the Orkney Islands,came to British Columbia via New Zealand. They were intrigued by life on the Pacific Coast and built a cabin at the entrance to Bute Inlet. Like most isolated residents of the coast they had a launch for transportation. The vessel had an Easthope engine and the brothers became friends of the Easthopes. Charles Leask was an accomplished oil painter. A large panorama of his showing one of the CPR steamships entering Burrard Inlet, was purchased by Easthope Brothers and kept at the Coal Harbour premises. When the site was sold the painting was moved to the showroom of the Steveston shop and remained there until it was sold in 1980. At least two other Leask paintings were purchased by Easthopes. One is a view to the northeast from a high vantage point on the south side of the entrance to Bute Inlet. The second is a view west across Georgia Straight from a point near the shoreline at the entrance to Bute Inlet. Campbell River is visible on the distant Vancouver Island shoreline. Ethel (Easthope) Nyberg recalls the occasion in her childhood when the Leask brothers were invited to Christmas supper at the Easthope home. The Leasks arrived at the back door with a bag of hard candy. Charles Leask died at Fawn Bluff in the early 1930s. Henry and Alfred suffered injuries in the winter of 1933-34 and were taken to live with relatives in the Orkneys.

Ethel (Easthope) Nyberg had these recollections of life in the home of her parents Elizabeth and George Sr. in the 1920s and `30s. Elizabeth was a diligent housekeeper and avid gardener. Each fall large quantities of fruit and vegetables were bottled for the winter. The family always had a cow or two and a small flock of chickens which usually provided all the milk, butter and eggs that were needed. Ethel has fond recollections of her mother's cooking. Particularly memorable were roast duck and pheasant, doughnuts, floating island dessert and lemon butter.

Ethel and her sisters all took piano lessons but none of the brothers did. Either the boys were not interested or were not given the opportunity. Margaret seems to have achieved the greatest skill. Years later at about sixty years of age George Jr. learned to read music and play the piano.

Several of the siblings had talent for singing. Myrtle had a lovely contralto voice and several of the brothers sang in the choir of the Anglican Church at Napier Street and Sperling Avenue. Ethel recalls that singing with piano accompanyment was an enjoyable evening entertainment. Seeing a movie at a cinema was a treat for some Friday and Saturday evenings. Usually the adolescent children would walk to Hastings and travel west to a theatre by the electric streetcar. If George Sr. and Elizabeth were also attending George would they would all travel in the family car.

George Sr. and Elizabeth Easthope with their children, b. and w. studio  
photograph, <i>ca.</i> 1935.
George Sr. and Elizabeth Easthope with their
children, ca. 1935. Click for gallery view.

The first car which Ethel remembers her father owning was a Model T Ford with canvas canopy and isinglass windows on the sides. When the business became more prosperous he owned Essexes and Oldsmobiles. He never consulted Elizabeth before purchasing a new car; he would simply drive the car home from work one day and surprise everyone. George Sr. never discussed the business at home and never discussed it with Elizabeth or their daughters.

Birthdays in the family were celebrated with cake and small gifts. Christmas was the highlight of the year. There was always a big tree cut in the woods near the house. The living room was decorated with cedar boughs, holly and red and green streamers. The tree and decorations were put up on Christmas eve after the children had gone to bed; in the morning they were dazzled by the spectacle. The tree was decorated with homemade ornaments and wax candles. In later years electric lights replaced the candles. George Sr. brought home a three pound box of chocolates before Christmas and these along with dishes of nuts, seeded raisins, pink, white and green creams and hard candy were put out on Christmas morning. The hard ribbon candy was particularly popular with the children.

Elizabeth arose very early Christmas morning to put the turkey into the oven. It was served at noon with stuffing, vegetables and all the trimmings. For dessert there was carrot pudding with vanilla sauce, Christmas cake and cookies. Usually some of the married children were there with their spouses and with a few guests there were about twenty people at the table.

Laundry required far more human effort than it does today. Ethel recalls helping to wash the coveralls of her brothers on Saturday mornings. They used a wash board and greasy spots were scrubbed with a brush.

