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Big Engines in Oklahoma

Author Photo
By Column Richard Backus | Jul 9, 2019

Southwest of Hooker, Oklahoma, a small town nestled high in the Oklahoma panhandle, an old natural gas pumping station sits quietly in an open field. A tall silo on the site is perhaps the first thing you might notice driving by. Shuttered in the 1990s, it appears to be untouched, and chances are the engines in the installation, including multiple double-acting tandem twin Worthington compressor engines, are still there.

We first found out about the engines in the February/March 2019 issue, thanks to several photographs sent in by reader Bryan Cosby. This issue, Bryan sends in yet more photographs that show the enormity of the pumping station and the variety of engines that were once – and perhaps still – there.

The idea that they might yet be there is beyond tantalizing, and I’m hoping a GEM reader in the area will take a drive to the location and scout it out. We don’t know if the property is accessible, but perhaps a local caretaker or someone in the area will know how to gain entry. Finding the spot is easy. Just type in the GPS coordinates 36.8328211,-101.2618014 and you’ll be guided to a field just southwest of the intersection of Mile 43 Road and L Road.

The old installation is visible from the road, but what’s not visible are any of the engines. While the few photos Bryan has of the outside of the installation suggest it’s simply been locked up and abandoned, with no indication any engines have been removed, there’s of course every chance they have been. We hope someone looks into the site and reports back.See Bryan’s great photographs of the engines in the installation here.

While rescuing any of the Worthington engines would be a Herculean undertaking, projects of that scale have been done before. For proof, look no further than the incredible 1917 600hp double-acting Snow engine now assembled and running in its own dedicated building at the Coolspring Power Museum. Watching the Coolspring Snow engine is mesmerizing, a choreographed mechanical dance of amazing beauty. Then there’s the 1907 1,100hp double-acting Snow rescued by the members of the Northwest Michigan Engine & Thresher Club in Buckley, Michigan. The rescue started in 2008, and it was another 10 years before the engine was finally back in one piece and ready to roll, but roll it does, thanks to the dedicated effort of teams of volunteers. Likewise, the Coolspring engine would never have seen the light of day without the effort of volunteers intent on seeing it run once again.

It’s a reminder of the amazing capacity of members of the old engine community to make things happen. Individually we save and restore smaller, “regular” engines. But huge, historically important engines like the Worthingtons in Oklahoma require a group effort if they’re to be saved and reconstructed, an effort the old engine community has shown itself capable of time and again. Here’s hoping the Oklahoma engines still survive, and that perhaps even one of them might get rescued some day in the future.

Richard Backus
Editor-In-Chief
rbackus@gasenginemagazine.com

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