KEYSTONE DRILLER


| July/August 1986



Steam driller

Photo by Dorothy Yagodich.

Dorothy Yagodich

Charleroi, Pennsylvania

This steam driven Keystone #3 drilling rig has held a place of honor at the National Pike Steam, Gas and Horse Association, the Tri-State Historical Steam Engine Association and the Canfield Fair of Canfield, Ohio, since its restoration in 1967 by Dean Red.. This Keystone #3 drilling rig was purchased by my grandfather, John H. Redd in 1916. My father, Thomas Redd, drilled with it as well as my uncle and myself. I drilled with this machine up until 1955; it has successfully drilled many, many wells in Washington County, with the deepest well at 550 feet. In the early 1940's the driller was converted to gasoline and in 1967 converted back to steam.

In 1983 the Tri-State Historical Steam Engine Association featured the Keystone machines at their annual show. These Keystone machines are a rare item at any steam show throughout the U.S.A.

The first Keystone driller was constructed in 1879 and drilled its first well for the Economite Society at Economy, Pennsylvania. The second Keystone driller was the first one manufactured for sale. It was sold in April 1879 to W.E. Ross of Valencia, Pennsylvania, and drilled as much as 50 feet per day.

Robert M. Downie and his brother, John, were the founders of the Keystone Driller Company. The manufacture of Keystone drillers began in a small shop at Fallston, Pennsylvania, in 1882. A force of 12 men was employed and the output of the plant was two machines a month. In 1887, a new and larger factory was erected in the neighboring town of Beaver Falls, and this became the permanent establishment of the company. A department for the manufacture of steam boilers, adapted for drilling machines, was added and the Keystone Cross Tubular, or 'Inverted Porcupine', type of boiler was put on the market. The distinguishing feature of these boilers was that tubes, with inner ends welded, and with outer ends threaded to gas pipe size were screwed into the fire box shell. This construction eliminated all bother of cleaning flues; and, the tubes being free to expand and contract under variations of heat, all expansion strains were removed and the easy replaceable tubes gave little or no trouble.

Boiler code rules were gotten up and enforced upon the factory in the different states which made it practically impossible to continue making their cross tubular boilers. They were thereupon most regretfully compelled to resort to upright flue boilers with their partly exposed flues running from the crown sheet to the head. The boilers constructed were of the very best material and each one perfect, inspected, and insured before leaving the factory. They were the best that could be made under the conditions imposed by the state laws.