The Great Depression, 1929-1938

The industriousness of George and Percy in building the business during the prosperity of the 1920s stood them in good stead when the Great Depression began in 1929. Land, buildings and machinery were owned outright and with continued diligence the business forged ahead. Demand for engines declined during the 1930s but did not vanish. Commercial fishing continued. There was a steady demand for engines and parts. Repairs to shafts and propellers were also needed; the marine railway was seldom idle.

Steveston was established on Lulu Island at the mouth of the south arm of the Fraser River in 1889. Salmon canneries were built along the river at and near Steveston. By 1900 the area had become a focus of the salmon fishery in BC.

Following his father's suggestion or at least with his approval George Jr. purchased the lot at 1225 Number One Road in Steveston in 1927. There he established Easthope Sales and Service. The existing uninsulated wood frame building had previously served as ??. George set up a machine shop with a 21 inch lathe, a shaper and a drill press. While the scope of work at the Easthope Brothers plant at Coal Harbour was limited to production, installation and repair of engines, shafts and propellers, Easthope Sales and Service became involved in production and repair of most of the machinery used on commercial trollers and gillnetters. Eventually Easthope Sales and Service was to produce and sell propellers, propeller shafts, Aqua-Lube tailstock bearings , propeller net guards, drum drives, reverse gear boxes for auxiliary power shafts, net rollers, trolling gurdies, cradles for trolling weights, boat stabilizers for trolling, anchor winches and a variety of hardware. Easthope Sales and Service also sold galvanized carriage bolts and lag screws, chain and blocks for steering gear, fuel line tubing and fittings, sight glasses, exhaust pipe, marine mufflers and marine paint.

George Jr. married Dorothy May Parkes 1925 November 7. Initially they lived at 3371 Napier Street, Vancouver. In 1929 they purchased a one acre forested lot at 6671 Sommers Street just west of Sperling in Burnaby. Years later the street was renamed to Halifax. George and Dorothy laboured tirelessly to clear the forest and create a vegetable garden. They could not afford to build a house immediately so planned to build a garage and use it as a small cottage while saving for the house. Dorothy's father, an expert carpenter, built a very sound garage about 12 feet by 20 feet. With an oil fired kitchen range and furniture it made a cozy temporary home.

During the early years, Easthope Sales and Service provided George a meager income. They were loath to sell their property in Burnaby and move closer to Steveston but commuting to work each day was too expensive. The solution was to install an apartment in a small room on the second floor at the front of the building in Steveston. George and Dorothy would spend the weekend at home in Burnaby. Monday morning George would drive to Steveston. There he stayed and worked until Friday afternoon. Occasionally Dorothy would spend the week at Steveston with George.

From 1944 to 1945 Joe and Percy worked for George at Easthope Sales and Service. Gene worked there from 1940 until the business was sold to Ron Dodd in 1978.

The Drum Drive

The net drum was developed by Laurie Matthew Jarvis, originally Jarvelainen, of Sointula. His Canadian Patent, number 314,504 dated 1931 August 25 begins
"This invention relates to improvements in a hauling device for fishing gear and more particularly to [a] mechanism for hauling in trawling nets. Its primary object of the invention being to provide a means of hauling in said trawling nets by power derived from the engine of the ship.

A further object is to have the nets wound on a drum in such a manner that they will not become entangled, but may be easily and readily unwound and laid out over the stern of the vessel while the same is in motion."

The patent describes the drive mechanism: "Secured to one end of the drum ... is a mitre gear which is engaged by a crown gear pinioned on a drive shaft, said drive shaft being mounted in [a] bearing on a frame work. The power is derived from the ship's engine by means of a chain connecting a clutch with a drive sprocket on the main shaft of the engine said clutch being operated with a foot pedal pivoted to the deck in a convenient place for the operator, ..."

The open gear drive proved to be unsatifactory. Burt Peterson reports "... they eventually installed the rear end gear system of a Model A Ford ...".

Following the development of the net drum by Jarvis the concept was quickly adopted throughout the gillnet industry. The open gear drive described in the Jarvis patent proved to be less satisfactory than a closed mechanism. A commonly used drive was obtained by connecting a Ford Model "T" differential, which provided the right angle gearing, and a Chevrolet transmission. These components were readily available from scrap cars. The transmission output shaft was coupled to the drive shaft of the differential. A torque tube with a flange on each end connected the two housings. Mounting brackets were welded onto the housings. In early installations power was provided through a 1"shaft from the engine to the transmission. Many shops on the Pacific Northwest coast, including Easthope Brothers, built drum drives from salvaged automotive components.

