Gas Engine Magazine

Another Old Iron Lover

By Staff

3478 Woodlawn Avenue, Haynesville, Louisiana 71038-6202

Recently a friend of mine lent me six copies of GEM,
which I enjoyed reading very much, so I sent in my subscription and
realized I must be another lover of ‘old iron.’ To verify
my belief I will list below some of my experiences with ‘old
iron’ from the time I was a boy of nine until my present age of

Age 9-11, I caught rides on wagons hauling cotton to the gin,
and spent hours investigating all the engines and equipment
throughout the gin. Very few belt guards were used those days, so
I’m lucky I came out alive. During ginning season, the engines
ran day and night.

When I was 12 to 13, my family had a hay baling operation which
consisted of an F-12 Farmall tractor, large Case pickup baler with
a Waukesha engine, Model A Ford automobile, Model B Ford truck, hay
mower, rakes, homemade cooking and a sleeping trailer and six-man
crew. I drove the tractor that pulled the hay baler. We baled hay
for the public, sometimes spending several days at a time baling in
bottom lands, camping near a creek, sometimes catching fish for our
evening meal called ‘supper’ in the South.

At age 14 the summer, during World War II, I worked as a
delivery boy for a company in Dallas, Texas, that rebuilt engines
and sold engine parts. I had a choice of using a new 1941 Plymouth
pickup truck or a new three-wheel Harley-Davidson motor cycle. At
age 14, guess which one I used the most?

At 15, I stretched the truth about my age and worked in a shell
factory in Ft. Worth, Texas, operating various types of lathes,
etc. There was a man-shortage, so the employers weren’t so

When I was 16 I received my student pilot’s license and
learned to fly a J-2 Piper Cub with a big old 40 horsepower
Continental engine. The airplane had no brakes or electric power,
therefore it had to be cranked by hand. My oldest brother was my
flight instructor. He was a test pilot and changed jobs,
transferring to Fairfield, California, to fly to islands in the
Pacific. They used converted B-24 bombers. He helped me secure a
job at the airbase that summer as a driver. I had access to a
Cushman motor scooter, Clark forklift, airplane tug with trailer,
station wagon and any size truck needed, by going to the motor pool
and checking it out. My job consisted of moving parts and equipment
from the hangar, unloading B-24 engines from freight cars, making
trips to Sacramento to exchange propellers etc., and transporting
pilots to and from San Francisco to observe how air traffic
overseas was handled. V-J Day was observed while I worked at this

At 17 I worked during the summer for a general contractor who
built highways in Texas. I started as an oiler on a Model 5
Northwest shovel that was powered by a large gasoline Waukesha
engine. It had to be cranked by hand and I was barely heavy enough
to pull the crank. My operator was a cranky old coot and made me
constantly pump grease in all the shovel parts until the grease was
all over it, then I had to use a putty knife to scrape it off, and
most of this being performed with the machine in operation.

When I was 18, the summer was spent building a highway again,
pulling sheep-feet rollers with a Case Model K tractor and
operating various Caterpillar dozers, including long trackR-D8.
Working hours were long, taking advantage of the hot dry weather.
The rock crusher operation was interesting, with all the diesel
engines bellowing their black smoke.

When I reached 18-20, those summers were again spent working on
highway construction, operating all kinds of dozers, scrapers, and
heavy equipment.

Age 21-23. After one year of college, thinking I had all the
‘smarts’ I needed, I went back to highway construction. I
operated a Northwest Model 6 shovel, powered by a six-cylinder
Murphy diesel. Finally, I reached twenty-one years of age and hired
out to an oil well cementing company, which sent me to Haynesville,
Louisiana, to drive a large FWD truck powered by a six-cylinder
‘Jimmy’ diesel with 500/sack bulk cement trailer.

I met my wife, married, and was drafted a month and a half later
into the U.S. Army, during the Korean War. After spending sixteen
months training troops for Korea, orders were cut for me to go to
Europe. I went to Germany as a dozer operator and heavy duty truck
driver, completing my military time, except for being in the
reserves, until being discharged.

At 24, I returned to north Louisiana to work for an oil well
cementing company, operating a cement pump truck. This company had
all kinds of good equipment, many pieces they called pig iron.
There were several steam drilling rigs in use in our area and this
company had one steam pump truck that could mix cement faster than
any others I had seen. It would rock back and forth and resemble a
large steam locomotive.

From age 24-66? went to work for a crude oil pipeline company
here in Haynesville, as an inexperienced pipe-liner. Worked here
for 42 years, raised two sons, and retired as maintenance manager.
During those years we used all types of prime mover engines and
pumps. When I first started, our main station had three
Fairbanks-Morse Type Y vertical oil engines, style V coupled to
Worthington horizontal pumps with 4-inch solid plungers. When these
machines were started, there had better be a valve open somewhere
or the pipeline would be split open. These engines were designed to
burn crude of a certain gravity. They did not burn all the fuel,
part of it being blown out the vertical exhaust stacks settling on
the corrugated tin roof of the pump station building. When I was in
the pipeline gang, we spent days on this old roof cleaning it so it
could be repainted. We also used all kinds of ‘old iron’
engines, like Buda, White, Hercules, Waukesha and Ford, to power
the prime movers.

I suppose my wife is a lover of old iron, too, having spent 37
of her last working years working for a company that moved oil well
drilling rigs in the Arkansas-Louisiana-Texas area.

About forty years ago, I saved an old engine from one of the
pump stations that were being sold for junk. I placed it in
storage. Recently I cleaned it up and now have it running. It is a
3 HP Fairbanks-Morse Type Z engine, with throttling governor, spark
plug and open crankcase. I thought it was probably built during
1921 and after securing a list of serial numbers, I found that to
be true. I am now looking for a grist mill to use with the

I hope I haven’t bored you with reminiscing about my old
iron past.

  • Published on Aug 1, 2000
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