Oil Field Engine News

By Staff
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Tony Suykerbuyk's 25 HP 1912 Reid at last year's Buckley Old Engine Show in Buckley, Mich.
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The 50 HP two-cycle Superior belted to a 24-foot band-wheel at the Buckley show grounds.

Greetings, oil field engine enthusiasts. This month I wanted to
take the opportunity to share with you just some of the
correspondence we have received here at the Oil Field Engine
Society (OFES) desk. One of my favorite jobs as caretaker of the
OFES is corresponding with all our great engine friends out there,
either via post office, e-mail or by telephone. I encourage
everyone to share their oil field engine experiences with us.

To begin, we have a letter from Tony Suykerbuyk of Hesperia,
Mich. Tony enclosed a photo of his 25 HP 1912 Reid oil field engine
on display at the Buckley Old Engine Show in Buckley, Mich. Sharing
trailer space with the Reid are his 5 HP 1921 Hercules, 1-1/2 HP
1923 Hercules and a 3 HP 1917 Fairbanks-Morse Z.

Tony wrote in to tell us about the oil field display at the
Buckley show, which has been set up with a 50 HP two-cycle Superior
belted to a 24-foot band-wheel, which in its day pumped 12 to 15
wells in Oil City, Mich. Tony invites anyone with an oil field
engine exhibit to join him at this year’s Buckley show. Tony
hopes to have as many oil field engines as possible for the show,
Aug. 14-17. If interested in attending, please contact Tony at
(231) 854-0955 or (231) 349-0033.

Our next letter is from Mr. Jim Patterson of Laramie, Wyo., who
writes to share his memories of drilling oil and water wells in the
1930s. Mr. Patterson writes:

‘It was the late 1930s and jobs were hard to find – I hired
out on a small rotary rig as a back up tong man. This rig had a
telescoping tower, and when the driller raised it my friend was on
the tower to set the pins. The cable broke and I jumped off the
deck and ran. Luckily, no one was hurt very bad. The rig had two
good-sized propane fueled engines. One day the propane man came to
refill our tanks. He could have gone to the backside of the tanks
to fill them, but he did not. Our supply lines were lying on top of
the ground and he drove over them. The driller, a big one-eyed
Texan reprimanded him, but the person was a smart aleck and back
talked him. In an instant the driller knocked the beans out of him,
and when he stopped pounding on him the guy made a run for his
truck and screamed away to town. As we did not have enough fuel to
drill, we pulled four joints of drill pipe and set the drill and
mud pump engines on idle for several hours waiting for another fuel
truck to fill us.’

I had the pleasure to talk to Mr. Patterson on the phone, and he
related many more of his experiences in the well drilling business.
Mr. Patterson said a good driller ‘knows the sound of his
machine, and even if he is sitting nearby sleeping any change in
the sound of the engine will instantly awake him to something not
right with the rig.’

He also told me a story of a man who was gathering a crew for a
wildcat venture to drill an oil well. He had placed a help wanted
ad in the paper, ‘Experienced cable tool driller needed.’
Upon interviewing one candidate for the job he asked, ‘Have you
ever lost any tools down the well?’ The man proudly answered he
had never lost any tools and had never had to do a fishing job to
get any pipe or tools out of the well. The man then told him that
he could not hire him as he did not have any ‘fishing’
experience and that they had been having to fish tools out of the
well every week on their rig. Apparently he figured that his
experiences had been too easy for him to learn any valuable

Mr. Patterson also said a good driller (especially on the old
cable rigs) is a patient, calm, level-headed person who is able to
listen to his machine, a person who is familiar with every squeak
and groan it makes. He has to be someone who knows how the engine
should sound under load and can tell just how far to push the
engine, and is aware of anything that might be going wrong with it
well in advance by the sounds it makes.

He told me one other story about when he was very young, working
for a man carrying water for the engine hoppers. Upon shutting one
down the man told him that he should never leave the piston sitting
at the top center of the bore, that he should always roll it until
the piston is all the way backed out of the bore and leave it that
way to prevent dirt and dust from getting in, and also any oil from
the oiler that drips in.

The people who used the old equipment had to have a better
understanding of the machines they were using, an understanding
very much removed from the turnkey operations that are common
today. These days, you would be hard pressed to find a young boy
who even knows what a piston is, let alone having the ability to
care for an engine that needed the kind of attention the old open
crank engines did.

Many thanks to Mr. Patterson for sharing his memories with us,
and to all our readers who have sent in stories. As always, if you
would like a free membership with the Oil Field Engine Society
please call, write or e-mail. You can also 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

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