El Dorado in Butler County, Kansas — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
The Central Power Unit
Central power units were used to pump oil wells in the early days of the Kansas oilfields. One central power could pump as many as eighteen different wells, some up to half a mile away. In the 1950s producers began to replace central powers with beam pumping units. A few locations in eastern Kansas still use central power.
A central power unit had four main parts:
1. Band wheel. The band wheel multiplied the power of the engine through the mechanical advantage of its long spokes. The eccentric gears at its base changed the circular motion of the wheel into the reciprocating motion needed to pump a well.
2. Engine. The engine provided the power to turn the band wheel. The two cycle, 25 horsepower engine has a single cylinder and one large piston. It used natural gas as a fuel.
3. Belt. The belt transmitted the power of the engine to the band wheel. Belts were usually made of rubber over woven cord; occasionally they broke, and a belt might have several patches in it.
4. Idler. The idler adjusted inward or outward to keep the belt tight.
Method of Operation
1. The engine turned the belt which turned the band wheel.
2. At the base of the band wheel are two eccentric gears. As the band wheel turned, they moved in and out and changed the
3. Attached to the eccentric gears by clamps are rod lines. The rod lines run through the sides of the building and out to the pump jacks on the wells.
4. The pump jack converted the horizontal movement of the rod line to vertical pumping motion. As it moved up and down, the pump jack pumped oil from the well.
This central power unit came from the Cities Service oilfields in northern Butler County. Virgil Hughey recognized its importance and preserved it at Oil Hill until it could be moved to the Kansas Oil Museum. The band wheel has a diameter of 24 feet; it was manufactured by the Reid Gas Engine Company of Oil City, Pennsylvania, about 1923. The Titusvile Iron Works Company of Pennsylvania manufactured the engine about 1925. The building is an authentic recreation of a typical central power building of the 1920s.
Erected by Kansas Oil Museum and the Rotary Club of El Dorado.
Location. 37° 49.027′ N, 96° 50.721′ W. Marker is in El Dorado, Kansas, in Butler County. Click for map. Marker is in the fenced outdoor Kansas Oil Museum exhibit area of the Butler County History Center. Marker is at or near this postal address: 383 East Central Avenue (U.S. 54), El Dorado KS 67042, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. Star Drilling Machine (a few steps from this marker); Model K Star Spudder (within shouting distance of this marker); Pole Trailer (within shouting distance of this marker); Tool Rack (within shouting distance of this marker); Oil Field Lease House (within shouting distance of this marker); Steel Oil Derrick / 1930's Cable-Tool Drilling Rig (within shouting distance of this marker); The Gypsy Spudder (within shouting distance of this marker); Cable Tool Drilling Rig (within shouting distance of this marker). Click for a list of all markers in El Dorado.
Related marker. Click here for another marker that is related to this marker.
Also see . . . Butler County History Center and Kansas Oil Museum. (Submitted on June 7, 2012, by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas.)
Categories. • Industry & Commerce • Man-Made Features •
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas. This page has been viewed 503 times since then and 90 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas. 7. submitted on , by William Fischer, Jr. of Fort Scott, Kansas. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.