We Need A BIG Engine!

| August/September 1989

  • Lee Hetterly
    Lee Hetterly supervising the removal of the Superior.
  • 50 HP Superior
    A 50 HP Superior used to generate power in the oil field. This engine hasn't run for at least 35 years; as you can see, it is in exceptional condition.
  • V-belt pulley
    Bob Elliott, left, and Ron Norrie with the 1,200 pound flywheel, which had been taken off and replaced with a V-belt pulley.
  • The engine after restoration

  • Lee Hetterly
  • 50 HP Superior
  • V-belt pulley
  • The engine after restoration

12353-212 St. Maple Ridge, British Columbia, Canada V3Z 1G3

My story started on one hot summer day in June of 1988. I was sitting with an old school buddy, Ron Norrie, a fellow engine collector who I got hooked into the hobby. We were discussing what a pain small engines are. You are always wrestling with them, in and out of the truck at meets and back home again. They may be small in size but not in weight. We both agreed what we really needed was a BIG engine on a tandem trailer. We then formed a 50/50 partnership. The search was on.

There are not very many big engines in our area of British Columbia. In Vancouver, B.C. I knew there was a 40 HP Fairbanks, Model N. After checking it out we discovered it was too big. What we really wanted was an engine of 15-25 HP, so that we could tow it around. Weeks went by and many phone calls later we came up empty-handed. Nothing! I then phoned an old friend, Lee Hetterly, in Everson, Washington to find out if he knew of any engines for sale and he did.

Off we went to see Lee. Lee has been an engine collector for years. We arrived to find him working on his 1947 Diamond T truck, on which he has mounted his 1?, 6 and 10 HP McCormick Deering engines.

How about the engine? Lee tells us he has a 25 HP Superior side shaft engine. Can we see it? Well, not really... the engine is still in the Sunburst Oil Fields, near Shelby, Montana. 800 miles away!

The engine is still sitting in the engine house where it was installed in 1925. The engine was used to pump oil from 10 wells until the mid-1930's when power came to the fields. The original owners of the engine took off a flywheel and replaced it with a v-belt pulley and removed the rod and piston. They ran it with an electric motor still using the rod line and pumps. Lee assures us that this is a good engine. So, we decide to take it. A price is agreed upon. Now when can we get it? Lee says we should wait until late summer, early fall when the weather cools down a bit. We decided to go on the Labour Day weekend, which turned out to be the hottest time of the year. Three months of planning our trip and wondering, how do we get that flywheel back on? How are we going to get the engine out of the engine house? What condition is the engine really in? Time will tell.


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