has always been worthwhile
by Delbert Trew
energy is a worthwhile effort no matter the age or era.
Whether for economical reasons only or just plain common sense, a
significant effort in energy saving was made in the early-day oil
fields of the North Fork of the Red River near Kellerville and Magic
Though idle today and probably destined for salvage, the huge "power"
source stands as a monument to ingenuity and mechanization. Some call
it a power wheel, others say eccentric, but all agree it is an icon
of the past. Using one power source instead of many certainly saved
energy, investment costs and labor.
The oil boom on North Fork began in 1925 and grew steadily through
both good and hard times. Shallow production allowed close spacing
of wells on many leases. Since this was before rural electrification
arrived, all pump jacks had to be individually powered for pumping.
Someone invented the huge, horizontally mounted power wheels, located
down in shallow pits and driven by flat belts and a single engine.
Attached to the wheel was a crank device to which a revolving hub
was mounted. Steel rod lines running to each of the outlying pump
jacks was attached to the hub. As the wheel spun slowly, the crank
and hub rotated, providing just the right amount of movement to actuate
the pump jacks. The power source at Kellerville was capable of pumping
18 wells at a time.
When properly installed, the weight of one well going upward was offset
by the weight of an opposite well going downward and was pretty close
to perpetual motion once it began turning. The rod lines going to
each pump jack ran through wooden guides mounted in metal posts. Since
the lines had to be straight between points, the rods often traveled
through culverts or were suspended high in the air to traverse the
Pivoting rocker arms turned corners and concrete ballast weights helped
balance the pull of the pump jacks. Power was provided by a huge "hit-and-miss,"
single cylinder engine with flywheels taller than a man's head, running
on natural gas from the wells it was pumping. They ran year-round,
24 hours a day, seven days a week, providing a great amount of power
for very little fuel used. Mufflers kept the engine noise to a minimum.
"Pumpers," the men who kept the engines and wells producing, faithfully
serviced, lubricated and repaired the equipment each day. After tending
the main machinery, they walked the rod lines with a grease bucket
in hand dabbing grease on the guide blocks and connections. Old-timers
claim they could stand at a distance and tell if a lease was running
properly just by listening to the big engine and other oil lease sounds.
Working in the oil field was a dirty, demanding job that had to be
learned on the site. With the Great Depression and Dust Bowl in full
swing, agricultural and other jobs were few and far between. Times
were hard and money scarce. All who worked in the oil fields were
thankful for this new kind of work that put groceries on the table
and provided a place to live.
© Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" Column
- June 20, 2006