Oil Field Masterpiece

New York Collector's Determination Brings Rare 25 HP 1901 Swan Back to Life

| March/April 2004

  • 25 HP Swan
    Craig Prucha and the 25 HP Swan at the Coolspring (Pa.) Power Museum on the day he bought it in 1998.
  • Swan's Bedplate after receiving a coat of primer
    The Swan's Bedplate after cleaning and receiving a coat of primer.
  • Main bearing caps
    The Swan's bedplate and main bearing caps are fitted and ready for rebabbitting.
  • Swan starts coming together
    The Swan starts coming together for a trial fit of the crankshaft with the newly babbitted bearings.
  • 25 HP Swan

  • The Swan's combustion chamber after disassembly
    The Swan's combustion chamber after disassembly
  • A main bearing saddle prior to rebabbitting
    A main bearing saddle prior to rebabbitting.
  • Piston
    Piston
  • The Swan's cylinder head cover plate
    The Swan's cylinder head cover plate.
  • Freeze crack
    Freeze crack ran the entire length of the cylinder water jacket.
  • Crosshead after pouring new babbitt
    Crosshead after pouring new babbitt and after a coat of primer
  • A freshly babbitted
    A freshly babbitted
  • Primered bearing cap
    Primered bearing cap

  • 25 HP Swan
  • Swan's Bedplate after receiving a coat of primer
  • Main bearing caps
  • Swan starts coming together
  • 25 HP Swan
  • The Swan's combustion chamber after disassembly
  • A main bearing saddle prior to rebabbitting
  • Piston
  • The Swan's cylinder head cover plate
  • Freeze crack
  • Crosshead after pouring new babbitt
  • A freshly babbitted
  • Primered bearing cap

Editor's note: This article is the first of a two-part series chronicling the restoration of a 1901 Swan oil field engine.

In mid-October 1998 I drove from my home in Pavilion, N.Y., to the Coolspring (Pa.) Power Museum to lend a hand on a volunteer work detail at the museum. In the middle of things, I was talking to Paul Harvey, the museum's co-founder, about a Swan engine behind one of the museum's buildings. Paul told me he owned the 25 HP Swan, and that he had purchased it about 30 years earlier. I needed a winter project, so 1 asked him if he would be interested in selling the Swan. My heart stopped for a few short seconds when, to my surprise, he said 'yes.'

We walked over and looked at the Swan. Paul knew a little of her history, telling me she had pumped oil for a living in eastern Indiana. She was taken out of service 24 years before Paul purchased her, and at some point she had been in a fire. I could see Paul had a great affection for this engine and that he had a great appreciation for its design and style. With his decision, we made arrangements for me to pick the engine up during the museum's fall swap meet two weeks away.

Bringing it Home

For the next two weeks all I could think about was the Swan, and as show time approached I readied my truck and trailer to bring the Swan home. I arrived at the museum on Thursday - the day before the show started - so I would have a full day to get her loaded without a lot of people around. With Mike Murphy operating the museum's Army crane, we got the Swan loaded and secured. I spent the next few days at the swap meet talking to friends and enjoying the engines at the museum.



When people at the swap meet saw the Swan strapped to my truck, they asked if I was nuts. The engine looked in pretty sad shape, and it was. It had been sitting outside for 54 years, it had been in a fire, and all the babbitt (except for the mains) was gone. It really needed some tender loving care. I couldn't wait to get home and start working on her.

After returning to Pavilion from the swap meet, I spent a few days getting my shop ready for my new restoration project. Once the Swan was in my shop, I just stood there and savored the moment. I couldn't believe what I was getting to restore.



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