Old Engine Intervention

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The restored 4 HP 1911 Bovaird & Seyfang.
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Howard Weaver's 4 HP Bovaird & Seyfang as it looked the day he brought it home. A little IHC LB (just visible behind the Bovaird) was part of the deal.
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Housed in a small wooden shed with a bent tin roof as its only safeguard against the elements, the Bovaird & Seyfang was almost lost.
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Detail of the unrestored water jacket.
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Bruce Lawson helps picks up the Bovaird & Seyfang from its long-time home on an oil lease in rural Bradford, Pa.

Hearing stories about old oil field engines hiding back in the
woods is exciting, but actually finding one is even better –
it’s an adrenalin rush. These days, locating these relics
isn’t as easy as it once was five or even 10 years ago.
I’ve been lucky, though – I’ve done it twice, and the
second time was especially fun.

When I discovered that my sister, Marilyn, worked for East
Resources Inc., an oil and gas exploration and development company
headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pa., I immediately started bugging
her. ‘Hey Marilyn,’ I said, ‘do you know of any old
engines on the leases?’ ‘Mo, Sam, but I will ask,’ she
replied. In fact, she did ask, and to my surprise I got an e-mail
from her giving me the name and phone number of a company employee
who was willing to show me a couple of old engines in the Bradford,
Pa., area (which, incidentally, was home to the oil field engine
manufacturer Bovaird & Seyfang Manufacturing Co.).

The Hunt is On

On Sept. 24, 2003, 1 met Charlie Sherrick, a field supervisor
for East Resources Inc., and the adventure began. First, we
traveled to Wilcox, Pa., and unlocked a gate at a lease where an
engine was located. Driving in, we followed a barely passable old
lease road for about a mile around the side of a hill. It was hard
just trying to get to the site, which was probably why the engine
was still there.

The engine was easy to spot sitting out in the open, housed in a
small wooden shelter that was barely standing. The tin roof was
bent into a ‘V’ shape, and inside the small structure the
engine had tipped sideways. Taking a closer look, I realized the
little engine was a hot tube, vertical 4 HP, water-cooled Bovaird
& Seyfang gas or gasoline engine. It had worked pumping an
individual well, but the pump jack had been hauled away at some
point, and the well now produced only natural gas.

Looking at the engine and its surroundings, we estimated the
engine hadn’t run in 50 years. After checking with the man who
used to run the oil lease, we found out we were close: He said the
engine probably hadn’t run since the early 1940s. Yet, even
after all that time, it was still complete and loose. The little
shed and the upright design of the engine had allowed oil to stay
on all the important pieces – only the external exhaust pushrod was
rusted tight.

After checking out the Bovaird, Charlie and I traveled to Foster
Brook, Pa., to check on another lead. Sitting right next to the
road we found a 3-5 HP International LB engine direct-belted to a
pump jack. This poor little engine, which ad been sitting uncovered
for years, was the worse for wear. But that’s another story and
a future project.

I wasn’t too excited about the LB, as it’s not what I
think of as an oil field engine. And yet, since they were both
available – I really wanted the Boviard & Seyfang – we made a
deal and I bought the pair.

19911 Bovaird & Seyfang

Manufactured in Bradford, Pa., 4 HP, 4-cycle, 5-inch bore by
8-inch stroke, Hot-tube ignition, atmospheric intake, Mechanical
exhaust, water cooled, Serial no. 202.

Getting it Out

Within two days my friend Bruce Lawson, a fellow oil field
engine lover from Falconer, N.Y., and I were back in Wilcox to
bring the engines home. The Bovaird loaded easily. Its wooden base
had rotted away, and the shelter that had protected it for so many
years tipped over with only a nudge. We pulled the engine up on
ramps and into the trailer, rolling it on the flywheels. The bent
pushrod was already out of the way.

Except for one mounting bolt that was stuck tight, retrieving
the LB was pretty easy. After a few grunts and one skinned knuckle,
the stuck bolt gave way. Charlie came by while we were sliding it
onto the back of the trailer, I paid him for the engines, and we
were back in Jamestown within a few hours.

With the engines home and unloaded in the garage, I started
dismantling the Bovaird. I was pleasantly surprised to find most of
it was still in good condition. For as many years as it had sat
idle, there were relatively few parts needing repair or
replacement. Pulling the engine apart, I found the number
‘202’ stamped on the head and cylinder, and I am confident
this is the engine’s serial number. I knew that production of
these engines started in 1910, and with a little digging I was able
to access some old shipping records. I found out that this
particular engine, serial no. 202, was shipped on April 17, 1911.
Bovaid & Seyfang only made about 1,011 uprights altogether, and
I found out that serial no. 343, the last 4 HP, shipped in

The wrist pin was bad, so I turned down a new one from
cold-rolled steel and turned the bushing to tighten things up. The
top piston ring was broken, and I sourced a new one from Starbolt.
I removed one shim from the rod bearing to take up the endplay, and
I made a new pushrod for the exhaust valve from cold rolled steel
to replace the bent and badly rusted one. All I had to do was cut a
piece to length and mill two flat spots in it where the set screws

The biggest repair job was fixing the many spider web-like
freeze cracks in the water jacket. I repaired them by first
grinding a ‘V’ in each crack with a small angle grinder and
then, after a thorough cleaning with paint thinner, filling the
cracks with Devcon steel putty. After the Devcon dried, 1 ground
and sanded it smooth with an angle grinder and sandpaper.

With that done, I made some oak skids, and the reassembly began.
I cleaned every part of the engine and painted it all a dark green.
I had to make some minor adjustments on the exhaust valve timing,
as the cam gear that actuates the pushrod was one tooth out of

After doing a little experimenting with the hot tube burner, I
decided to use the original burner. Even though it was designed for
natural gas, it has a needle valve so it works okay with propane.
Finally, after only a month of preparation, I was ready to start
the engine.

First Fire

I hooked a propane line to the gas cock and heated the hot tube,
and with only three turns of the flywheel the little engine fired,
taking off and coming back to life for the first time in decades.
That first running was short-lived, however. The engine was firing
too early, and I knew immediately that the hot tube had to be
shortened to make it fire later. Not only that, but the head gasket
blew out after only 30 seconds of running!

I pulled the head back off, and as I set about making a new head
gasket I noticed some pitting on the sealing surface of the head.
So, I chucked the head on a lathe and faced it off – another
problem solved.

To find the best length for the hot tube, I started with a
6-inch tube and worked from there. I kept cutting it down, 1-inch
at a time, and running the engine. I ended up with a hot tube only
2 inches long, and the engine runs nicely.

I am looking forward to displaying my Bovaird & Seyfang at
several shows in the upcoming season, starting in April at the
Maple Festival in Franklinville, N.Y. I owe my sister a big thank
you for her part in helping me bring the Bovaird & Seyfang back
to life.

Contact engine enthusiast Howard Weaver at: 170 Lakeside
Blvd., Jamestown, NY 14701; (716) 484-2028; e-mail:

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