| March/April 1986

  • Reid gas engine

  • Reid gas engine

2121 Gageville Rd., R.D. 2, Ashtabula, Ohio 44004

One of the pleasures of any good hobby is the interesting side tracks it leads you to. In my case, the gas engine hobby has led me to an interest in the history of the oil and gas industry. I'm certainly not the only one, as many others share an interest in this fascinating history. Evidence of that is an enjoyable article in the September 1985 GEM by R. W. Moore in which he tells the story of the 'yellow dog' oil field light. Before Mr. Moore's article, I had no idea what a yellow dog was. I had seen them in antique shops before and the proprietors told me they were tea kettles made to be convenient to pour from, whether you were right or left-handed. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Moore at the Sistersville, WV show this year. Also at Sistersville was a man selling a collection of yellow dogs who set up his stand directly across from Bob Moore's engine display. How's that for good fortune? Mr. Moore got the other yellow dog he wanted. I was fortunate enough to get one, too.

The town of Sistersville, WV is rich in the history and lore of the oil and gas industry. The West Virginia Oil & Gas Festival held there each September brings that history to life for the thousands of people who attend. Displays of old and new oil field engines, pumps, drilling equipment, old photographs, and the many other artifacts shown there trace the story of the industry from past to present.

Another part of the country where oil and gas history abounds is western Pennsylvania. In fact, there it is pretty much inescapable, for it was at Titusville that the industry was born when, on August 27, 1859, Col. Edwin Drake brought in the first oil well in the United States.

I live in the northeast corner of Ohio. The Pennsylvania oil fields are only a two hour drive from my home. Over the years I have made numerous trips into Pennsylvania oil country: fishing trips, camping trips, trips in search of old iron, Sunday drives. Somehow the Sunday drives often end up being engine huntsto the mild chagrin of my wife. Many times while fishing or hiking in that country, and far from any passable roads, I have come across the remains of the early days of oil production. Abandoned wells, well casing, central power wheels and rods going to individual wells, pipe, barrel hoops, remnants of tanks, collapsed engine houses and long forgotten engines can be found in the old oil fields, and much of it is deep in the Pennsylvania woods. I have seen engines on hilltops, on steep hillsides and in narrow valleys. Most of the old engines are in sad shape with many parts missing, other parts broken from winter ice, and some parts simply rusted to death. These old oil field engines were massive chunks of iron. One can only scratch one's head and wonder how the devil the old-timers got them into those hills in the first place! Even if the engines were assembled on-site the individual pieces would still present a formidable moving job. To get one of those old engines out of the woods today would require heavy equipment and a considerable expenditure of time, effort, and money.

One kind of engine you are likely to see in the oil fields of Pennsylvania or West Virginia is the Reid 2 cycle. I am sure that many readers of GEM have seen Reid engines restored and running at shows. This past summer, I acquired a book printed in 1896 in which the early history of the Joseph Reid Company of Oil City, PA is chronicled.


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