Looking back at the machines of the past

CAIRO, W.Va. – Antique engines of all sizes and power sources were part of the 10th annual Engines and Wheels Festival at North Bend State Park on Saturday.

Kristi Steed, one of the organizers, said the festival, in its 10th year, is a look back at the engines that powered the area’s oil and gas boom of the late 19th century and early 20th century.

“These engines were well known for their use on the wells during the oil boom time,” she said.

Many of the engines on display Saturday were either used with the wells or are similar to those used at that time, Steed said.

Gary Davis, of Wirt County, said the engine he had is one his grandfather used to pump an oil well in Wirt County. He became owner of the pump four years ago.

“It hasn’t been used for years, it was still sitting on a well location,” he said. “Today it’s only for show at shows like this.”

Paul Tingler, of Williamstown, had a display that he said showed a small portion of the more than 50 pieces he owns.

“When many of these were built, they were what powered what you use electric power for today,” he said. “They were gasoline powered and they were used around the home.”

Tingler said they were used to power washing machines and other appliances that came to be powered by natural gas or electricity in the early part of the 20th century.

Tingler said he has engines for lawnmowers and snow blowers from the 1950s and an engine built by Briggs and Stratton in 1942 for military use.

“What ever the military need an engine for, that’s what they used it for,” he said. “Others were used around the home or farm, one has a kick start to be used with a washing machine.”

One he has is a one-of-a-kind made by hand.

“It’s four Briggs and Stratton engines machined together to make one,” he said. “It’s a four cylinder Briggs and Stratton, a one-of-a-kind conversation piece.

“A hobbyist made it and it’s a conversation piece,” Tingler said.

Dave Wilson, of Ritchie County, had an engine that he called a half-breed engine, one that was half steam engine and half natural gas engine.

“It’s a steam engine that was converted to run on natural gas,” he said. “The steam engine part was built in the late 1890s and the gas engine conversion was done some time in the early 1900s, it was done before 1920.”

Wilson said it was used on an oil well in the Mannington area. He came in possession of the engine five years ago as part of a trade for some work done for a friend.

“A friend of mine needed a skid built for an engine he owned and he traded me this engine for the work,” he said. “I had to make a few small part for them and I cleaned it up, I built the wagon for it. It’s a pretty good engine for show, it will never pump another oil well.”