In the 1940s Easthope Sales and Service began producing drum drives of their own design. The mechanism was enclosed by a housing of cast iron in two parts. The lower housing held the drive train; the upper housing was a cover. During the 1960s Easthopes began using aluminum housings for some of the drives they produced. Power input to the Easthope drive was by an auxiliary shaft from the engine or a hydraulic motor connected to the lower shaft. Power was transmitted through a sliding dog clutch and then through sprockets and chain to the upper shaft. From the upper shaft a bevel gear and crown gear transmitted the power to the output shaft. The output shaft was 1 3/8" diameter cold rolled steel. It passed through the drum and was connected to it by a heavy cast iron flange on each side. The flanges were keyed to the shaft and bolted to the frame of the drum.

Second World War, 1939-1945

The onset of World War II brought new prosperity. Single cylinder 6 h.p. Easthope engines were used in lifeboats and harbour launches and the business could sell all it produced. Application of products to the War effort meant that employees at Easthope Brothers were exempt from conscription. Percy Jr. and Joseph continued working at Coal Harbour and George Jr. continued to operate Easthope Sales and Service in Steveston. Eugene volunteered for the Canadian Merchant Marine in 1940.

In addition to prosperity, the war brought new technology and fostered an attitude which demanded faster and more sophisticated machines. When the war ended, veterans returned to civilian careers. The wartime economy quickly declined while other sectors grew rapidly. Property taxes, wages and costs for materials grew. At the same time, declining engine sales meant declining revenues for Easthope Brothers. These factors together resulted in declining profits.

During the early years Watts machine shop in Steveston competed with Easthope Sales & Service in boring propellers, machining shafts and repair work. Marketing of Easthope engines and parts was an advantage for Easthope Sales & Service.

Approximately fifty employees worked in the business at Coal Harbour during WWII. The engines were considered an important asset to the domestic economy and some were used in military applications; consequently employees at Easthope Brothers were exempt from military service.

John Nyberg was born on his parents farm near Elvsbyn, Norrbotensland, Sweden on October 9 of 1912. The family immigrated to a homestead near Shell Lake, Saskatchewan in 1913. John's father was an expert blacksmith and John also developed a mechanical talent.

In 1940 John left the farm and came to Vancouver. The intense economic activity of war had not yet overtaken the Depression and jobs were scarce. The first work John found was with a small crew cutting timber on Vedder Mountain and later in Jervis Inlet. After less than a year logging an opportunity with a plumber became available in Vancouver. That appealed to John's interests more than logging; he worked as a plumber for about six months. At this time Burrard Shipyards was building some of the early Victory ships and John knew someone working there as rivetter. With a little persuasion the foreman hired John as bucker-up on the rivet crew where he stayed about a year.

Arc welding was quickly replacing riveting for heavy steel fabrication. When the shipyard offered a welding course John took the opportunity. With the course complete he began welding seams on Victory ships twelve hours a day, six days a week. This lasted for several months.

Dances were held routinely on Saturday evenings at the Swedish Hall at Clark Drive and Hastings Street and John sometimes attended. Percy and Agnes Easthope also attended and Agnes suggested that Ethel Easthope accompany them one Saturday. Consequently John and Ethel met there and were married on October 3 of 1942.

Military service removed men from the local workforce and the demand for Easthope engines was growing. In the late fall of 1943 John found himself working for his father-in-law. His first assignment was over a year of drilling and tapping cylinder heads, engine bases and flywheels. Practical joking sometimes occurred when foreman Stan Stigant left the premises on an errand. John recalls that if he left the drill press for a few minutes he might return to find grease on the handles of the feed wheel.

The boredom of the repetative work finally spurred John to ask Stan Stigant to be assigned to a different task. Stan dismissed the request and John responded by turning in his time slip to indicate resignation. When this came to the attention of George Easthope Sr. he asked John to explain. George was sympathetic to John's request and told Stan to arrange a change of work. Stan was peeved at being overruled by his employer; he assigned John to the least desirable job he could think of: filing cams. Each shaft was a steel casting with two cams per cylinder cast in place at the appropriate orientation. The cams required filing to reduce the rough casting to a surface smooth enough for the cam follower. The work was exacting, tiring and tedious. John realized the spitefulness which motivated the assignment and resolved to master the work. With practice he was able to complete seventeen cams per day.

