A modern oilman and his Allis-Chalmers W226 power unit

A life on the oil lease


| October/November 2010



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The Allis-Chalmers W226 power unit that has worked 10 to 12 hours a week for the past 25 years on Don Griffin’s oil lease in northern Pennsylvania. Doing the math reveals total running hours of 13,000 to 15,000. It has never needed any internal repairs, not even a valve job.

Photo by William Klein

Don Griffin had just purchased a clutch plate for his Allis-Chalmers W226 power unit from Sandy Lake Implement in Sandy Lake, Pa., and handed me a check from the Summit Oil Co. account.

 

When I questioned him about the job the power unit did he replied that it pumped some oil wells. I was curious about his operation but, in the midst of a hectic day for both of us, we had little time for further chatting. He headed back to the lease and I returned to the daily press of business as owner of the dealership. He struck me as an interesting fellow during our brief encounter and I hoped our paths would cross again someday.
 

We meet again!
Fast forward more than a year. Thanksgiving Day 2006 found me riding as passenger on my son-in-law’s ATV heading out to inspect an old oilfield engine he had discovered rusting away under the last remaining boards of a shed. We were on frequently traveled ATV club trails so my hopes of finding anything real special weren’t exceedingly high. I was delighted when our excursion ended beside a 12 HP Reid engine that lacked only the oilers to make it 100 percent complete! My quest for the owner began right then and there and came to fruition several weeks later with me knocking on the door of the house on Porter Road with the Summit Oil Co. name on the mailbox. There was no one home at the time so I jotted down the address and left my business card in the door.


When I called a couple days later, Don Griffin came to the phone and our paths intersected once more. My dealings with Mr. Griffin resulted in me purchasing the Reid and becoming convinced that this was a man who had led an interesting life in an admirable and honest way. I was enthused when he asked if I remembered the Allis-Chalmers power unit he had bought the clutch for and invited me to come with him on his rounds some Saturday morning to see it working. That was in the spring of 2007, so we must leap ahead again to late fall of that year when business had slowed enough to allow me to take some time off from the dealership.
 

A modern oil lease
I met Don and his nephew, Clinton, several hundred yards off the blacktop road on an access road that is used to reach the main crude oil storage tank. Clinton is Don’s apprentice and right-hand man and is the intended third-generation successor to Summit Oil Co.