Flywheel logo

 July 2013

An Old Friend

By Paul Harvey

As I am writing this article our big June Engine Show is about to begin.  I realize that it would be great to be writing a show report now but, due to the deadline, that will not happen until the August Flywheel article.  So I have decided to take a trip down memory lane to re-visit an "Old Friend" that I enjoyed so many years ago.  Having the good fortune to make a pleasant trip to West Virginia during April to acquire an engine, I became re-acquainted and so thought the reader might enjoy the story. 

I was in Morgantown, WV from 1965 to 1969, and admittedly, WVU was a great school and gave me my career.  However, when I discovered that the oil field began a few miles west of Morgantown, the real fun began.  I was already accustomed to farm engines but was truly surprised when I walked into a shed connected to a derrick and saw a 20 hp Bessemer.  It was huge!  The search for various engines powering the oil wells began.  Not long after that, I came upon a well kept site with multiple buildings and an operating engine.  Driving in, I met the foreman, Willis Yost, who managed the West Virginia part of the Washington Oil Company.  He and I soon became good friends and I visited this site often, sometimes just to wander around and listen to the engine after a hard day at school.   Although Mr. Yost is long passed, the site has remained an "Old Friend."     

Soon, I had met the pumper, Les Neely, and he would take me on his rounds to start and pump the wells.  It was really fun to cut classes and meet Les in the early morning with dew still on the grass, get in his old Scout, and see what was new for the day.  Les taught me to start and operate a 20 hp JC and a 20 hp South Penn Special, which I found was fun to do on my own on warm Sunday afternoons.  They knew that I operated these wells sometimes, but it was not a problem to them.  Just leave the engines the way I found them.

On my recent trip, I was delighted to find the location and pull in the familiar driveway, as shown in  Photo 1.  Everything looked just about the same except for the absent exhaust note of the 25 hp Franklin Valveless driving the compressor to re-pressurize the wells.  However, in the back corner of the area was a modern compressor and engine running, so it was still alive.  No one was around, but I took the liberty to wander around to see how my "Old Friend" was doing and recall all the old memories.  It was great!  

Photo 2 is the office building where Mr. Yost had his desk and met with Mr. Charles Jolly from Taylorstown, PA each Monday morning.  Mr. Jolly was the manager of Washington Oil Company, based in Taylorstown, and made the journey to deliver the pay checks and discuss any other business or problems.  He also soon became a friend and I enjoyed seeing the different types of engines used in that field compared to those in WV.  Moving down the driveway, Photo 3 shows the compressor building and parts storage building.  The rear of the compressor building with its familiar exhaust stack can be seen in Photo 4.  Note the rusty cooling water tank to the right of the stack.     

Following down the drive, it turns and crosses the brook to a small house as seen in Photo 5.  This was the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Yost and I enjoyed many dinners there and then listening to Willis spin tales about the local oil fields.  It was West Virginia hospitality at its best and I learned so much.   And always, the exhaust note of the 25 hp Franklin was in the background.  Willis said he would awaken if the engine stopped;  and without automated controls. 

Photo 6 shows the vehicle service rack built across the stream.  By the size of the trees, it hasn't been used for a long time, but fifty years ago this was how used oil was disposed.  Moving downstream a bit, I found the remains of the bridge and stairs up the other side.  See Photo 7.  The area up the stairs always had 12 to 15 parts engines and was fun to tour to see what had been brought in.  A few hundred yards on, there was a "fording" area on the stream to give truck access to this site.   Photo 8 shows the remains of the old dam on the brook that originally provided cooling water for the engine.  This had not been used for many years as I recall only the rusty water tank in service.

Photo 9 is the intercooler  that cools the gas coming from the compressor and before distribution.  It also condenses any water or liquid petroleum that might be in the gas.  It is simply a series of horizontal pipes spaced between two upright stands.  Originally, creek water dripped over the pipes to aid cooling but for many years it has only used the ambient air. These intercoolers were common practice in both WV and PA pressure plants. 

I just had to take a photo of the outhouse, shown in Photo 10, as it is still functional but moved inland from the stream.  Back in the 1960s, I recall it mounted out over the creek much as the auto rack was.

Photo 11 shows the 25 hp Franklin Valveless engine, made in Franklin, PA, that powered the gas compressor.  It still is remarkably complete.  This was the only re-pressurization plant in the WV field of Washington Oil Company, but their Taylorstown, PA field had about a dozen similar units.  The engine choice is not understood to me now, as the firm did not use Franklins for pumping the oil wells.  Immediately behind the engine is mounted this Ingersoll-Rand compressor.  See Photo 12.  All these installations were very short coupled suggesting them to be a later addition than the oil wells.   Putting high pressure gas back down a few select injection wells was a common secondary recovery method to force more crude oil of the producing sands.   A radiator and water pump is also noted that probably provided cooling after the outside water tank failed.  Photo 13 shows the parts cabinet standing open with all the goodies still inside.  Amazing!!

The meter house is seen in Photo 14.  This small building, also seen in photo 9 for orientation, contains the meters, gauges, and valves to monitor and distribute the gas intake and output of the compressor.  In case of fire or emergency in the system, the gas can be shut off here.

Photo 15 shows the modern engine and compressor apparently running in 24/7 service located on one corner of the site.  The engine is the trustworthy Ford 300 cubic inch, six-cylinder industrial using natural gas as fuel.  It drives two compressors doing what the Franklin used to do.  With the mowed grass and maintained buildings, the site appears to be alive and well.

After touring the site for a few hours and reminiscing the old days, I took Photo 16  as I slowly walked back to my truck.  My "Old Friend" is still there.  I certainly hope to be able to return for another trip on memory lane.  The engine that I brought home was a 20 hp South Penn Special halfbreed, made in Clarksburg, WV so similar to the one that I learned to operate here some 50 years ago.  Hope the reader has enjoyed how I got initiated into big engines and the oil field as well as how a small pressure plant operates.

Coolspring Power Museum's next event will be History Day with its antique Car and Truck show on July 20, 2013.  The museum will also be open on Sunday, July 21, 2013.  Please call 814-849-6883 for information on these events.  See you then!

A familiar driveway

Photo 1: A familiar driveway

The office building

Photo 2: The office building for the facility

Compressor and parts storage buildings

Photo 3: The compressor building and parts storage building

Rear of compressor building 

Photo 4: The rear of the compressor building

Yost residence 

Photo 5: The residence of Mr. and Mrs. Yost

Vehicle service rack 

Photo 6: Vehicle service rack

Bridge and stairs 

Photo 7: Bridge and stairs 

Remains of dam 

Photo 8: Remains of the old dam


Photo 9: The intercooler for the gas compressor

Site outhouse 

Photo 10: The facility's outhouse

25 hp Franklin Valveless engine 

Photo 11: The 25 hp Franklin Valveless engine

Ingersoll-Rand compressor 

Photo 12: Ingersoll-Rand compressor

Parts storage 

Photo 13: The parts cabinet for the site

Meter house 

Photo 14: The meter house

Modern engine 

Photo 15: The modern engine and compressor

Last look 

Photo 16: A last look at the facility


Copyright 2018 by Coolspring Power Museum