Father and Son Team Restore an Oil Well Supply Half-breed

| April 2005

My son Will and I found this half-breed engine in late 2001, sitting next to its collapsed power house near Bradford, Pa. We were both captivated by the beautiful 60-inch curved-spoke flywheel and the component-type construction of the cast iron tray. We are fans of the half-breed engines that some times can be found in this old oil area, and we enjoy the concept of an engine with one foot in the steam era and one foot in the gas engine age.

This engine has a Knight, Sisson & Co. box-type steam tray made in Buffalo, N.Y., and was converted from steam to an Oil Well Supply piston and cylinder kit. Oil Well Supply's main office was located in Pittsburgh, Pa., but the parts were cast in Bradford. In their day, Oil Well Supply was like the J.C. Whitney of oil field supplies.

After sitting out in the elements for many years, this engine was in rough shape, but fairly complete. Since we both like this old iron, and Will is a machinist, we decided to rescue it and attempt a restoration. After asking around, we found the owner and made an offer. By spring of 2002 it was ours, and we recovered it shortly thereafter.

Getting to Work

The most obvious problem was that the bed was broken just behind the conversion gas head. It had long ago been "field repaired" with two long rods running the length of the bed into plates to pull the frame together. The fix also included plates bolted on either side over the crack in the bed. We considered welding the bed, but decided to leave this rather strong repair as a testament to the cleverness of the previous owners.

The crankshaft was deeply worn, so we sent it to Northeast Machine, a specialty shop in Buffalo, to be submerged arc welded. In this process, the crankshaft is mounted to a lathe, and as it is turning, a machine-operated MIG welder runs over the surface, leaving material that is turned down later. The advantage to doing it this way is simply better heat dissipation. After machining it back to original size, we re-poured the babbitt and began repairs on the cylinder and piston.

The cylinder was badly pitted on the bottom from water sitting in it. Friends and local oil men Tom Ross and his son, also Tom, graciously allowed us to use their machine shop, which includes a large, lineshaft-driven lathe that can handle the large cylinder. Will built a 4-inch boring bar and cut the cylinder out until we hit good material. The end result (a 1/8-inch overbore) effectively resized the cylinder to 7-5/8-inches.


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