East of the Elton Press was the Kirby Hotel on property later holding the lumberyard of E.P Tanner. East of Elton Press the Electric Theatre built by Clare Bennett. Both structures were put up shortly after Magrath became a town. It had the first electric light in town. The generator and engine for the lights were housed in a lean-to shed in the rear of the building.
The engine was a one cylinder stationary I.H.C. gas engine with a pair of huge flywheels about five feet across. Some of these same engines were used as power for threshers and other farm machinery. None of them were too reliable but they were the first replacement for the huge steamer engines. The steam engines had several disadvantages. One big disadvantage was the number of men required to operate the machine, and the second was the necessity of having a qualified engineer in charge which meant a specially inspection of the machine each year and also specially engineer’s wages. There was also the danger of setting the place on fire in the harvest, though it seldom happened.
The gas engine could be operated by anyone who could handle the thing and required only one man. There were soon gas-operated tractors but these engines were portable and weighted about four tons. All that were in the district came to a bud end. The operation was about the same for all of them.
If the engineer got just the right amount of gas allowed for, a turn of the flywheel by one or two men got a big bang out of the engine and the engineer had to regulate the choke quickly. If the flywheel got a second explosion before it ran down, things were going pretty well and likely after about two or three more violent explosions the thing would settle down to work.