The Yoyo Drilling Rig at Drake Well

Last week's post lists events on the Trails of History through August 22, and the August program page covers the rest.

My thanks to guest blogger Susan Beates, curator at the Drake Well Museum and Park, for this week's post. Sue notes that site staff "have rearranged the outdoor exhibits at the museum. The goal is to have the outdoor exhibits mirror the themes of the indoor museum, with new signage to challenge visitors to think about the old machinery in new ways. The first phase called for most of the machinery to be moved so the artifacts will be grouped by subject – drilling, producing oil, etc." But first, a brief recap of recent events on the Trails of History.

Previously on the Trails of History

  • The Pennsylvania Military Museum has posted as series of albums from the 2019 Boot Camp for Kids; check out their Facebook page to see them all.
  • If you like photos of animals, you need to visit Pennsbury Manor's page for Duo the Barn Cat, Bill the Ox, and several geese whose names I don't know
  • Ephrata Cloister shared photos from their Ice Cream Social, with visitors enjoying tours of the Saal, music by Ethan Fasnacht and (of course) Turkey Hill ice cream. Visitors also saw demos by the Lancaster Spinning and Weaving Guild and got to know the K-PETS therapy animals
  • Kids attending the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum's Cork Camp spent the first day learning "woodhick" skills and the second day demonstrating those skills at the Cherry Springs Woodsmen Show

The Yoyo Drilling Rig

Metal machinery with geared wheels and a tall structure at one end
The Yoyo Drilling Rig at Drake Well Museum and Park. The tall piece on the left side of the photo is called a "mast."
Seventy-five years ago John Hawley, owner of Northern Ordnance Company of Minneapolis, MN, thought the U.S. needed a new system of exploration in order to avert a potential oil shortage. He jumped into the oil industry and said “Oilmen are a bunch of fuddy-duddies.” His system was to “drill all over hell.” The portable Yoyo Drilling Rig at Drake Well Museum was one way he accomplished that.

Hawley and Albert “Slick” Spence of Pleasantville, PA, designed a heavy-duty "spudding" machine for exclusive use on Northern Ordnance’s Pennsylvania oil leases, which covered over 10,000 acres. Using surplus naval pumps and gun-mount parts from Northern Ordnance's World War II defense contracting jobs, they built about 40 of these flat-bottomed 14-ton machines at Hawley’s Minneapolis factory. It takes a D-6 Caterpillar bulldozer hooked on to the front bottom to tow the rig to a new drilling site. When drilling, the mast leans forward then jumps back up like a yoyo. The machine could drill wells to a depth of 2,000 feet and was used in Warren, Forest and Venango Counties in Pennsylvania's oil region.

Man positions one of two tow trucks needed to move oil drilling rig

This past summer, Shambaugh Towing of Titusville moved the Yoyo Drilling Rig onto a cement pad. As the photo above shows, it took two large tow trucks to pull the beast in place. Its new location next to the Standard Steel Drilling Rig will help visitors see how drilling technology changed over time. (To plan your visit, check out Drake Well Museum's website.)


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