1902 Snow Steam Pump Works Engine

1,100 hp Snow natural gas pumping engines viewed before scheduled retirement

Snow Engine

1,100 hp Snow Steam Pump Works engine at Sugar Grove, Ohio.

Colonel N.D. Stuckey

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Millions of years ago nature put large quantities of natural gas in underground rock formations deep below the surface of what is now Ohio. Gas was first discovered and used in this area, known as “America’s Original Natural Gasland.” As a result much of the native gas in Ohio has been depleted.

Now the same rock formations, once stocked with natural gas by nature, are being used by man to store tremendous volumes of gas delivered from the Southwest United States.

On Sunday, October 11, 1970, through arrangements made by Milton L. Deets, of Dayton, Ohio, a group of enthusiastic engine collectors toured the Ohio Fuel Gas Co.’s Crawford Compressor Station at Sugar Grove, Ohio. This station was built in 1902 for the purpose of supplying the gas needs for homes and industry. As the years passed and the requirements were increased, the compressor station was enlarged until today there are 21 natural gas pipelines into and out of the plant.

The primary interest of the visiting group was focused on the three huge 70-year-old Snow pumping engines, which are the last of seven and scheduled for retirement. These enormous creations of engineering mastery were installed in 1902 and have performed flawlessly since then. They were manufactured by the Snow Steam Pump Works of Buffalo, New York. The one 17-foot 4-inch flywheel rotates without vibration or deviation at 88 rpm.

The Snow engine is very interesting in design as it is a horizontal engine with parallel tandem cylinders, two in line on each side of the flywheel. Since there is combustion on each side of the cylinders it is equivalent to an eight-cylinder engine. There is an individual mixer valve for each cylinder, and the smooth even ignition reveals a proper balance in mixture as each 24-inch piston draws in the charge for the 48-inch stroke. Fuel consumption will average eight to ten cubic feet of gas per horsepower hour developed. One can readily see this 1,100 horsepower 280-ton monster uses lots of natural gas in a 24-hour period.

In line with each tandem of cylinders is the compressor. It has a bore of 12 inches and a 48-inch stroke, and is connected to the engine cross-head. The gas is admitted under 510 psi and forced out at 800 psi, resulting in the movement of 50 million feet of gas a day. Tons of water are used each day to cool this tremendous machine. The cylinders are jacketed and the pistons and rods are hollow to carry a large quantity of water.

Chief Engineer George Riley and his assistants were wonderful in their explanation of engine and systems. The group was pleased to be permitted to see one of the big Snow engines started with air pressure.

The visitors also enjoyed seeing the three Worthington engines that develop 8,400 horsepower and weigh 140 tons each, the three Cooper at 750 horsepower, and five Cooper Bessemer GMWA engines that develop 7,500 horsepower and weigh 85 tons each. All of the engines at this station develop 22,050 horsepower to operate 39 gas compressors. Approximate cost of a Worthington engine installed is $800,000. It could be more of these that will replace the old Snow work horses.

We are grateful to the Ohio Fuel Gas Co. for giving us the wonderful tour of their facilities affording us the opportunity to see the last of the old Snow on the job. IMA