Bigger is Better

Collector hits paydirt with interest in oil field engines

| October 2007

Oil field engine collector Steve Cox of Perrysburg, Ohio, started out small. "I started with a 1-1/2 HP International engine, then something a little bigger. Then I thought, 'Why not bigger; why not the big oil field engines?'"

This turn of the century Olin 4-cycle natural gas engine was built primarily for use in oil field applications, mostly powering pumping centers for oil production. It was built in Titusville, Pa., in 1897 or 1898; the patent for this type engine was filed in 1894 and issued in 1896. "This engine was probably installed on an oil lease in the northern part of Wood County or possibly in Sandusky County, Ohio," says Steve.

Pumping for black gold

Around 1898, the Olin powered a large 16-foot wooden band wheel (this band wheel is the one used at the Wood County Historical Museum, Bowling Green, Ohio, to demonstrate oil well pumping). There were 12 oil wells operated off that lease, seven wells on one farm and the remaining five on another farm; this engine could probably pump about eight oil wells maximum. "The farthest well was almost 3/4 mile away from the pump," says Steve. "You can imagine how heavy 3/4 mile of shackle rod would be to move back and forth plus pumping the oil well." All oil wells being pumped would have a pump jack and shackle rod connected to the band wheel to provide the pumping action. This engine and the 16-foot wooden band wheel were probably in use until the 1950s or 1960s; no good records exist.


Manufactured: Titusville, Pa.
Horsepower: 20
Year: 1898
Serial number: 1823
Weight: 7,500 pounds
Normal RPM: 180-200
Show RPM: 25-30
Bore: 10-1/2-inch
Stroke: 20-inch
Flywheel width: 6 inches
Flywheel diameter: 68 inches
Belt pulley: 16 inches in diameter, 11 inches wide
Fuel: oil well natural gas; now propane
Compression ratio: 4.5-to-1 or 5-to-1 (estimate)

Getting it back in shape

"This Olin engine was removed from the oil lease 10 to 15 years ago, I bought it in the fall of 2003 from another local engine collector," says Steve. "I started working on it in the spring of 2005 and by fall, except for the water circulating system, I had it pretty much finished and took it to several shows." During these shows the head gasket would keep blowing on the valve chest body. Steve says, "I removed the valve chest body and found it to be warped; I machined it on my horizontal milling machine, re-installed it and found that the problem was solved." Steve has a small machine shop in his engine restoration shed.

"During this same time period I modified the frame to make it narrower so it would fit on my trailer properly," says Steve. "The 'I' beams were cut and 8 inches were removed from each beam. They were re-welded and then a new out-board bearing support was fabricated and installed." A water-circulating tank was added and plumbed into the original water pump located at the end of the crankshaft. This was more for demonstration as the engine runs very cool when being operated just for show use.


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