Skip to Main Content

Stationary Engineers


During the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries, many new inventions changed the ways in which people lived and worked. Some of these inventions used new energy sources, including steam engines, coal, electricity, and petroleum. When this power was applied to the new machines, many aspects of life began to alter dramatically.

As the Industrial Revolution spread, new, large factories were built. Sometimes working conditions for the construction and stationary workers were not good. Employees were required to work 60 to 90 hours per week, and their wages were low considering the number of hours they put in. So in 1896, a small group of stationary engineers met in Chicago to form the National Union of Steam Engineers of America. Each was from a small local union and all shared the skill of being able to operate the dangerous steam boilers of the day. This ability also made the steam engineers vital to the construction industry, which used steam-driven equipment at the turn of the century. As members began working with internal combustion engines, electric motors, hydraulic machinery, and refrigerating systems, as well as steam boilers and engines, the union changed its name to the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE). Today, the IUOE sponsors apprenticeship programs and is the primary union to which stationary engineers belong.

Wherever big equipment installations are located, stationary engineers are needed to operate and maintain the equipment. Once again, their jobs are changing. Equipment is becoming increasingly automated and operators now use computerized controls.

Related Professions