THE SISTERSVILLE GAS ENGINE


| July/August 1981



Old pumping engines

Old pumping engines

Union, West Virginia

For the past several years beginning in 1974, it has been my good fortune to attend the annual Oil & Gas Festivals held at Sistersville every September. My primary urge for going originally was that I had heard that part of the festival was to have a gas engine show in connection with the festival. As a hobby I have been interested in gas engines most of my life. My dad invented and built a gas engine in 1896, which I have exhibited at the show for the past two years. Also, since coming to West Virginia in the early 1940s to Ritchie County, I had grown to love the sound of the engines running in the oil fields, as I made my way up and down the hollows while attending the sick as a country doctor.

Little did I realize back then that I would ever be writing an article about these engines. In 1974 through the kindness of my friend, Jack Cunningham of Cairo, I was able to acquire a very fine old Bessemer engine which I rebuilt, and had exhibited at the show in 1977. This engine had been used to pump an oil well near Cairo for 75 years or so, but that is just another long story.

In attending these shows I had also noticed the largest engine of the show, a beautifully restored Reid engine of 20 HP owned by my friend, Carl Perkins of Pennsboro. It was in excellent condition. Also, another good friend of mine, Jack Kile, had a very beautiful small Reid engine of 8 HP, which he had restored and ran nicely. During the past year or so, I have also seen two very rare and unique little Reid engines of 5 HP, both running, one by my friend Harry Horner of Harrisville, and the other I believe owned by a gentleman from Ohio. They were both very definitely Reids, exactly like the larger ones, and each with its beautifully cast label, made of brass.

In 1976 I obtained a reprint of a catalog or list of parts for Reid engines republished by Stuart Hart-man of Wooster, Ohio, from which I have learned a whole lot and used as a basis for the information in this article. Here I found all the information I would ever want to know about Reid engines.

I had spent a week with my old friend, Dale Wolfe, in Ritchie County, trying to locate old engines that might be for sale. We probably looked at 40 to 50 old wells no longer being pumped in my quest for old engines, with no luck; I am still looking. As a result of this search, and in some wells still pumping, I found more wells using Reid engines than any other make, and they appear most popular in West Virginia. Other makes such as Bessemers are also used, but it was mostly Reids that were the workhorses of the early oil fields.