Pico (and Wiley) Canyon Engines


Before 1910, almost 75 wells were drilled in Pico Canyon. So, obviously, there were once a lot of old engines scattered about in the canyon area. Over the years, the engines probably were either moved to another location or scrapped. Today, there are five engines visible by the road and part of one rusting engine away deep in the canyon. Also, Greg Johnson thinks one may be hidden by brush on the steep side of upper Hughes Canyon (the canyon starting at Johnson Park).

Two engines from Pico Canyon and one from Wiley Canyon are known by me to have been restored. Greg Johnson restored the engine from the upper jack plant on PCO hill. Another engine is currently being restored by Mike Anderson and, in 2015, purchased another Pico Canyon Farrer Trefts steam engine for future restoration. Considering that Greg Johnson and friends salvaged 6 or 7 engines from Pico Canyon in 1974 and 75, others must have been restored.

There is one known restored Wiley Canyon engine and it is owned by comedian Jay Leno.

The following photos show both the existing engines and the restored engines.



The most obvious engines are right by the school house among other old equipment and junk


Here is the engine furthest from the school house. It is a Farrar & Trefts steam engine. The bottom side is up.


Another view of that engine


The middle engine is a Farrar & Trefts steam engine in pretty good condition.


Another view


And another view


Here is the engine nearest the school house. It is a gas engine manufactured by Union Tool Company in Torrance, CA, and was rated at 20 HP. It was originally located below the large flat area on PCO hill west of the jack plant. It was removed during the salvage efforts by Greg Johnson and others and taken to Santa Fe Springs to be restored. However, Frenchy Lagasse wanted it back, so it was returned to Pico Canyon.


Another view


This is the steam engine at the Johnson Park replica rig. It was manufactured by the Ames' Iron Works Company in Oswego, NY. Darryl Manzer told me that this engine was originally on PCO Hill below the jack plant. He lived here when the replica rig was constructed.


Another view


And another view


This is the engine at the Pico 4 well site. It is a 25 HP Commercial gas engine made in Los Angeles around 1912. The pulley was manufactured by Meese & Gottfried Company, S. F., California. This engine is not an original Pico Canyon engine. It (and the jack plant laying nearby) were last used in the 1960's on Court Street in downtown L.A. and were owned by the Manley Oil Company. Ken Manley donated them to Travel Town in Griffith Park in Los Angeles where they sat for many years. Travel Town decided to get rid of them and they somehow ended up in Pico Canyon. They were not in the canyon in 1974-75.


Another view of that engine


This engine body is deep in the canyon on a slope. It was obviously just shoved down from above many years ago. Greg Johnson identifies it as a Farrar and Trefts steam engine.


Another view.


This is the restored engine from the upper jack plant on PCO hill. It is a circa 1899 35 HP Model 3 Klein gas engine with a 12 inch bore and a 24 inch stroke made by National Transit in Oil City, PA. According to Greg Johnson, it took him about 3 years to restore (and Greg had a full-time job during that time). There were quite a few parts missing that had to be reproduced. After restoration, he loaned it to the Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum in Vista, California, where it was displayed from about 1978 - 1985. The above photo (provided by Greg Johnson) shows the engine at the Vista Museum. In 1985, Greg traded it to Nathan Lillibridge of Voluntown, CT, for another early gas engine. After Lillibridge's death, the family donated it to the Coolspring Power Museum in Coolspring, PA.


Photo of the Klein at the Coolspring Power Museum in the Nate Lillibridge Station, where it is today. Here is a recent (10/2015) video (.mov format) of the running engine taken by Greg. He kindly allowed me to show it here.


Here is a still of the same Klein engine at the Coolspring museum from this youtube video. Greg is on the left. As you can see, the engine is quite large.


Here is a small photo of the sign for the Klein engine. It says:
Klein gas engine
Model 3
12 inch bore, 24 inch stroke
Circa 1899
Serial number 335
Designed by John Klein and made by National Transit Company, Oil City, PA.

