Gas Engines in the Oil Fields

| October/November 1996

6299 N. Country Road Wading River, New York 11792

To many, the Bradford oil fields south of Allegany, New York, may not seem like an interesting place in which to spend one's childhood. Looking back, at the age of 49, it had all that one could wish for: a rural setting, solitude, good neighbors and beautiful scenery. To many GEM enthusiasts, it might have been viewed in much the same way, but with a few additional attractions: gas engines.

These oil fields extend into New York State and brought great prosperity to the region at one time. When I was a child, oil production was in a state of decline, which continues to this day. But the remnants of this industry were still quite active, as evidenced by the fact that within twenty-five miles of Allegany there were three oil refineries: Kendall in Bradford, Pennsylvania, Quaker State in Farmers Valley, Pennsylvania, and the Socony Vacuum in Olean, New York. Also within two miles of our house, nine power houses and two pressure plants were still operating. Each power house had a large single cylinder gas engine similar to those pictured in the accompanying oil-well advertisement from the #46 Catalogue (no date available) of the Oil Well Supply Company. (See next two pages.)

A pressure plant might have one or more gas engines driving pumps which supplied water to the oil fields that were flooded to improve production. One of these pressure plants, which was located about 400 yards from our house, operated twenty-four hours a day for 365 days a year.

The men who ran this pressure plant must have loved their machinery. It was practically spotless inside and the equipment was meticulously maintained. The machinery and floors were painted, and carpeting created a walkway around the engines and pumps. As one might expect, we as children were discouraged from and often reproached for going inside.

This was one of our favorite spots to find warmth on a cold winter day, since the engines provided a welcome heat and the water from the fountain inside thepressure plant was cold and refreshing. The engine noise in and around the plant was veiled by the use of thousand gallon oil tanks, as mufflers, that had a few hundred holes cut into the sides of them.