History of Snow Steam Pump Works

A history of the Snow Steam Pump Works of Buffalo, New York.

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  • Drawing of Henry Worthington's first direct-acting steam pump.
    Drawing of Henry Worthington's first direct-acting steam pump. It is said that it was in operation for 30 years.
    Photo courtesy John Harvey
  • The new Snow Steam Pump Works factory.
    The new Snow Steam Pump Works factory.
    Photo courtesy Paul Harvey
  • An 1892
    An 1892 "Oil Well Supply" catalog showing the typical Snow duplex steam pump, identical to ones still used today.
    Photo courtesy Paul Harvey
  • The first four compression units made by the Snow Steam Pump Works were of John Klein’s design.
    The first four compression units made by the Snow Steam Pump Works were of John Klein’s design. These engines had two opposed power cylinders, with a 25-inch bore and 48-inch stroke, next to two opposed compressor cylinders mounted on a common crankshaft.
    Photo courtesy Paul Harvey
  • An early page from the Snow records.
    An early page from the Snow records showing the diversity of size and purpose of the engines.
    Photo courtesy Paul Harvey
  • A 4,000 HP Type A design with an integral electric generator beside the flywheel.
    A 4,000 HP Type A design with an integral electric generator beside the flywheel. Note the size of the operator in the center of the photo.
    Photo courtesy Paul Harvey
  • A typical natural gas compressor station installation still under construction.
    A typical natural gas compressor station installation still under construction at Cross Station, now known as Heath Station.
    Photo courtesy Paul Harvey
  • Some large electric generating engines at the Carnegie Steel Works.
    Some large electric generating engines at the Carnegie Steel Works in Youngstown, Ohio; again note the size of the person at the foot of the stairs.
    Photo courtesy Paul Harvey
  • Snow preferred to use their own compressors.
    Snow preferred to use their own compressors.
    Photo courtesy Paul Harvey
  • The layout of the complete Colonel Ward Pumping Station.
    The layout of the complete Colonel Ward Pumping Station with the interconnections of pipes joining the multiple units.
    Illustration courtesy Paul Harvey
  • An important part in the evolution of Snow engines was placing the intake and exhaust valves directly on the top and bottom of the cylinder.
    An important part in the evolution of Snow engines was placing the intake and exhaust valves directly on the top and bottom of the cylinder, thus eliminating the side valve chest. This image from the mid 1920s shows this improvement.
    Photo courtesy Paul Harvey
  • A very busy erecting floor at the Buffalo Works in 1935.
    A very busy erecting floor at the Buffalo Works in 1935.
    Photo courtesy Paul Harvey
  • This smaller engine did not use the tandem cylinder configuration that had been the standard of the firm.
    This smaller engine did not use the tandem cylinder configuration that had been the standard of the firm. Instead the unit had twin, double acting power cylinders and opposed compressors.
    Photo courtesy Paul Harvey

  • Drawing of Henry Worthington's first direct-acting steam pump.
  • The new Snow Steam Pump Works factory.
  • An 1892
  • The first four compression units made by the Snow Steam Pump Works were of John Klein’s design.
  • An early page from the Snow records.
  • A 4,000 HP Type A design with an integral electric generator beside the flywheel.
  • A typical natural gas compressor station installation still under construction.
  • Some large electric generating engines at the Carnegie Steel Works.
  • Snow preferred to use their own compressors.
  • The layout of the complete Colonel Ward Pumping Station.
  • An important part in the evolution of Snow engines was placing the intake and exhaust valves directly on the top and bottom of the cylinder.
  • A very busy erecting floor at the Buffalo Works in 1935.
  • This smaller engine did not use the tandem cylinder configuration that had been the standard of the firm.

In the August/September 2014 issue of Gas Engine Magazine, we brought you the story of the Coolspring Power Museum’s efforts to acquire, move and restore a 1917 600 HP Snow gas compressing engine. The 20-year project ended with the dedication and successful operation of the Snow gas engine. Below, Coolspring Power Museum founder Paul Harvey gives a thorough background on the Snow Steam Pump Works.

Wanna see the Snow at work? Go to our Old Iron Videos blog to see the 600 HP Snow start up, run and shutdown.

Our story unfolds in 1840, when a 23-year-old Henry Worthington became interested in steam boats on the Erie Canal in New York. Already a hydraulic engineer, he noticed that while boats waited to get through the locks and the main engines were not operating, the boiler feed water pumps had to be operated by hand to keep the boilers filled. Believing that he could solve this problem, he invented a simple reciprocating steam pump that operated automatically to keep the boilers filled to the desired pressure.

In 1845, he joined William Barker and formed Worthington and Barker, located in Brooklyn, New York, to manufacture these pumps. It is of note that Worthington pumps were used on the Union's ironclad steamship Monitor in the Civil War. Henry died in 1881 and his son, Charles C. Worthington, then 27, took over the company. He was very aggressive, expanded the business and soon became very wealthy.



The duplex steam pump is such a wonderfully simple yet magnificently practical invention. Having no rotating parts, it consists of two steam cylinders providing the power to two pumping cylinders with each power and pump piston mounted on a common piston rod. When one cylinder acts, it triggers a steam valve that then operates the other cylinder, which then acts on a valve to again operate the first cylinder. As the fluid discharge pressure equals the steam pressure, the pump simply stops; it begins again when discharge pressure lowers. There is a restored Worthington steam pump operating in the Coolspring Power Museum's Pump House. Many of these steam pumps are still manufactured and in use today. The Disney steamboat Liberty Belle in Orlando, Florida, uses two of them to keep its boilers full!

Over the ensuing years, the steam pump business flourished as they were adapted to many uses. Municipal water works found these pumps very dependable and they were made in huge sizes to meet the demand. Many persons entered the steam pump business. In 1889, James H. Snow and Daniel O'Day, former employees of National Transit Co. of Oil City, Pennsylvania, formed the Snow Steam Pump Works in Buffalo, New York. This seemed a perfect location, with Lake Erie and the Erie Canal nearby demanding pumps for their vessels. For their plant superintendent, they hired a gentleman from Worthington who brought many of those designs with him. The firm prospered. In 1896, Snow built a huge high duty vertical triple expanding steam pump for the Indianapolis, Indiana, water company. This huge pump had a 5-foot stroke and operated at 21 RPM producing 775 HP and delivering 20 million gallons of water per day.



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