Oil Field Engine News

By Staff
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The two-cycle, two-cylinder Ajax that Bill Anderson spied in Texas, still in regular service.
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A drawing from Joseph Reid's engine patent.

This month I included a couple of photos sent to the Society by
Bill Anderson of Marshall, Mo. Bill is a self-described big engine
nut. The first is his 15 HP left-hand Reid, which he restored. The
second photo is of a two-cylinder, two-cycle Ajax of unknown
horsepower, seen by Anderson along the highway near Eden, Texas,
still running, still doing it’s duty.

‘I love to see these big engines still working,’
Anderson says, ‘it shows a lot about the ingenuity and genius
of the men who built them, and the mechanics who keep them

Bill Anderson’s 15 HP left-hand Reid. The left-hand
designation applies to the location of the charge cylinder.
Reid’s could be ordered with the charge cylinder on either

Continuing the subject last month on Dugald Clerk and the
two-cycle engine he developed, which was used extensively in the
oil fields as the Joseph Reid gas engine: The Reid gas engine was
enormously popular in the oil fields, and the Reid company
advertised it as the ‘Standard of the field.’ This month I
have included a biography of Joseph Reid. Joseph Reid was an
industrialist and innovator such as society has not seen in many
years – he built machines which would set an example for all others
for years to come. I hope you enjoy reading about him as much as I
did. Thanks go out to John Burns of New Carlisle, Ohio, for his
help in compiling the information for this article.

As always, I encourage you to send in your photos and
experiences with oil field engines, and if you’d like a free
membership in the Oil Field Engine Society – the ‘Oafs’
-please send an SASE to my address below. You can visit the OFES at

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

The Joseph Reid Biography

At the time of his death Joseph Reid was the oldest manufacturer
still doing business in the Pennsylvania oil regions, where he had
been established for 40 years. He was born Nov. 11, 1843, at
Maybole, Ayrshire, Scotland. In 1862 he came to America, locating
first in Montreal, Canada, where he was employed as a machinist for
a short time. He came to Oil City in 1877, at a time when all
business was prospering in line with the great oil

Mr. Reid bought the Malcolmson & Patterson shop and
established a small business of his own Aug. 1, 1878. His first
machine shop was a one-story building, 37 feet square, gradually
enlarged as the increase of business demanded, until it was 37 by
150 feet in dimensions, and two stories high, with iron and brass
foundry equipment.

Engines and locomotives were turned out after his own plans, the
first locomotive built in Oil City being constructed in his plant
in 1882.

When the oil fields were opened in Lima, Ohio, it was found that
the refineries were unable to handle the grade of crude oil
produced, but that it was useful for fuel, and the problem of
providing a suitable burner for its consumption as such was
successfully solved by Mr. Reid, who, after careful
experimentation, designed and patented the hydro-carbon oil burner
for the use of that and other cheap grades of crude petroleum. In
1885, in order to pursue the manufacture, sale and installation of
the oil burner, he organized the Reid Burner Company.

With a view of making a more economical power than the steam
engine for producing oil, he made extensive experiments with a
crude oil engine, and during these tests found that he could use
natural gas as fuel to obtain the end which he sought. As the
outcome of this work, Mr. Reid sold the first practical natural gas
engine in 1894. In order to replace the steam engine with a gas
engine for drilling and cleaning out wells, the two-way or
reverse-gear clutch was necessary, and in 1899 he designed and
patented this attachment, which enabled the producer to drill,
clean out, and pump his wells more quickly and more cheaply than
was ever possible with the steam engine. In February 1899, Mr. Reid
organized the Joseph Reid Gas Engine Company. The main buildings
were erected in 1903, and 400 skilled hands were employed at the
time of Mr. Reid’s death.

He died in his home on Orange Street in Oil City, Pa., Oct. 23,
1917. He was laid to rest in Mount Moriah Cemetery, Philadelphia,

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