Oil Field Engine Society News

Blaire Grube

Blaire Grube helping tear open building.

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Farmer 1231 Banta's Creek Road, Eaton, Ohio 45320-9701

We are all aware that many people enjoy collecting the old oil field engines; but not so common are the ones who collect and take an interest in the old pump jacks and related equipment and rigging which came with this work of getting oil out of the ground. The society received a letter recently from Mr. Mark V. Ballachino, who has always been 'marveled,' in his own words at the old oil well pump jacks ever since his childhood, and he always felt he would like to have one of his own. So last summer he was able to obtain one and now requests that if anyone has information on this subject, such as history or manufacturers or if someone can help him to more specifically identify his own pump jack (see photo), he would very much like to hear from them. He can be contacted at: Mr. Mark V. Ballachino, 172 N. Cascade Drive, Springville, N. Y. 14141 or on the web at MBallachino@Yahoo.com.

In response to the article a while back on half-breed engines, we received a request for help in finding a flywheel for a 12 HP Farrar & Trefts steam engine. As many of these became half-breed gas engines, the owner feels as though there must be one out there in a rough and cannibalized state with the correct flywheel. It would have curved spokes, a 3' crankshaft bore, and be approximately 54' in diameter. If anyone can help, please contact Mr. Carlton Ekdahl, 55 Portsmouth Ave., Manchester, NH 03109-4434.

Our story this month with accompanying photos was written and sent in for the OilField Engine News by Mr. Luis A. Miller Jr., R.D. #1, Box 304A, Worthington, Pa. 16262.

As always, if you would like a free membership in the OilField Engine Society, please send a self-addressed envelope to my address at the start of this column.

Mr. Miller's story follows. This is a photo of one of my two 15 HP Ball engines. I accidentally found these two engines in August 1991. I drive truck, and at the time, was driving for a road and bridge construction firm. We were working on replacing an old bridge on Route 58 near St. Petersburg, Pennsylvania, in a little burg called Alum Rock. I was sent with a load of concrete forms from west side to east side of the bridge, and was sent on the wrong road. This road was hardly passable and led to me finding and seeing one of the engines sticking out of the brush. With only one house on this road, I stopped after work and talked to a Mr. Shorty Shoop. I was excited to find out through conversation that there was not one but two engines; the one pictured that I restored was found further up in the woods in a powerhouse. Mr. Shoop told me all about this engine and that he ran and serviced it for many years pumping four oil wells for Mr. Ray Dunkle, the owner. He owned these until his death, when his wife sold the property and wells to a coal-stripping company. The property was stripped, backfilled and seeded, then was sold to Mr. Jamie Clawson, from whom I purchased the two engines. In conversation with Mr. Shoop, I found out the engine had been sitting idle for 31 years. I figured the worst, sitting that long, but there are a few surprises in old engines sometimes. With the help of my good friends, Ray Whietling, Blaire Grube, Glenn Johnston and LeRoy Gibble, we were able to bump the piston loose from the cylinder with no trouble. We completely disassembled the engines on site for transport to my house fifty miles away. It was a big job getting both engines out of there because of being in such a remote spot and the property being stripped. We found the cylinder bore in pretty good shape, with little work being done to it. The water jacket outside cylinder area and head were in pretty sad shape. The head was cracked in several places and a piece of casting from outside of the cylinder was broken free. I was able to have repairs made on these parts without much difficulty and at a good price. I was really surprised, after thirty-one years of sitting, that only the cylinder oiler was missing. All other parts were still there intact. I also purchased many extra parts from inside the building for the engines. I found the rings on the eight-inch piston frozen tight. I tried diesel fuel and penetrating oil with no success. I used pure vinegar in a five gallon bucket with the piston turned upside down in vinegar. It really cleaned up the piston and loosened up the rings in about four to five days. I took the main parts of the engine to the company shop where I picked up my truck when working for that company, and degreased and steamed the flywheels, bed plate and cylinder three times each. There was at least one and one-half inches of old grease and dirt built up in some places. I started restoration in December 1991, and worked pretty much all winter into spring of '92, cleaning and painting. By Memorial Day 1992, I started reassembling. With the help, of my neighbors, Lester Smith and Kenny Walters, and Lester's back hoe, we proceeded in getting the engine back together. By late June or early July 1992, I was ready to start the engine for the first time. We ran into a few problems with starting due to air and fuel settings being different on propane than on natural gas. With the help of my neighbor Tom Miller and his son, Charlie, we were able to start the engine using his Farmall tractor back wheel as a drive wheel turning the engine over for easy starting. It worked out real good and made it possible to make adjustments needed for running smoothly.

It ran great, and oh, the music to my ears from the exhaust. Being a two-cycle engine, it fires about every stroke. This was my first big restoration project, and I was really proud of the way things turned out.

I have a total of just over 600 hours in the project. The original 18' x 18' x 7' oak timer that the engine was mounted on was done away with, because of being too narrow and the danger of upsetting and injury to somebody, or death. Mr. Ray Whitling used 4' gas well casing and angle iron to make a new sled-type stand.

I had a very enjoyable and educational time during the whole project. I have a total of 25 engines, plus four old tractors, and over-400 oil cans and old antique tools in my collection. This engine restoration project is my favorite and most enjoyable to date. I have just over $900.00 in the complete project, not counting my time, but who counts time when one is having fun?