The Central Washington Antique Farm Exposition held at the Central Washington Agricultural Museum in Union Gap each August is a great show in the beautiful area of eastern Washington state.
The show has a very lively swap meet with truckloads of interesting farm antiques, and at the 2003 show we picked up a nice F.E. Myers & Bro. well pump and a separate, rusty old pump jack from a vendor we’ve visited for years.
The pump was in good condition, and the pump jack gears turned freely when we tested them: We figured it would be an easy job hooking them up to make a small display. Little did we know what challenges lay in store for us.
Pumped to begin
First we tackled the pump. All it needed was some cleaning, oiling and the addition of a nice brass faucet we had saved for just such an occasion. We also installed a sucker rod running from the top of the pump through the base.
The pump jack was a different story. Although the gears turned easily, they were fiercely stuck on the shafts. After trying to remove the gears with a combination of heat, hammering and penetrating solvents to no effect, we built a set of custom gear pullers to gently grab the gears from behind and push on the shafts. With applied force, plus heat from a torch, we were finally able to remove one gear from each shaft. This allowed us to slide the shafts from the cast frame and then band saw the shafts flush with the remaining gears. The severed shafts were then drilled out, and the gear bores were cleaned up.
One cast iron bearing in the frame was worn out, so we bored out the casting and slipped in a bronze bearing sleeve. We made new shafts from drill rod, machined in key ways and put the pump jack assembly together – at last. We added some paint, a new oak pump yoke, and the job was completed.
Next, we needed to mount the pump and pump jack so we could operate it using our trusty Fairbanks-Morse 1-1/2 HP Model Z engine. This is where our ambitions started to grow: We decided to mount the whole assembly on skids, and then we put that on a cart for easy transportation to shows and display in parades. The skids were fabricated from 4-by-6-inch timbers with cross pieces pegged in, and we routered the corners to improve the appearance.
The cart consists of steel wheels and axles with hub nuts – we wanted to avoid the ‘cotter pin appearance’ that’s so prevalent on carts. The wheels were hand-bent from shallow-channel steel and butt-welded at the joint; the spokes are 1/2-inch steel rod, and the 4-inch-long, 4-inch-diameter wooden hubs were turned from wood on a lathe and fitted with bronze bearing sleeves. The spokes are pressed into the wooden hubs and welded to the steel rims.
The road to restoration got rough again when we decided to make this a working display with water pumping in a cycle – constantly recirculating the water from the pump to the reservoir.
We built a pump cylinder using plastic pipe and flapper valves, and then we installed it in the base of the well pump.
Next, we located an old galvanized tub, placed it between the pump and engine, and plumbed it to the pump. We hit some snags here, as we discovered we needed two pipe unions to assemble the plumbing. It took a lot of cutting and testing, but we finally got a watertight system.
A wooden trough leading from the spigot back to the tub completed the job. After we did a little work on the magneto and carburetor, the FM ran at a nice, quiet idle, and when belted to the pump jack it effortlessly ran the rig and maintained a reliable flow of water.
We recently exhibited our pump rig at a local strawberry festival, and it was a real attention-getter. We believe in working exhibits, as they attract plenty of people and educate them in an entertaining way about the way things used to be done. So now this retired pump is back at work, only this time it’s pleasing crowds at antique shows instead of pleasing livestock at the water trough.
Contact antique machinery enthusiast Kirk Unzelman at: 4635 130th Ave. S.E., Bellevue, WA 98006, Mike intlekofer is also interested in antique engines and related machinery, and can be reached at: 4472 119th Ave. S.E., Bellevue, WA 98006.