Old Powerhouse

Area Status: Open

Old Powerhouse SignThe founding of the Bradford oil field in 1875 brought a new dimension to America's oil industry. By 1881, the Bradford field produced well over 90% of the national petroleum supply.

Imagine yourself as a pumper inspecting your rod line while the single piston engine drives the rod lines to get power to the pump jack. The mechanical trick here is to transfer the horizontal energy of the rod line to a vertical motion that pulls the sucker rod up and down in the well.

The rhythmic thumping of the Cooper-Bessemer single piston, 22.5 horsepower oil field engine, the clinking of the rod lines, and the screeching of the belts are now just echoes on the wind, ringing off the scrap metal walls of this 1939 powerhouse that was in use for half a century.

The pump jack may be one of the most important tools of the oil industry. Without it, oil stays underground, hidden from those who seek its riches.

Finding the black gold and drilling for it in the late 1800's was no small task. Four men worked twelve hour shifts for as long as it took with only Sundays off. A Standard Drilling Rig used a 15 to 20 inch diameter log, 12 to 15 feet long as a maul to loosen the earth in the drilling hole. Once the hole was deep enough, an auger (drill bit) replaced or alternated with the maul to deepen the hole. Casing kept the hole open as the bit went deeper and deeper in search of oil. Oil was brought to the surface using the engine in the powerhouse to drive a system of belts, wheels and rod lines.

Cooper-Bessemer single piston, 22.5 horsepower oil field engineEach oil field in the early 1900's had a different pumping system with its own unique solutions to the engineering problems at hand. No two looked or ran quite the same.

In recent years, with the help of many partners, the US Forest Service has restored the powerhouse as an interpretive site. To view more photos of Old Powerhouse, please visit our Old Powerhouse Album on Flickr.


For many years, an Audio Tour has been available for in-person visits. The tour has now been made available in both an mp3 and transcript format. Photos on this page have been provided by Amy Lesher, USDA Forest Service.

Listen Now

  • The Old Powerhouse Audio Tour

At a Glance

Operational Hours: Daylight hours
Fees: No fee
Permit Info: No permit required
Open Season: January - December
Usage: Light
Restrictions: As a visitor to the National Forest, you are asked to follow certain rules designed to protect the Forest, natural resources and to provide for public safety of visitors. These rules are available to you on-line or at any office of the Allegheny National Forest. Please take time to read and understand them. General Topic orders apply across the Forest. Applicable Orders for this Site:
  • Allegheny Reservoir
Closest Towns: Kane, PA
Water: None
Operated By: Forest Service
Information Center: Bradford Ranger District Address: 29 Forest Service Dr., Bradford, PA 16701
Phone: 814-362-4613
Email: sm.fs.anf@usda.gov

General Information


From downtown Warren

  • Travel south on Route 6/Crescent Park Drive for 2 miles.
  • Turn left/east onto Route 59.
  • Travel east on Route 59 for 17.8 miles.
  • Turn right onto PA-321 S. and travel .8 miles.
  • The site is located on the left.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Day Hiking

Self guided interpretive trail
Fire Information Campfires are permitted if maintained in a fire ring, and completely extinguished.
Difficulty Level: Easy

Interpretive Areas

You may check out an audio tape about The Old Powerhouse Interpretive Site from any Allegheny National Forest office. Demonstrations of the powerhouse engine and equipment are provided during special events or by appointment.

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


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