A few months at filing cams was followed by a few more months pouring the babbit bearings which support the crankshaft in the base of the engine. John's last work at Easthope Brothers was about three months in the iron foundry. He recalls pouring the castings for engine bases, cylinders, heads and manifolds. In 1945 John left Easthope Brothers to manage and work in an auto garage co-owned with his brother Gundar. The garage remains in use in the basement of the Yorkshire building on Seymour Street between Pender and Hastings.

Edwin Frederick Easthope (b. 1873 approximately), another of brother of George Sr., operated a photography studio in Victoria prior to the war. During the war skilled men were in short supply and Fred was pressed into service at Easthope Brothers. He tested engines in the basement of the machine shop and attended to shipping. He lived in the apartment above the offices adjacent to Georgia street and hence also served as night watchman. After the war Fred retired to a waterfront cottage at Nelson Island. To have his own transportation Fred purchased the launch Triton from his brother George. To the consternation of George, Fred replaced the Easthope engine in the Triton with a large single cylinder engine made by a competitor. Frederick died 1967 December 24 at Chilliwack.

The Decline, 1946-1954

After the Second World War the economy grew worldwide. Vancouver began a period of rapid growth. Property taxes, wages and costs for materials also grew. An automotive engine had a much higher power to weight ratio than did an Easthope engine. The evolution of fishing boats was towards larger size so an automotive engine was the inevitable choice for a new boat. Following World War II the demand for Easthope engines dwindled and by 1950 total annual production was ??. George Sr. and Percy Sr. maintained that use of high speed automotive engines in marine applications was unnecessary. They resisted modernization of engine design and production methods. Consequently engine sales and revenues for Easthope Brothers declined. All these factors together resulted in declining profits.

Nevertheless new Easthope Engines were still built and sold. Frank "Tor" Miller related this story of the engine in his vessel Torhavn. 1946 May 5 a two cylinder 10-14 hp engine, was sold to an unknown purchaser and delivered to the fishing dock at the north end of Gore Street in Vancouver. Several years later it was purchased by George Cooper and installed in his troller. In 1958 or '59 Tor purchased the engine and installed it in the 32 foot Torhavn equiped with "live tanks" for cod. On the advice of another owner of an Easthope engine, Tor replaced the original Schebler carburator with a Ford Model B. The engine was installed with salt water cooling. Tor considered the use of a fresh water cooling system and was told by several men that it would not work. Apparently these self-professed experts had installed or seen such systems which did not work because of absence of a header tank. Such an arrangement failed as soon as the system lost enough water that the pump was air locked. On a visit to the shop in Steveston Tor was told by Joe Easthope that freshwater cooling would work provided a suitable header tank was included above the engine.

Family Members Employed in Easthope Shops, Steveston
Easthope Sales & Service, 1930-1955
Easthope Brothers, 1955-1978
  ┌────── ──────┬────── ──────┬────── ─────┐  
   George Jr. 
Owner 1930-ca.'50.
Partner ca.1951-'67.
Machinist 1942-ca.'50.
foreman ca.1951-'87.
Machinist 1945-ca.'50.
manager ca.1951-87.
Mechanic 1945-ca.'50.
Partner, sales
manager ca.1951-87.
┌───── ───────────── ──────┘ └───── ─────╮
  │ ┌────── ──────┬────── ──────┼────── ──────╮ │ 
 William (Bill) 
Machinist, 1951-56.
Partner, 1967-68.
Helper, summers
Helper, summers
Helper, summers
Donald (Don)
Machinist, helper

At Easthope Sales and Service, George Jr. was short handed. Thus when Eugene returned from the Merchant Marine in 1942 he went to work at Easthope Sales and Service in Steveston. The growth of the business at Steveston and gradual stagnation of Easthope Brothers at Coal Harbour motivated Percy Jr. and Joseph to move to Easthope Sales and Service in 1945.

