Oil Field Masterpiece

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

| March/April 2004

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.