Scale Oil Field Engines: No ''Small'' Feat
Scale models seem to be all the rage, and the Burns & Homer Co. of New Carlisle, Ohio, has turned out some beautiful specimens. Pictured here is a full-size 25 HP Reid and a 6 HP Burns & Horner scale.
When an engine is popular because of its rarity, age or historical significance, someone inevitably produces a replica or scale model of the original. The oil field engine hobby is no exception. To my knowledge, the largest - and only - company to produce a scale model oil field engine is Burns & Homer Engine Co. of New Carlisle, Ohio. For more than a quarter century this firm has produced 1/4- and 1/8-scale Reid engines, and a 1/4-scale Bessemer engine.
In 1985 Robert Burns, his son, John, and Harry Horner made plans to build three fully operational Reid model engines -one for each of the three men. Harry had already carved some Reid models out of wood, and John soon started cutting steel to fabricate the engines.
Scale dimensions were tallied by averaging the sizes of several different Reid engines, and using the cumulative averages, the men fabricated a stubby-looking little engine, which none of them liked. After some discussion, the three agreed the dimensions of a 6 HP Reid would result in a good-looking model.
All subsequent models produced thereafter have been scaled from the 6 HP Reid.
As the project progressed, John asked Harry if he was happy with what he saw. Harry was puzzled by the question until John explained the steel they were using didn't resemble the cast iron on the full-size engines. So, the men invested several thousand dollars in patterns for casting the various parts of the engine in iron.
The first two cast iron models were made without cleanout plates on the top and bottom of the cylinder. This created flaws in the castings, but adding cleanout plates remedied the casting problem, and they subsequently repaired the first two models.
In 1987 Burns & Homer Engine Co. was incorporated. Unfortunately, Harry Homer and Robert Burns passed away several years ago, but Robert's son, John, continues to produce the scale engines, also offering a -scale Bessemer oil field engine kit to model enthusiasts.
Burns & Horner engine kits are sold as castings and require machinist's skills to put them together. As such, I wouldn't recommend one for a beginner machinist. It's possible, however, to have one built by a professional, and I'm sure John would help a person locate a suitable service. To date, about 150 -scale Reid engines have been built, as well as just under 50 1/8-scale Reids. About 100 1/4-scale Bessemers have also been built.
John s been a great help to the scale model community. He's also popularized 'yellow dog' derrick lamps among oil field engine enthusiasts by manufacturing full-size reproduction 'yellow dog' lamps. His future plans include a scale model of a Superior oil field engine, and at some point he may cast hard-to-find Reid parts. Specifically, he may cast a full-size 4 HP Reid engine kit.
I'm pleased with the growth the oil field engine hobby has seen, and I'm glad to see the enjoyment people have found in scale models. The many wonderful people in our hobby who help fellow friends and collectors is a big part of why the hobby has grown, and I consider John Burns to be one of those people.
As always, please call, write or e-mail if you would like a free membership in the Oil Field Engine Society (OFES).
Contact the Oil Field Engine Society at: 1231 Banta's Creek Road, Eaton, OH 45320-9701, online at: www.oilfieldengine.com, or e-mail at: email@example.com