The facilities in the old shop at Steveston were gradually restructured as the business there grew. The lot neighbouring on the north side was the site of a blacksmith shop operated by Tom Cook. Easthope Sales and Service purchased that property. In 1950 the old blacksmith shop was torn down and a pumice block building was erected. The new building had a rectangular floor plan with a second floor comprising three offices at the front. A new blacksmith shop of pumice block was built behind the old shop next door.

In the last years at Coal Harbour the employees included machinists Clarence Steves, Loyd Barnes and Jim Wilson, mechanic Goebel and two apprentices. Of these Clarence Steves, Loyd Barnes and Jim Wilson worked at the Steveston shop.

In 1950 Percy Sr. retired from work although he retained ownership of his half share of the business. During the early '50s Easthope Brothers underwent a serious decline. In 1953 George Sr. was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma. George Jr. took his father's place at Coal Harbour and the three younger brothers continued to work at Steveston. George Sr. succumbed to the illness May 19 of 1954. Elizabeth, his wife, inherited his half share of Easthope Brothers.

Facilities for pleasure boating were growing at Coal Harbour while the fishing industry was moving away. Sons George Jr., Joseph, Percy Jr. and Eugene were well established at Steveston. With their mother's consent they resolved to purchase the share of Easthope Brothers owned by Percy Sr., to consolidate it with the business at Steveston and to sell the Coal Harbour property. Profitability of Easthope Brothers was marginal by this time and the brothers carried out the plan with limited enthusiasm. With arrangements complete, the labourious movement of machine tools, equipment and stock to Steveston was carried out during the winter of 1954-'55.

In 1955 the property at 1745 West Georgia Street in Vancouver were sold to the proprietors of the Shipyard neighbouring on the east side. The buildings and railways continued in use for marine repair and construction until about 1965 when the property was purchased and cleared to become part of the parking lot of the Bayshore Inn.

Renewal and Demise, 1955-1980

A gurdie is a small, deck mounted, power operated winch used in commercial troll fishing. In principle it is similar to the reel used with a rod for sport trolling. Commercial trolling now uses seven strand stainless steel rope about 2.5 mm in diameter. A gurdie spool is about 25 cm diameter and holds about 600 feet of wire rope. In the typical design there is a series of two, three or four spools running on a one inch diameter bronze shaft which transmits power. Each spool has a brake and is powered independently through a mechanical clutch. There is a cast bronze frame on each end of the assembly and between each spool. Bronze shafts 0.750" inches in diameter parallel to the power shaft pass through the frames and complete the structure. One of these assemblies is mounted on each side of a commercial troll fishing vessel. The line is carried over the side of the vessel through a block suspended from a davit or from a long boom. The gurdie appears to have developed in the 1930s.

Gurdies used on the North Pacific coast were made by Hastings Brass, Lipsett, Simplex, Swann and Tom-Mac. By the 1960s the design was effective although improvements remained possible. The "cone" of the clutch in existing designs was small in diameter resulting in abrupt rather than smooth engagement. If unattended, the brake was either on or off. Partial braking to allow some rotation of the spool required the hand of the operator. In the late 1950s or early '60s consideration was given to building a gurdie at Easthope Brothers. Apparently the motivation and design was not sufficiently advanced to be successful and no evidence of production remains.

L. Gordon McElhinney operated a troller on the west coast of Vancouver Island. His years of experience with existing gurdies combined with a mechanical perception and creative talent allowed him to develop a design with several improved features. When time was available during winters, prototypes were built in his garage at Sooke. He had dealt with Easthope Sales and Service since the 1940s and then with Easthope Brothers after 1955 and was on good terms with the four brothers. McElhinney described his design to Percy who was sufficiently impressed to consider production. In spite of the earlier attempt in the market, Allan, Eugene and Joe consented to proceed. In 1967 Percy and Gordon struck an agreement by which Easthopes would build and sell the gurdies and a royalty would go to Gordon.

Percy and Allan developed the design further to make machining and assembly more efficient. Stainless steel roll pins were used to fix the frames to the longitudinal shafts. Nylon pads were used to reduce wear between the clutch levers and the tapered clutch engagement collar, referred to as the cone. Allan designed and built jigs and tooling for production. The spools and clutch components were originally turned in the Okuma engine lathe and later on the Jones and Lamson semi-automatic turret lathe. The triangular frames were drilled with high speed twist drills and carbide spade drills in the Ooya radial drill press using a jig which incorporating drill guides and a lever action lock to hold the casting.