The engine was running a central power (or Jack Plant as they were known in the west) pumping approximately 25 oil wells in the Pico Canyon Oil field new Newhall, California. The site of the power was on the top of a high ridge about 1000 feet above the canyon floor. The Pico Canyon field was first drilled in 1875 by California Star Oil Works Company which later became Standard Oil Company. It is unknown how this engine came to be in California as Klein engines were originally designed and made for use in pipeline stations pumping oil to refineries. This is the only Klein that has been found in its original place of use outside of Pennsylvania, Ohio or West Virginia. The engine last ran in 1937. A brush fire burned the area in the 1960's and destroyed the engine house. It was recovered in 1975 and restored to operating condition by Greg Johnson of Lakeside, CA. Information and parts to complete the restoration were supplied by Paul Harvey and John Wilcox in the late 1970's. The engine was traded to Nathan Lillibridge of Voluntown, CT. in the mid 1960's. After Nate's passing the engine was donated to the Coolspring Power Museum by the Lillibridge family.


This is an old photo of the restored 15 HP Farrar and Trefts steam engine from Pico Canyon on display at the Vista Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum. It was bought around 1970 from Frenchy Lagasse (Standard Oil) by Carl Bergman of Lancaster, CA. It was subsequently sold to Larry Thomson, who still owns it. He loaned it to the museum where it now resides.


This is a photo of the engine at the museum taken on October 20, 2013, by Greg Johnson during a show there. Here is a short video (.mov format) that Greg took of the engine running. Windows Media Player will run it. Greg was one of the equipment salvagers in 1974-75 and has been restoring old engines for over 40 years.


This is a photo of the engine at the museum taken by Mike Anderson during the same show that Greg was at.


Another photo by Mike. He says that the engine "has a bolted on reversing arm attached to the cylinder, in black paint, that would move the Stephenson’s link up or down to change direction. The plaque says that the cylinder has an 8” bore, but I think it would match mine at 9”.

Mike also took a video of the engine running. See here for that video.


Here is the plaque for the engine. Here is Greg Johnson's comment about the plaque:
"I notice they think this engine came around the horn by ship. The transcontinental railroad was going by that time. I bet it came by railroad! Also they say it had the rotary valve for quick reversal. I think they did it as a selling point as it did nothing to make the reversal of the engine quicker than a normal D valve. The engines only needed reversing when they were pulling the cable tools out of the well. It did not have to be done quickly! The Vista museum rarely gets their facts correct and have no idea how the engine was used to drill or pump a well."


This Farrar & Trefts engine was salvaged in 1974-75 by Greg Johnson and others. Two of the the others included Bob and John Hughes. John was Bob's father. The engine was owned by Bob originally but ended up at his fathers place. After John passed away 2-3 years ago, Ron Haskell ended up with it. Ron had no interest in the engine so he sold it to Mike Anderson in 2012. Here is the engine just after Mike brought it home on 11/24/2012. The Stephenson's valve linkage and crank rod are disconnected. Mike plans to restore the engine and I have a webpage that will follow his restoration project (photo courtesy of Mike Anderson).


Here is another view, with the Stephenson linkage in place. (photo courtesy of Mike Anderson)


Advertisement for a Farrar & Trefts steam engine


Steam engine parts


This is the 20 HP Superior gas engine from Wiley Canyon (photo provided by Greg Johnson). It was salvaged in 1974-75 and restored to running condition by Dick Bouma of Ontario, CA. It was sold to comedian Jay Leno an is now in his large collection of engines in Burbank, Ca. Hopefully, one day Jay will create a short movie of this engine running like he has of many other old engines.


Here is a photo of the Superior engine in Jay Leno's Garage (photo taken by Greg Johnson)

This image is NOT in the public domain and is used by permission of Jay Leno


Another view of the engine (photo taken by Greg Johnson)

This image is NOT in the public domain and is used by permission of Jay Leno