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Dead Men Tales: The Game-Changing Arrival of the Oil Burner

HeatingHelp Posts: 437
edited September 13 in THE MAIN WALL

The Game-Changing Arrival of the Oil Burner

William Newton Best developed the earliest oil burner just as the world entered the 20th Century. Coal was king, but he didn’t let that stand in his way. In this episode, Dan Holohan shares how oil burners disrupted the coal industry.

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  • Robert O'Brien
    Robert O'Brien Member Posts: 3,351

    To learn more about this professional, click here to visit their ad in Find A Contractor.
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 9,428
    The oil company I started with in 73 had sold "Petro" burners which had been around since the early 20s and before. By the time I got their "Petro" was no more and we sold Iron Fireman another old brand. They had both been folded into a company called "Space Conditioning" out of Harrisonburg, VA They also owned Dunham Bush and other companies which made steam traps, pumps and other things.

    All gone now

    I spent a few days at the factory in Harrisonburg just after I started.

    Our office was like a scene from the 1920s. They never threw anything away. There were books and brochures from those old days all over the place and I read through a lot of them before they eventually got tossed.

    In those days we hated natural gas......that was our mortal enemy LOL.

    If I recall correctly Mr Best had something to do with Petro. I will have to look that up...forgot
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,557
    Robert's poster would have gotten some attention in 1926....actually grabs your eye even today.

    But I see no open windows for healthy sleeping. ;)
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 8,557
    Maybe it wasn't sleep time anyway.

    Makes one almost want to switch to oil.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 16,344
    The original burner in the immense HB Smith which preceded Cedric by a couple of boilers was a Quiet May -- there are still manuals for it hanging around someplace.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
    Dave in QCA
  • dopey27177
    dopey27177 Member Posts: 687
    The closing statement of this story fits what I learned he least ten years of my consulting business.

    There are two types of engineers:
    1. The shop engineer.
    2. The field engineer.

    The shop engineer never reads a maintenance manual, installation instructions or goes out into the field. He/she knows everything about the specs and blue prints.

    Te field engineer goes out to the job looks at the problem goes into the assembly instructions, measurements trouble shooting guides if available and finds a solution, some a very costly one.

    How do you recognize a field engineer, he/she don't come on the job in suit, he/she comes to work with some small basic tools like a rule, a level, an ohm meter, amp probe, pencil paper, and the manual for the equipment.

    That's for mechanical equipment, piping, wiring, steel work, and other items will require blue prints and many other items that needed to design a project.

    I met them both in my consulting work and I found the field engineer for the most part started life with tools in their hands.


  • Dave in QCA
    Dave in QCA Member Posts: 1,765
    Dan, I ALWAYS enjoy your stories. Automatic heat was a revolutionary thing. Then Tinken came along and not only was it automatic, it was Silent Automatic.
    Dave in Quad Cities, America
    Weil-McLain 680 with Riello 2-stage burner, December 2012. Firing rate=375MBH Low, 690MBH Hi.
    System = Early Dunham 2-pipe Vacuo-Vapor (inlet and outlet both at bottom of radiators) Traps are Dunham #2 rebuilt w. Barnes-Jones Cage Units, Dunham-Bush 1E, Mepco 1E, and Armstrong TS-2. All valves haveTunstall orifices sized at 8 oz.
    Current connected load EDR= 1,259 sq ft, Original system EDR = 2,100 sq ft Vaporstat, 13 oz cutout, 4 oz cutin - Temp. control Tekmar 279.
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 15,353
    Thanks to all for your comments. I appreciate you so much. 
    Retired and loving it.
  • jeant
    jeant Member Posts: 14
    "sell the benefits of the product, rather than its features", words that tickled my ears. thank you
  • jumper
    jumper Member Posts: 1,668
    Interesting story in "Appointment in Samarra". Coal strike in Pennsylvania in 20s provided opportunity for oil heat. Coal cannot get those customers back. Not even in Pennsylvania.
  • Labenaqui
    Labenaqui Member Posts: 15
    Recalling the plethora of oil burners and conversions we encountered in the 1950's in rural New England. The Quiet Automatic, Timken & TorridHeat Rotaries, Petro's, Williamson's, Up-firing Waltham's, Down-firing GE's, etc. Loved the U.S. Carlin "Shell-Head" and ran one in my home until 1995. Still have some NEFI School Documentation around. We have come a long way since with burners, but kinda miss the seemingly daily challenges of old.