Dr. Bruno V. Nordberg, born in Finland and educated in Germany, came to this country as an engineer in 1879. His educational background was primarily in machine design and thermodynamics. Because the E. P. Allis Company was an outstanding builder of various kinds of machinery, including steam engines, he came to Milwaukee and secured a position as a draftsman at the company. In a very short time he had shown as much ability along the lines of machine desIgn that he became the private designer for Irving Reynolds, who was then chief engineer at Allis.
In 1886 Nordberg began his own company in rented quarters on the second floor of a building just north of the old Allis plant, which also contained facilities for Pauling & Harnischfeger as well as for Christopher Levalley who later started the Chain Belt Company.
The new company’s first product was a revolutionary type of cut-off governor invented by Dr. Nordberg for use on steam engines. Soon the company began building simple poppet valve steam engines, condensers, steam pumping engines, and mine hoists.
In 1911 Dr. Nordberg studied the developments of Dr. Diesel who had designed a unique oil burning engine. Nordberg started work on a small horizontal two-cycle engine which developed 50 Horsepower. In 1914 Nordberg secured a license agreement with Carels Freres of Chent, Belgium to build diesels of their in this country. One year later the first large diesel engine built in this country was completed by Nordberg; a five-cylinder, 1250 HP two-cycle engine. This was the beginning that led to Nordberg's eventual position as the number one builder of heavy duty diesels in the Western Hemisphere.
Another advancement was use of gaseous fuels for which Nordberg was granted a patent on May 10, 1932. Firstly, it allowed the engines that pumped the gas pipelines to use the natural gas as fuel directly rather than being powered by diesel fuel. That meant less expensive and more reliable supplies of gas in the market regions of the North from the well heads in Texas and Oklahoma. Secondly, after vaporization of fuel in external chambers was developed, the new design decreased consumption of diesel fuel and allowed tighter control of engine speed both of which are very important for shipboard power plants.
Other significant Nordberg contributions to diesel engine progress in America include the largest single acting, two-cycle diesel engine; the first turbocharged four-cycle diesel engine; the first uniflow scavenging, two-cycle diesel engine; the first port scavenging two-cycle, vertical diesel engine; the first diesel geared drive for propelling large cargo vessels; and the first inherently balanced, heavy duty industrial radial engine.