Old Powerhouse

Allegheny National Forest, Near Bradford, Pennsylvania

Old Powerhouse does not offer reservations through Recreation.gov. Please take a look at the area details below for more information about visiting this location. Enjoy your visit!


Old Powerhouse

The founding of the Bradford oil field in 1875 brought a new dimension to America's oil industry. By 1881, the Bradford field produced well over 90% of the national petroleum supply.

Imagine yourself as a pumper inspecting your rod line while the single piston engine drives the rod lines to get power to the pump jack. The mechanical trick here is to transfer the horizontal energy of the rod line to a vertical motion that pulls the sucker rod up and down in the well.

The rhythmic thumping of the Cooper-Bessemer single piston, 22.5 horsepower oil field engine, the clinking of the rod lines, and the screeching of the belts are now just echoes on the wind, ringing off the scrap metal walls of this 1939 powerhouse that was in use for half a century.

The pump jack may be one of the most important tools of the oil industry. Without it, oil stays underground, hidden from those who seek its riches.

Finding the black gold and drilling for it in the late 1800's was no small task. Four men worked twelve hour shifts for as long as it took with only Sundays off. A Standard Drilling Rig used a 15 to 20 inch diameter log, 12 to 15 feet long as a maul to loosen the earth in the drilling hole. Once the hole was deep enough, an auger (drill bit) replaced or alternated with the maul to deepen the hole. Casing kept the hole open as the bit went deeper and deeper in search of oil. Oil was brought to the surface using the engine in the powerhouse to drive a system of belts, wheels and rod lines.

Each oil field in the early 1900's had a different pumping system with its own unique solutions to the engineering problems at hand. No two looked or ran quite the same.

In recent years, with the help of many partners, the US Forest Service has restored the powerhouse as an interpretive site.