A Model Reid, ‘power’ and pump Jacks

By Staff
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7574 South 74 Street, Franklin, Wisconsin 53132

Reid engines had fascinated me for several years, because of
their extra charging cylinder and odd configuration. The
Pennsylvania and West Virginia oil fields have also interested me
for years, because of their old and varied mechanical equipment
that is still operating. That is why every year our family spends
one week taking videos of the old wells that are still operating,
being powered by Reid and other makes of engines. Some wells have
one engine powering one well and may still have the derrick in
place. Some other wells have a central powerhouse, where the engine
is belted to what is called a ‘power.’ This is a gear
reducer with one or more eccentric rings mounted on it. Several
wells (maybe 25) are attached to these eccentrics with steel rods
transmitting the pulling power. The rod lines fan off from the
central power like spokes on a wheel, with the wells being up to a
mile away. The rod lines would run up and down hills, across
rivers, under roads (through pipes) and up and over other roads
through all kinds of mechanical linkages. At the end of each rod
line is a pump jack. Some are ‘low budget,’ made of wood or
old pipe, but most are factory built of steel channel.

The Reid gas engine was designed around the Clerk cycle engine
designed by Dugald Clerk in England. The Reid was the only American
engine built to use this design with the separate charging
cylinder. The Reid was built in Oil City, Pennsylvania, and was
built especially for oil well use. Most Reid engines use a hot tube
ignition, and are fueled from the natural gas at the well head.
Joseph Reid was issued his patent in 1898 and built these two cycle
engines in sizes from 4 to 40 horsepower. The 15 and 20 horse
engines were the most popular.

I had to have a model Reid, so I purchased a set of castings
from Burns & Horner Engine Company (they advertise in the
classified section of GEM). I knew that the model was large. It is
a quarter scale model of the 6 HP Reid and is available in
right-hand or left-hand configurations. The castings are clean and
of nice quality, but one had better have the use of a large lathe
and at least a Bridgeport milling machine to machine the big
pieces. The iron machined well, and I found no hard spots. The two
cylinder bores were kept parallel by the use of a fixture that was
bolted to a lathe face plate. I bored the cylinders to within
.004′ of finish size and then had the two bores professionally
honed to size. As the bore is the most important part of the
engine, the precision honed bore is well worth the additional

My being a design engineer is probably one reason for my love of
O-ring seals. This kit calls for the main valve body to be sealed
to the cylinder in two places with copper rings. I didn’t like
the copper rings. They are not a positive seal, like an O-ring
would be. Also, the valve body, if sealed with O-rings, can be
removed and replaced as many times as necessary, with a perfect
seal each time. I designed an O-ring seal for the valve body, using
two O-rings and also the sealing surface of the mixer valve.

One other change that I subsequently did to both ball check
valves was to limit the amount of lift available to each ball by
inserting a screw into the casting that is a set distance above
each ball, calculated for the area of the seat. This improves
operation of the engine.

There were no machining problems with the rest of the engine,
and assembly went well. The hot tube ignition that is supplied with
the kit looks too large for this engine. I built a hot tube using
the design of Norm Colby of Pennsylvania that is the ‘proper
size for the engine. When the day came to start the engine for the
first time, it started easily and throttled down to about 90 RPM.
The engine sounds just like the big Reid.

Being a stickler for details, I wanted my engine to have the
three oval covers that are on the back of Reid cylinder casting and
the cover that is between the two cylinders. I made patterns for
these covers, which have raised edges and bosses for the nuts, like
the real ones, and had a set cast. I also added the details for the
wedge and split brasses on the side rod. This side rod was larger
than a scaled down side rod would be, so I made the rod smaller in
diameter, with a slightly larger center and also made the rod end a
scale size. Since Reid engines had frail side rods that could be
bent if the cylinder would backfire, a special relief valve was
attached to the rear of the charging cylinder. I made a working
relief valve scaled down from a real one. I wanted my engine to
have a governor that did more than just turn, so I built a scaled
down governor that actually operates the two rods that enter the
mixing valve.

The standard practice in the oilfields was to mount the engine
to a wood timber. Notches would be cut into the sides of the timber
for the lower nuts. This wood timber would be set into notches cut
into two or three smaller timbers that ran crosswise to the engine.
These timbers were called ‘mud sills’ and provided a solid
base for the engine and clutch bearing. Tapered wedges would hold
the engine in alignment with the clutch bearing. To be authentic, I
mounted my Reid on hardwood ‘timbers’ and ‘mud

The extension pipe on the top of the exhaust pipe is called a
‘barker.’ It is a pipe with a closed end that acts like a
whistle each time the engine fires. They were all made of different
lengths so that each well made a different tone. The pumper could
tell from the sound of the ‘barkers’ that all his wells
were running.

Now that I finally had a running engine, I wanted the rest of
the oilfield equipment. There is no clutch available for this
engine and since I wanted a clutch, like a real engine would have,
I decided to make my own clutch. I took measurements and made
drawings of the proper clutch and outboard bearing and made my own
foundry patterns. There are nine castings for the clutch and
outboard bearing.

Now with a working clutch, a ‘power’ was needed. I chose
the smallest Reid power and made foundry patterns for it. I was
able to use standard Boston gears. There are five castings in the
power, including the 7 inch diameter spoked pulley.

For the pump jacks, I chose a wood jack and one built out of
pipe. The wood jack was simple, but the pipe jack required two more
foundry patterns and castings. No problem! With the jacks done, I
set everything up on a shelf made especially for it. Now whenever I
want, I can start my Reid, engage the clutch and ‘pump oil’
with two pumps on my own rod line. I have had a lot of fun building
this engine and accessories. It is large, but the size is part of
the fun. For any of you who want to build a Reid, I have a set of
notes and sketches that will save you a lot of time and produce a
sweet running engine. These can be had free if you send me an SASE.
I also have extra castings and drawings to build the clutch,
outboard bearing and ‘power.’

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