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Portable Cable Tool Drilling Machines
Opening Remarks
Corbett Portable Drilling Rig
Parkersburg Rig
Keystone Driller
Star Drilling Machine
Cyclone Drill
Columbia Driller
Wolfe Rig
Fort Worth Spudder
The Ohio Cleaner
Bolles Rig
Yo-Yo Rig
Combination Rig
Miscellaneous Rigs
Concluding Remarks

Keystone Driller

As previously mentioned in the chapter devoted to steam engines, in 1878 Robert M. Downie of Butler County, Pennsylvania, designed a wheel-mounted cable tool rig that held a vertical boiler, vertical steam engine and the operating or hoisting wheels.  The engine operated a spring pole, the butt end of which was anchored to the ground a short distance behind the drill wagon.  The fulcrum of the spring pole arrangement was on the rear of the wagon.  A tripod served as derrick or mast and the base of the poles were stuck in the ground.  This device is pictured in the aforementioned chapter.

R.M. Downie and his brother called this and subsequent rigs Keystone (a Downie trade name) and the first ones (described above) were built in Pittsburgh by the William Velts Company (Brantly, 1971).  About a half-dozen were sold for the drilling of water wells.  Later the Keystone Driller Company was established in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania.

Downie was soon able to substitute a "stiff beam" on the wagon for the spring pole (1880).  He also used a double working beam in the 1880's and went on to mount an A-frame folding-type ladder mast and braces on the wagon in 1892 or slightly before.  Previously, in 1888, Downie had turned out a self-propelled machine using his earlier stiff beam wheel-mounted apparatus.  This early traction machine ran on steam power which was already on the machine.  The large steel wheels had lump cleats at first, but later traction models of 1906 (double beam, A-frame mast) had diagonal cleats on the pair of rear wheels.  By 1920 Keystone was the first to put solid rubber tires on a portable rig, at least on the front wheels.  Keystone was also among the first to put crawler tractor wheels on a portable rig (early 1920's).  Of course, gasoline engines were already in general use.

This sequence of Downie inventions and models from 1878 to 1892, only 14 years, was remarkable.  Keystone, by the ingenuity of R.M. Downie, achieved a high rank among the competitive manufacturers of portable cable tool rigs.

Perhaps the most important concept that was put into use by Downie was the spudder drill rig of 1892 which enabled the tools to drill all the way to total depth without the need for a clamp and a temper screw.  The screw limited the amount of hole drilled at a given time to the screw's length (usually about 4 to 6 ft.) except for interruptions needed for bailing out the cuttings.

According to the API publication, History of Petroleum Engineering, 1961, the spudding manner of drilling was achieved as follows:  "---the drilling line is carried over a pulley just above the main drilling reel and then in a horizontal plane to another pulley, called the "spudding pulley," which is attached to a beam that hinges at the back of the machine.  The forward end of the beam holding the spudding sheave is attached to a pitman that raises and lowers the spudding sheave.  The drilling line goes under the spudding sheave, then vertically to another sheave at the top of the mast, and from there into the hole being drilled.  Drilling motion is obtained by the up-and-down travel of the spudding sheave on the drilling line."

Downie, as Keystone, also used the regular walking beam motion and temper screw on some of the early Keystone rigs.  However, he commercially pioneered the spudder-type drilling practice.  It finally went into general use in the 1920's - 30's. 

The author has Keystone catalogs and company literature.  A considerable number of portable rig models were put out by that company.  Old abandoned Keystone drillers have been seen by the author inthe oilfields.

This cut is from an ad in the April 1902 issue of the Petroleum Gazette.  This Keystone model was a favored oil drilling machine of that time.  At the same time Keystone was very active in making and selling prospecting machines for coal, zinc, lead and gold which were used all over the world.
In 1906 Keystone was successfully selling this model which came in 1500, 2000, 2500 and 3000 feet (depth) sizes.  They claimed that it was "the handiest and heaviest portable rig made".  The boiler was transported and set up separately, but the steam engine is in the forward end of the drill frame.  Illustration from a 1906 issue of the Petroleum Gazette.
This Keystone rig sat on a ridge overlooking Oil City, Pennsylvania.  It was used to drill 1000 foot wells and for clean-out or workover purposes.  It was run by a Waukesha four cylinder gasoline engine, seen at the back of the frame.  The corrugated metal building was erected over the rig floor.  This rig was moved in 2003.
The name plate of the Keystone drilling rig.  The tires (lower right) are on the rear axle of the rig frame. 
View of Keystone portable spudder rig, Oil City, Pennsylvania (same rig as in preceding and following photographs). 
Remains of Keystone rig floor in the shed.  Circle jack, wrenches, tool box, etc.  The drilling tools are held up by a wrench.  The well was never finished. 
Mast and guy wires of Keystone rig. 

© 2004, Samuel T. Pees
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