A Model Reid, 'power' and pump Jacks

Clerk cycle engine

Content Tools

7574 South 74 Street, Franklin, Wisconsin 53132

Reid engines had fascinated me for several years, because of their extra charging cylinder and odd configuration. The Pennsylvania and West Virginia oil fields have also interested me for years, because of their old and varied mechanical equipment that is still operating. That is why every year our family spends one week taking videos of the old wells that are still operating, being powered by Reid and other makes of engines. Some wells have one engine powering one well and may still have the derrick in place. Some other wells have a central powerhouse, where the engine is belted to what is called a 'power.' This is a gear reducer with one or more eccentric rings mounted on it. Several wells (maybe 25) are attached to these eccentrics with steel rods transmitting the pulling power. The rod lines fan off from the central power like spokes on a wheel, with the wells being up to a mile away. The rod lines would run up and down hills, across rivers, under roads (through pipes) and up and over other roads through all kinds of mechanical linkages. At the end of each rod line is a pump jack. Some are 'low budget,' made of wood or old pipe, but most are factory built of steel channel.

The Reid gas engine was designed around the Clerk cycle engine designed by Dugald Clerk in England. The Reid was the only American engine built to use this design with the separate charging cylinder. The Reid was built in Oil City, Pennsylvania, and was built especially for oil well use. Most Reid engines use a hot tube ignition, and are fueled from the natural gas at the well head. Joseph Reid was issued his patent in 1898 and built these two cycle engines in sizes from 4 to 40 horsepower. The 15 and 20 horse engines were the most popular.

I had to have a model Reid, so I purchased a set of castings from Burns & Horner Engine Company (they advertise in the classified section of GEM). I knew that the model was large. It is a quarter scale model of the 6 HP Reid and is available in right-hand or left-hand configurations. The castings are clean and of nice quality, but one had better have the use of a large lathe and at least a Bridgeport milling machine to machine the big pieces. The iron machined well, and I found no hard spots. The two cylinder bores were kept parallel by the use of a fixture that was bolted to a lathe face plate. I bored the cylinders to within .004' of finish size and then had the two bores professionally honed to size. As the bore is the most important part of the engine, the precision honed bore is well worth the additional cost.

My being a design engineer is probably one reason for my love of O-ring seals. This kit calls for the main valve body to be sealed to the cylinder in two places with copper rings. I didn't like the copper rings. They are not a positive seal, like an O-ring would be. Also, the valve body, if sealed with O-rings, can be removed and replaced as many times as necessary, with a perfect seal each time. I designed an O-ring seal for the valve body, using two O-rings and also the sealing surface of the mixer valve.

One other change that I subsequently did to both ball check valves was to limit the amount of lift available to each ball by inserting a screw into the casting that is a set distance above each ball, calculated for the area of the seat. This improves operation of the engine.

There were no machining problems with the rest of the engine, and assembly went well. The hot tube ignition that is supplied with the kit looks too large for this engine. I built a hot tube using the design of Norm Colby of Pennsylvania that is the 'proper size for the engine. When the day came to start the engine for the first time, it started easily and throttled down to about 90 RPM. The engine sounds just like the big Reid.

Being a stickler for details, I wanted my engine to have the three oval covers that are on the back of Reid cylinder casting and the cover that is between the two cylinders. I made patterns for these covers, which have raised edges and bosses for the nuts, like the real ones, and had a set cast. I also added the details for the wedge and split brasses on the side rod. This side rod was larger than a scaled down side rod would be, so I made the rod smaller in diameter, with a slightly larger center and also made the rod end a scale size. Since Reid engines had frail side rods that could be bent if the cylinder would backfire, a special relief valve was attached to the rear of the charging cylinder. I made a working relief valve scaled down from a real one. I wanted my engine to have a governor that did more than just turn, so I built a scaled down governor that actually operates the two rods that enter the mixing valve.

The standard practice in the oilfields was to mount the engine to a wood timber. Notches would be cut into the sides of the timber for the lower nuts. This wood timber would be set into notches cut into two or three smaller timbers that ran crosswise to the engine. These timbers were called 'mud sills' and provided a solid base for the engine and clutch bearing. Tapered wedges would hold the engine in alignment with the clutch bearing. To be authentic, I mounted my Reid on hardwood 'timbers' and 'mud sills.'

The extension pipe on the top of the exhaust pipe is called a 'barker.' It is a pipe with a closed end that acts like a whistle each time the engine fires. They were all made of different lengths so that each well made a different tone. The pumper could tell from the sound of the 'barkers' that all his wells were running.

Now that I finally had a running engine, I wanted the rest of the oilfield equipment. There is no clutch available for this engine and since I wanted a clutch, like a real engine would have, I decided to make my own clutch. I took measurements and made drawings of the proper clutch and outboard bearing and made my own foundry patterns. There are nine castings for the clutch and outboard bearing.

Now with a working clutch, a 'power' was needed. I chose the smallest Reid power and made foundry patterns for it. I was able to use standard Boston gears. There are five castings in the power, including the 7 inch diameter spoked pulley.

For the pump jacks, I chose a wood jack and one built out of pipe. The wood jack was simple, but the pipe jack required two more foundry patterns and castings. No problem! With the jacks done, I set everything up on a shelf made especially for it. Now whenever I want, I can start my Reid, engage the clutch and 'pump oil' with two pumps on my own rod line. I have had a lot of fun building this engine and accessories. It is large, but the size is part of the fun. For any of you who want to build a Reid, I have a set of notes and sketches that will save you a lot of time and produce a sweet running engine. These can be had free if you send me an SASE. I also have extra castings and drawings to build the clutch, outboard bearing and 'power.'