Belt-Driven Pumps Are All Pumped Up

By Staff
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This operating display shows the variety of styles in belt-driven pumps and how they operate differently from one another.
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Jack Welton restoring the horizontal Myers bulldozer water pump. 
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Nate Lillibridge and Dick Levreault removing the 15 HP Otto from a pump house in Bernardsville, N.J. 
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Group effort: Owner and curator Peter Brach (left) with Jack Welton and John Gimind, who helped with the project. 
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A great, working collection of belt-driven pumps all on one display.
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A fully operational belt-driven pump operating display.

I have had a long-standing interest in pumps, and this operating display gives me the opportunity to enjoy this fascination. I looked for belt-driven pumps that operated differently from one another to illustrate the variety of styles manufactured between 1895 and 1918. Prior to 1895, pumps were operated primarily by hand; after 1918 many of the pumps were more enclosed and the operating mechanisms simplified.

Some of the pumps I acquired appear to be one of a kind. Some were found at the Portland (Ind.) swap meet, some were found at the Hudson Valley Old Time Power Assn. Commission Auction in Hudson, N.Y., and others were purchased from long-standing contacts such as John Supple and Ken Hill.

The pumps on the trailer beginning in the left front corner (see the trailer photo in the Image Gallery): Myers horizontal bulldozer water pump, Luitweiler vertical deep well working head, Hayes inverted two-piston walking beam spray pump, Myers vertical siphon water pump, Gould inverted three piston water pump, Eccentric Lift Pump vertical working head and New Way inverted four-piston spray pump. The cooling tank is a cast iron tank from a National Feed Water Heater.

All of the pumps were rebuilt to be fully operational. Rebuilding required a considerable effort because water had frozen in the inverted pistons, wildlife had established multi-room living quarters, or a farmer had done quick repairs to satisfy thirsty animals or crops needing to be sprayed. For example, restoration of the Hayes walking beam pump required parts from three similar Hayes pumps. These pumps were completely rebuilt by Jack Welton in his Copley, Ohio, shop.

Belt driven pumps

As I accumulated these pumps, I felt that it would be more interesting to see them in motion. So I spent two years looking at engines, primarily at the Coolspring (Pa.) Power Museum and Kinzers’ (Pa.) Rough and Tumble shows, to identify a brand that had a considerable amount of moving parts at a relatively affordable price.

The Otto, with its sideshaft and hanging fuel pump, had a great deal of appeal to me. At the beginning of 2001, Butch Johnson told me that he knew of a 15 HP Otto, but the owner was not willing to sell even though he did not have any interest in or use for the engine. Finally, after numerous discussions, we completed the sale.

This engine was located in the pump house of an estate in Bernardsville, N.J. The Otto pumped water a considerable distance from a valley where the well was located up to the water tower at the same elevation as the estate’s main house. Both of these buildings were constructed of large, rough-hewn stones and covered by a copper roof. In the pump house there was a foundation for a second engine and pump, but they were no longer there. The engine, which appears to have been untouched for at least 60 years, retains much of its original paint and has serial number 13466.

I took detailed pictures and discussed the engine’s restoration at length with Dick Levreault. Dick and Nate Lillibridge agreed to meet me in Bernardsville on the Friday before Labor Day weekend in 2001 to remove the engine from the pump house and take it back to Dick’s shop in South Hadley, Mass., for restoration.

Unfortunately, the former road leading to the pump house in the valley had become overgrown with wet grass and their truck did not have sufficient traction to bring the engine up to the main road. A large front-end loader was needed. Time was of the essence because Dick and Nate needed to go back that day.

Several front-end loader operators were called but either didn’t respond or were unwilling to come because of the holiday weekend. Fortunately, the last operator on the list agreed to come. Dick and Nate removed the engine from its concrete base and rolled the engine onto temporary skids. Then the bucket loader took both the engine and skids up to Dick’s trailer on the road for the ride back to his shop.

The road adjacent to the estate property was Roebling Drive. John Wilcox and Nate Lillibridge had purchased two 15 HP Otto engines from the Roebling estate, which suggests that an Otto salesman may have sold several Otto engines in this estate area.

The engine was in relatively good condition: the slightly stuck piston was easily freed up, the cylinder was honed, the rings were replaced, a valve job was done, the bright work was polished and the base was fabricated. Dick delivered the restored engine at the fall 2003 Coolspring swap meet. During the time the engine was being restored, I accumulated line shafting, pulleys, a clutch pulley, oilers, a belt tensioner, matching Lunkenheimer valves and leather belts.

Trailer’s operating display

During one of the summer Coolspring meets, Jack Welton suggested bringing the engine to Copley to mount the pumps, which were still at his shop, on the trailer. With Jack’s help, I laid the pumps out on the trailer: The engine’s flywheels were positioned over the double axle for stability. The large Gould’s triplex was positioned at the back of the trailer to establish the correct tongue weight. The two taller pumps (Myers suction and Eccentric lift) were also positioned at the back to compensate visually for the upright cooling tank at the front. The pumps with the lower height were positioned along the sides. The side that depicts the Otto’s sideshaft was left clear to display the sideshaft operation and provide a clear path for the belt connecting the front and back line shafts.

However, laying out the pumps and bringing the trailer layout to the point where it was fully operational were two very different situations: Steel plates under the wooden trailer floor were used to hold the pumps, engine, and line shaft hangers securely and minimize vibration. Fernco couplings were used on the iron pipes to compensate for the vibration when the trailer travels over the road as well as when the pumps are operating. Careful alignment of the line shaft pulley with the corresponding pump pulley ensured that the belts track perfectly.

The two pumps at the front corners are the only ones that pump water and discharge into the cooling tank. The large horizontal Myers acts as the cooling pump for the engine. Having all of the pumps pumping water would have been a very difficult undertaking as the plumbing would have had to run under the trailer floor because of trailer crowding. A 16-foot Mid-Atlantic trailer was chosen for its high-quality construction. The fully loaded trailer weighs just less than 10,000 pounds and has an 11.5 percent tongue weight.

Jack, with the help of John Gimind and Jim Welton, brought the trailer layout to fruition. Bob Campbell fabricated and repaired any necessary parts. In addition, Jack designed and fabricated the belt tensioner and cooling tank base.


In addition to those mentioned above, many people contributed to the success of the trailer project, not only with good advice but also in providing the many parts necessary for its fabrication. They are, in alphabetical order: Terry Baer, Rob Charles, Mark Cohen, Jeff Holtz, Peter Knight, Mark Maikshilo, Lee Pederson, John Rex, Tom Stackhouse, Brian Triebner, John Wilcox and Kevin Withers.

Contact Peter Brach at 240 Park St., Haworth, NJ 07641 •

Curious? See ‘er run on video at Peter Brach’s Belt-Driven Pump Display.

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