Oil Field Engine News

By Staff
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Device for turning corners with rod line.
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Rod lines and manual quick connects/disconnects.

Martin Zirger, 150 Martha St., Tiffin, OH 44883, writes of
his experience upon visiting an old oil field power. I’m sure
all of us who enjoy oil field engines and equipment can relate to
his story.

Although the area where I live has many oil wells scattered
around, I never really paid them much attention since I assumed
most of them had been abandoned years ago. Driving along one day
one of those ‘rusty iron things’ caught my eye, so I turned
around to investigate. As I approached, I could make out some gears
and pulleys, along with a leather flatbelt and an engine. It was a
portable pump jack with the wheels removed, and the engine was a
John Deere two-cylinder. The well showed recent signs of being
pumped, and looking around I saw there were three more wells in
this same field.

Moving on I spotted an unusual pump jack and again pulled off
the road for a closer look. This arrangement was quite different
from the single wells, having portable jacks and a long, narrow
building centrally located to four wells. Each of the pump jacks
had a steel rod maybe -inch in diameter fastened to them, the rods
running inside the building through small holes in the walls.

I knelt to the ground to peek inside to see just what this
arrangement was. Looking inside I saw a huge, beautiful
hit-and-miss belted to a ‘contraption’ that was connected
to the other end of the steel rods. I later learned that this
engine, an S.M. Jones 12 HP, s/n 1707, was made at the turn of the
century and has been pumping the same wells since 1910.

After seeing all of this, and still curious about the equipment,
I was introduced to Mike Coyer of the Wood County Historical
Society in Tiffin, Ohio. Mike runs a lease, and he invited me along
to see operations at his lease firsthand.

Rod Lines

While Mike readied his pumping engine, a hot tube 20 HP Acme
Model 390, he told me that the long rods running from the pump
jacks to the ‘contraption’ are called ‘rod lines,’
and the ‘contraption,’ which is actually a very large
eccentric, is called a ‘power.’

On Mike’s lease, fuel for the hot tube and engine is propane
rather than natural gas, because in the wintertime what natural gas
is available from the lease is used to heat the land owner’s
home. Confirming the hot tube was ready, Mike briefly opened a
valve to allow a shot of gas into the combustion chamber. He rolled
the flywheel backward against compression, and with one
‘pop’ the engine took off. This engine was made in 1893,
and to this day it consistently starts that easily.

The speed of the engine was increased until it was in the
neighborhood of 200 rpm, and then a clutch was engaged and the
power began to roll. I don’t recall if any of the rod lines
were connected to the power at startup (I was too busy looking at
the engine), but Mike began manually connecting some of them by
what appeared to be a simple arrangement of hooks. Mike told me the
rod lines can be disconnected while the engine is running, too. The
rod lines ran at about 18 strokes -per- minute.

This particular lease has seven oil wells and one water well for
engine cooling. The rod lines are spaced on the power to maximize
power distribution from the engine and to lessen stress on the
power. As some rods are being pulled an equal number are being

With everything in full swing, I walked what appeared to be the
longest of the rod lines, and would estimate it ran a quarter mile
from the power source. It completes two 90-degree turns on route to
the well by means of another simple, but very efficient device (see

Thanks go to Mr. Zirger for sharing his story, and as
always, let me know if you’d like a free Oil Field Engine
Society membership.

Contact the Oil Field Engine Society at: 1231 Banta’s
Creek Rd., Eaton, OH 45320-9701, or e-mail at:

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