Oil Field Engine News

By Staff
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Bert Simonson's 3- HP Hercules Model S, which has been converted to run hot tube ignition.
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Hot tube explosion: Hot tubes can - and do - rupture, as this tube clearly shows.

This month’s oil field engine should be of interest to our
own Glenn Karch. It’s a 3- HP Hercules Model S, circa
1924-1929, I ran across at the National Pike show in Brownsville,
Pa., this past May. This little engine belongs to Bert Simonson,
Armstrong’s Mills, Ohio, and in its working life it powered a
transfer pump that was used to pump oil from one tank to
another.

The most peculiar characteristic of this engine is that it has
been modified to hot tube ignition and is fueled by gas (propane or
natural gas). The majority of the engines used in oil field
applications were fueled by natural gas due to its availability as
a byproduct of pumping oil. Hot tube ignition was common in oil
field engines because the gas was readily available to fuel the
burner.

Additionally, given the harsh environment of a remote oil field
powerhouse many operators felt hot tube ignition was more reliable
than any form of electric ignition. Hot tubes were not susceptible
to moisture (in terms of providing ignition), nor did they require
the operator to have an understanding of the electrical principles
used in magneto-equipped ignition systems. The parts for a hot tube
could be fabricated by most anyone, while magneto repairs and parts
could be a bit more troublesome. The magneto was also more
expensive to purchase.

But hot tubes were not without their weak points. Certainly,
they increased the danger of fire, which was always a problem on
oil derricks. Also, engine timing was not as accurate as what could
be obtained with a magneto-equipped ignition. A hot tube also had a
limited lifespan, for in the course of continued use the
combination of heat and corrosion would cause them to rupture,
something I have personally had occasion to witness. My experience
occurred when a few of us were cranking on a friend’s engine.
The engine emitted a loud ‘BANG,’ and suddenly we were
surrounded by a cloud of white, furry ‘stuff.’ Once the
initial shock wore off we realized the explosion was caused by the
hot tube rupturing and the furry ‘stuff’ floating around
was the insulation from inside the hot tube chimney. The good news
was that the chimney, which surrounds the tube, contained most of
the blast. This is another reason to never look down the top of the
chimney at a hot tube while the engine is running – always use a
mirror held high and keep spectators at a safe distance.

As an aside, Bert told me that if he had known earlier how well
an engine can run on a hot tube he wouldn’t have passed up all
the good deals he could have gotten on engines with missing
magnetos. If you have questions on Bert’s hot tube Hercules oil
field engine and how his engine is setup he can be contacted at
(740) 686-9800.

As always if you’d like a free membership in the Oil Field
Engine Society please write to the address below. And don’t
forget to visit the OFES on-line at www.oilfieldengine.com

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

‘The engine emitted a loud ‘BANG,’ and suddenly we
were surrounded by a cloud of white, furry
‘stuff.”

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