Rangely Oilfield Geek Moment! "Standard Derricks"

Standard Derricks in Rangely

RANGELY OILFIELD GEEK MOMENT from the original "OIL GEEK" himself! Tonight's subject: "STANDARD DERRICKS"!

Standard derricks were the towers installed over producing oil wells in Rangely after the larger drilling tower had been removed. Wells drilled with permanent drilling "derricks" had to have the tower disassembled piece by piece before moving it to a new well in many cases. A smaller tower would be assembled in its place and remain over the pumping well -- as a place to both hang the cables to run the "traveling block" (the big hook that moved up and down the tower to lift rod out of the well, section by section, when there was a problem) ... and a place to stack the rod lengths as they were uncoupled, until the problem could be found and the rods recoupled and lowered back into the well-hole.

Not all wells had "standard derricks" over them from the beginning, but many did -- perhaps a hundred or even two of the 486 original deep wells in the field. By the late1950's, however, much of the field had been cleared of the towers with the coming of the collapsible tower-on-a-truck that could be driven from well to well. Towers in the town area itself, however, were left in place for tourists to see, and when I arrived in 1966, there were still perhaps as many of twenty of them left standing (a few remained at the far edges of the field, as well).

By 1968, all towers over producing wells (but one -- Mary Hefley #2) came down. A half-dozen remained over inactive "waterfloods" -- such as the Hagood Unit well behind the "old" high school.

Old oil geek spent too much time conserving money and not taking pictures when the "class of 1968" towers were still in place ... but he did get a few down on film before they came down. He also noticed the steel towers in Rangely seemd to come in two basic types (see illustration):

The difference seemed to be in the cross-member construction, and in the A-Frame assembly on top of the crow's nest at the top (also called the "crown block"_.

Type "A" towers (my designation) had a slender, tall and tapered A-Frame. The tower itself had a "cross-X" pattern in its cross-members, with two "x"'s per level near its base and one "x" per level higher up. (The Mary Hefley wells had this type of tower).

Type "B" towers had a shorter, more squarish A-Frame atop the crown block. Their cross-members tended to be in an "inverted-Vee" pattern, rather than using "x's". (the White and Hagood wells near the High School, and the Guiberson Well out behind Bestway sported this kind of derrick).

Steel derricks were silver in color, with the last sections near the bottom painted black. A large inverted "vee" on one side allowed room for the pumping unit to fit beneath, and wells with towers all had tin shacks atop the motors that ran the pumping units. (Some of these tin shacks still survive in people's backyards in towns around the area).

The name "derrick," by the way, is used to describe any structure -- usually a tower -- used to support lifting equipment. Legend traces the named back to an early old-country hangman named Derrick, whose dreaded hangman's tower used to practice his trade came to bear his name.

Ken BaileyComment