Old Engine Intervention

Saving a Forgotten Bovaird & Seyfang from a Broken Home

| April/May 2004

4 HP 1911 Bovaird & Seyfang.

The restored 4 HP 1911 Bovaird & Seyfang.

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.