Units were assembled to order with two, three or four spools. Hydraulic drive was most popular. For this a Char-Lynn motor was fitted to the end frame and coupled to the shaft. The alternative to hydraulic drive was a power take off shaft from the engine of the vessel.

About 1969 dies were made for injection molding of the clutch cones and for the knob on the handle which controlled the clutch and brake of each spool. The clutch cones were made of black nylon and the knobs were nylon, colored green on the starboard side and red on the port side. The nylon cones reduced friction and absorbed shock resulting in easier and smoother clutch action. The nylon knobs were more comfortable to handle than the bronze or brass of the original design, particularly in cold weather. Injection molding was by Scott Plastics of Victoria, B.C.

Originally a Gressen control valve was used on the hydraulic motors. These were purchased by the case from Princess Auto, a farm equipment supplier based in Winnipeg. The Gressen valves were not designed for marine use and were not corrosion resistant. About 1970 Percy designed a control valve with bronze housing and a rotating spool made of bronze shafting. A test stand with a hydraulic motor was built by Loyd Barnes and was used to test each unit after assembly.

The McElhinney/Easthope gurdies remain in wide use. In 1996 an operator in Prince Rupert rmarked to Allan Easthope that it was "still best gurdy going".


List of Engines


A. Hanson, Roberts Creek, BC
Brian Nyberg, Brentwood Bay, BC
Betty & William Easthope, 100 Mile House, BC
Christopher Easthope, Williams Lake, BC
Ethel & John Nyberg, Brentwood Bay, BC
John Foote, Pender Island, BC
John Stigant, Victoria, BC
Robert Turner, Mitchell Bay, Malcolm Island, BC
Seattle Public Library, Central Branch
Sonja MacCrimmon & Allan Easthope, Lake Country, BC
Susan (Tanner) Ness, Malcolm Island, BC


^ Everett City Directory.

Letter from Ernest Easthope Sr. to Joseph Easthope.

^ E. W. Roberts, How to Build a Three-Horsepower Launch Engine, 1st Edition, The Gas Engine Publishing Company, Goodall Building, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1901. The fly leaf is marked "Vincent Easthope, 1466-6th Ave., W., Vancouver, BC, March 18, 1904".

David Conn, Raincoast Chronicles, Six/Ten, Harbour Publishing, Madeira Park, BC, 1983.

Stan Grayson, Old Marine Engines; The World of the One-Lunger, International Marine Publishing Company, 21 Elm Street, Camden, Maine 04843, 1982. ISBN 0-87742-155-2, LCC VM731.G72 1982.

Keith McLaren, Light on the Water, Douglas and MacIntyre, 1998. A collection of photographs from the BC coast.

^ Thomas A. McLaren, and Vickie Jensen, Ships of Steel, Harbour Publishing Co. Ltd., Madeira Park, B.C., 2000. Aerial photo of Georgia Street including Easthope's property, page 96.

^ Lynn Ove Mortensen, "Those Legendary Leasks", B.C. Historical News, Summer, 1995, p. 24. A biography of the Leask brothers.

^ Eds. Peter A. Robson and Michael Skog, Working the Tides; A Portrait of Canada's West Coast Fishery. Harbour Publishing, Madeira Park, B.C., 1996, pp. 54-57, Bert Peterson. ISBN 1-5507-153-4.

^ Oxford English Dictionary Oxford University Press, 1971, page 464, Hurdy-gurdy, sense 3.

^ Ed. Howard White, Raincoast Chronicles First Five; Collector's Edition. Harbour Publishing, 1976, p. 254. Percy W. Easthope interviewed by Howard White.

^ Miller Freeman, author and publisher, "The Fastest Boat on the B. C. Coast ", Pacific Motor Boat. 1908, p. 15.

^ Peter Vassilopoulos, Antiques Afloat, Panorama Publications Ltd., Vancouver, 1980. Aerial photo of Georgia Street including Easthope's property, pages 2 and 3.

Curve of Time, Whitecap Books, Vancouver, B.C.

The Accidental Airline, Harbour Publishing, Madeira Park, B.C.

Additional information welcome.
Email info at easthope dot ca.
Copyright © 2011, Peter Easthope. All rights reserved.

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