Sewer Equipment Beginnings

The history of Sewer Equipment started in 1941 in a small garage on Courtland Avenue in Park Ridge, Illinois. It began as a simple idea that gave birth to a product line that’s been growing and evolving for over 75 years. H.T. O’Brien was tinkering in his garage when he connected a hand drill to a two-foot piece of flexible cable. He quickly discovered this simple tool could safely and effectively open a clogged kitchen sink, better than anything he had ever used. He built a few dozen of these tools, put them in the trunk of his car, and drove into Chicagoland to call on plumbers, hospitals, restaurants, and hotels. Soon, a company was born.


He continued to launch innovative products such as cable and bucket machines, jetters, and the world-famous hydraulic root cutter. He retired from the industry in 1970. Following his retirement, Sewer Equipment moved from Chicago to Maquoketa, Iowa in 1972. We produced the same equipment there that we still assemble in our current facility. We also started utilizing a dealer network in 1980 at the Maquoketa facility. The business moved to Chadwick, Illinois due to a fire in 1991.


Sewer Equipment Co. of American team photo


Our Philosophy in Practice

Throughout his career, H.T. maintained that product simplicity was critical. A simpler machine was safer, easier to operate, easier to maintain, and thus more productive and cost-effective. In the 1970s, his son, Jim O’Brien Sr., continued developing and manufacturing sewer cleaning machines. However, he continued the theme of simplicity. For over 20 years in the rural town of Chadwick, Jim created several unique machines that helped solve the problems of everyday pipe cleaning faced by municipalities, contractors, and plumbers. 


Our current factory today is located in Dixon, Illinois after the move from Chadwick in 2012. You may recall that Dixon is the boyhood hometown of Ronald Reagan, a great president and a friend of American businessmen and women. However, many don’t know that Dixon is also the birthplace of one of the simplest product innovations in US history that revolutionized the agricultural industry.


A Dixon blacksmith by the name of John Deere invented the scoured steel plow in 1837. Replacing the cast-iron plow, this simple John Deere plow revolutionized farming. This changed history by ushering migration of early settlers throughout the central Midwest and the western United States. John Deere and H.T. O’Brien produced simple products which generated such magnificent results. 


Sewer Equipment Vs. The Competition

The industry today, the manufacturers, in particular, have gone out of their way to make equipment more complex. Unfortunately, all this complexity comes at the expense of the operators and the mechanics. In the interest of making a specification that is more difficult for competitors to meet or adding eye candy and glitz that catches people’s eye.


There’s a longer training cycle associated with difficult to operate machines, especially if operator turnover rate is high. Our equipment doesn’t have that; our machines are very simple to operate and even simpler for the mechanics. Mechanics don’t have to go to school for six weeks to figure out how to maintain the equipment, let alone to troubleshoot it. This is because only standard shop tools are utilized with Sewer Equipment products. Simple things. Simple to operate, simple to maintain. With our history, it’s no wonder our motto is “Best Products. Best Local Support“.