Oil Field Engine News

Gas-o-meters and Yellow Dogs

| November/December 2002

The oil field engine hobby encompasses not only oil field engines, but also the tools and equipment of an entire industry. This is why we see people collecting not only engines, but also the geared powers which they drove, the pump-jacks and fittings, and the rod-lines and tools related to the oil industry in the early 1900s. I have noticed, to my delight, that this aspect of the hobby has gained in popularity in the last few years, with more and more exhibitors showing this type of equipment.

Displays of this type pose a challenge when it comes to transporting, as an oil field engine complete with a clutch makes for a wide load. I know of a 15 HP Reid a gentleman mounted on a trailer with the clutch attached, but I'd think an engine any larger would be too wide to haul down the highway. And the eccentric geared powers are often nearly as heavy as an engine.

At the Portland show this year Dave Hayden exhibited his 10 HP S.M. Jones. Built in Toledo, Ohio, Dave's engine has the distinctive Jones dual exhaust system, one half being valve actuated and the other ported. He had his engine powering a Reid geared-eccentric pumping power with a cutoff clutch on the engine. Dave's engine also has a wet 'gas-o-meter,' as was used in the old days to regulate the flow of natural gas fuel to the engine (seen in the lower right of the photo as a round tank).

The gas-o-meter performed the same job that is now handled with the little round regulator (about the size of your hand) we commonly see today. The gas-o-meter is basically a float, and it can be described as two buckets. The top bucket, which is slightly smaller than the lower bucket, is turned over and fits into the lower bucket. The lower bucket has either water or oil in it, which forms a seal or trap for the gas, and the top bucket floats on this. The lower bucket is plumbed into the gas system such that gas enters and exits above the water/oil level in the lower bucket. As gas enters and fills the upper chamber the pressure lifts the top bucket, and by means of a linkage to a valve on this it shuts the gas off. As gas is consumed and the pressure drops the bucket, or float, lowers and in turn (by means of the same linkage) opens the gas valve to admit the necessary gas

The Oil Well Supply Co. of Pittsburgh, Pa., sold gas-o-meters and many different tools, engines and general supplies to the oil and gas industry in the early 1900s. Their catalog makes for very interesting reading for today's collectors. One item they sold, described as a 'Derrick Lamp,' sold for $1.50. Derrick lamps are commonly referred to today as a 'Yellow Dog,' presumably because at a distance at night it resembles two yellow dog eyes looking at you. The Oil Well Supply Co. wasn't the only company to produce Yellow Dog lamps. Manufacturers and suppliers known to me are National Supply, Frick & Lindsay Supply Co., Jarecki Manufacturing Co., Boviard & Sefayng Manufacturing, Cyclone Drilling Machine Co. and Alten's Foundry & Machine Works.

I'm sure there were other makes, but many yellow dogs have no name cast into them, and such may have been the case with the Star Drilling Machine Co. I haven't found anyone who can confirm that Star made a yellow dog, but I'm told their drilling machines could be ordered with the recommended five derrick lamps needed for 24-hour drilling operations to illuminate the drilling rig at night. I know of one Jarecki yellow dog with the spouts threaded into the casting. Apparently this was done so the spouts could be removed to make installation of wicks easier.