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Big Bore: 1907 1,100 hp Snow

The Northwest Michigan Engine and Threshers Club rescues a titan of an engine.

| June/July 2016

  • 1907 1,100 hp Snow
    Photo by Tony Suykerbuyk
  • The Snow's former home, a natural gas pumping station in rural West Virginia. The site was taken out of operation in 1967.
    Photo courtesy Tony Suykerbuyk
  • The Snow as found after 40 years sitting idle and fairly buried in pipes and materials.
    Photo courtesy Tony Suykerbuyk
  • 1907 1,100 hp Snow
    Photo courtesy Tony Suykerbuyk
  • The first tear-down crew hoisting the Snow's crank-shaft in 2008. Left to the right: Al Strange, Jeff Gunnet, Steve Scott, Tony Suykerbuyk, Kaleb Fisk, Cody Wall, Corey Wall, Jim Dunbar, Jan Dunbar.
    Photo courtesy Tony Suykerbuyk
  • The Snow's engine beds on the new foundation with the new building built around it.
    Photo courtesy Tony Suykerbuyk
  • Lowering engine beds onto the new foundation.
    Photo courtesy Tony Suykerbuyk
  • Tony Suykerbuyk leveling the beds.
    Photo courtesy Tony Suykerbuyk
  • The Snow's engine beds on the new foundation with the new building built around it.
    Photo courtesy Tony Suykerbuyk

Manufacturer: Snow Steam Pump Works Buffalo, NY
Serial no.: C123
Horsepower:  1,100 hp at 95 rpm
Bore & stroke: 23 in x 48 in
Flywheel diameter:  18 ft
Ignition: Originally igniter, converted to spark plugs in 1944 with point tripper system consisting of 16 sets of points, dual spark plugs and dual coils per cylinder.
Governing: Ferguson horizontal spring fuel governor

One hundred years ago, huge engines like this 1,100 hp twin tandem double-acting Snow dotted the country. Many of them, like this one, were set up in remote stations, powering massive compressors to deliver natural gas to municipalities large and small. With reliability paramount, engines like this Snow were built to last; as recently as 2013, Columbia Gas in West Virginia was still using 1914 and 1917 C & G Cooper twin tandem double-acting engines to pump natural gas, almost 100 years after they were built.

The Snow

Most of those engines are long gone, cut up and recycled in favor of more efficient natural gas turbines, but a few remain, every now and then coming to light. But discovery doesn’t mean preservation. Despite significant attempts to save them, the Bessie 7, the seven 1927 Cooper-Bessemer 1,000 hp engines discovered here in Kansas back in 2002, wound up being cut up and harvested for their precious metals. Yet over the years, a lucky few have been saved, thanks only to the undying passion of gas engine enthusiasts across the country.

This 1,100 hp twin tandem double-acting Snow is one such engine, saved from the scrap yard by the Northwest Michigan Engine and Threshers Club in Buckley, Michigan. Weighing an estimated 225 tons – yes, tons, or 450,000 pounds – it is the only known surviving twin tandem double-acting Snow engine.

Bearing serial number C123, it was built in 1907 to pump natural gas from West Virginia to Pennsylvania and New York. Originally installed in a Natural Gas Co. pumping station in Hunter, West Virginia, it worked there until around 1944, when it was dismantled and moved some 90 miles south to the Gulf Pumping Station in Ritchie County. In 1967 the station was retired, and this engine along with a twin, serial number C124, was sold to local oil and gas producers H H Elder & Son. According to club member Tony Suykerbuyk, the new owners were only interested in the building housing the engines, which they wanted to use as a storage facility for their business.


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