Oil field Engine News

By Staff
1 / 6
The restored Weber. Quite a contrast to the photo above.
2 / 6
3 / 6
Phillip Sparks' 40 HP Weber as found being readied for transport to its new digs.
4 / 6
Phillip Sparks (left) and Paul Weber set up a lathe to bore the Weber for a new sleeve.
5 / 6
Another view of the lathe and boring the Weber's cylinder.
6 / 6
After heating the cylinder, Phillip fits a new sleeve into the Weber.

I enjoy listening to people with first-hand experience reminisce
about old oil field engines and their experiences operating the old
equipment. One such person is my friend Phillip Sparks from Irvine,
Ky. Every time we meet, I enjoy listening to his stories about the
days of his youth, operating the oil field engines his father used
in his oil field business.

Phillip’s father, Eli Sparks, worked for the Lang Drilling
Co. in Estill County, Ky. After 22 years as an employee he
purchased the company, and on taking over he found that a lull in
production was due only to a need for deeper drilling. The Lang
Drilling Co. pumped approximately 20 wells in Estill County, in an
area known as Granny Richardson’s Springs. Phillip remembers he
and his father using Star drilling machines, and says the most
common engines in the area were Superiors and Bessemers, along with
just a few Hagan engines in the field. Most of the engines in this
area were magneto equipped, instead of the more common hot tube
ignition found in the oil field.

Phillip recalls that in the cold months of winter, when the
engines would get stiff and hard to start, it was common practice
to build a fire under the cylinder to get things warmed up so the
engine would start. Sometimes the sound of an engine running badly
and on the verge of quitting would set off a mad dash to the engine
house to save it from stalling. If you discovered the gas line was
frozen and the engine was starving for fuel, it became your duty to
grab the nearest empty oil can, get some gasoline and ‘bottle
feed’ the engine until help arrived to locate the freeze, build
a fire and thaw the lines.

All this sounds terribly dangerous to me, and Phillip says that
if a can caught fire you wouldn’t dare throw it down in an
oil-soaked area of the powerhouse; it got thrown out the window or
the doorway (not something I would ever want to try or experience –
it’s amazing some of these people survived their youth in the
oil fields). Still, these are fond recollections for Phillip,
recollections that have led to his present day love for old oil
field engines.

40 HP Weber

One of Phillip’s recent projects was a 40 HP Weber engine
built by Weber Gas Engine Co., Kansas City, Mo., which in its
working life was a drilling engine. In American Gasoline
Since 1872, C.H. Wendel gives some of the history of
the Weber Co., which was organized in 1884 by George J. Weber.
Phillip’s 40 HP is apparently a very late Weber engine, built
in the 1930s after the company had changed ownership several times
following the death of George Weber in 1914. Weber’s death was
evidently the result of an injury he suffered in an accident in his

It took three people and 35 hours of labor to complete the
restoration, which included boring and sleeving the cylinder.
Phillip would like to thank previous owner Paul Weber (no relation
to the builder’s family) for his assistance in the machine work
and restoration of the engine.

As always, if you’re interested in a free OFES membership,
please contact us and let us know.

Contact the Oil Field Engine Society at: 1231 Banta’s
Creek Road, Eaton, OH 45320-9701, e-mail: oilengine@voyager.net or
on the Web at: www.oilfieldengine.com

Gas Engine Magazine
Gas Engine Magazine
Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines