Oil Field Engine Wonderland

By Staff
article image
Photo by Paul Harvey
Almost finished: The new oil field engine collection building at the Coolspring Power Museum.

Two years ago, the Coolspring Power Museum recognized the need for another structure to house the many oil field engines that were either scattered outside or in a storage building. These begged to be displayed and operated for all to enjoy, and most could run with a little tinkering. A pavilion seemed logical, but the location was perplexing. Many sites were measured and evaluated, but none were right. Finally, we agreed on a site between Pat’s Place and the Snow building. Estimating the number of engines to be included, we were able to plan a 104 foot by 32 foot pavilion. It would be 20 feet from our east property line, and fortunately the location was acceptable with that land owner. We now had a plan; as well as a huge project ahead. It was an exciting start!

Member Stewart McKinley, a professional contractor, was contacted and we accepted his bid. On Sept. 10, 2015, Stewart submitted his plan. It was approved, and work began! Thanks to the light winter, work progressed well.

Clearing the trees and brush posed no problem for Steve Wolbert’s little Lorain shovel. Those little cable machines are truly amazing, and it is on display at the museum. Next, Stewart hired an excavating contractor to remove and save all the top soil, replacing it with 33 dump truck loads of stone and then laser-leveling it into a firm building pad. With the foundation in place, holes had to be drilled for posts, and by March 2016 the building was taking shape.

The electric service was brought from the Snow Building and a service electrical box installed. It now has 39 LED light bulbs using less than 400 watts total. Receptacles were conveniently placed on the posts. The natural gas, water and compressed air came from Pat’s Place. There is a natural gas line for engine fuel around the building perimeter, about 8 inches above the floor. A compressed air line runs overhead to provide starting air to the bigger engines. It is a complex system that is interconnected to all the other buildings on the hill.

By mid-October 2016 we had a fantastic red and tan structure. Whoops! It’s not a pavilion anymore, but has grown into a building. Both end walls as well as the east wall are enclosed. Note the five big windows. This presents a very pleasant appearance from the street. The red tank is a natural gas accumulator, and the green one is compressed air. The building’s destiny has now changed with this great improvement.

Perhaps a minor problem, but a name had to be chosen. We considered so many, but finally settled on “Paul’s Pavilion” since I have been a major contributor to the project. I just had to add “Engine Wonderland” to the building’s name, as it has certainly been that for me. A quick dictionary check revealed that “pavilion” could either be an open or enclosed display hall, so it really is still a pavilion.

The image above shows the interior view from the north doorway. It now houses 27 engines, several already in operation. There is room for about six more engines, which will be added soon. The spacious interior aisle will provide winter storage for some antique mobile equipment. Hanging in the center of the structure is the original sign for the United Natural Gas Co.’s laurel display near Sigel, Pennsylvania.

A view of the engines along the east wall is truly impressive. In the foreground is Steve Tachoir’s magnificent 30 hp Olin, the first engine installed. After so many years it now runs superbly. Across the aisle is the west wall display seen below. All the engines are oil field related, and soon will be documented in display plaques.

Some engines have been grouped together as to manufacturer or similarity. Steve has already added a 15 hp Olin and soon will bring a 10 hp Olin. The photo below shows three big and amazingly similar 2-cycle engines: a 20 hp JC, a 20 hp South Penn and a 15 hp Ball. There is a definite connection with the makers of the three, and that will be explored in a future article.

Our Pattin Brothers engine display seen below starts with a 40 hp 4-cycle throttling engine with opposed compressor cylinders, then progresses to 25 hp 4-cycle hit-and-miss engine, followed by a 15 hp hit-and-miss engine. In the foreground are two 8 hp 4-cycle engines, one a stand-alone engine and the other with a combination pumping power built into one unit. A 12 hp 2-cycle Pattin Brothers with attached and back-geared pump will be added behind the little 8 hp machines. Six Pattin Brothers engines in one location!

The National Transit engine display (below) features the 1932 “Little Booster” engine near the window. This machine was designed with two, 2-cycle power cylinders, and two opposed compressor cylinders. They were designed to run continuously, boosting gas pressure on remote lines. The little red vertical in the left foreground is the typical 4 hp “NT” manufactured in the 1915 era. At one time, literally hundreds of these were scattered about the oil fields pumping single, shallow wells. The center engine is a much older 2-cycle National Transit, which features an open crankcase and crosshead. Built about 1900, it was found near Warren, Pennsylvania. The unit to the right is a combination 2-cycle engine and pump. Similar units were used in small National Transit “local” stations to be operated occasionally, pumping oil from a remote lease to the next larger station.

The picture below is an interesting Bessemer comparison. In the foreground is a 30 hp 4-cycle Bessemer. It runs so very quietly. Next to it is a 35 hp 2-cycle “commercial style” Bessemer with the vertical governor and enclosed crankcase. Both could perform the same function and Bessemer gave the buyer a choice.

The unfinished west side is seen below. It is still unfinished because next year an 18-foot-wide addition will be added! Finally, the entire structure will be enclosed with red and tan siding completing the building. Exciting plans are being made to choose the engines to be included, and it appears that the addition will fill easily. The south corner will include the 160 hp twin cylinder Western engine built in Los Angeles, California. It has long awaited attention, and will greatly augment the display. It will require a concrete foundation and perhaps two years to achieve operation. It will be the largest engine in the structure.

Please do visit the museum during 2017 and tour the new Wonderland building: I’m sure you will not be disappointed.

Contact the Coolspring Power Museum at PO Box 19, Coolspring, PA 15730 • (814) 849-6883

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