An oil-boom relic's retirement to Paso Robles

Posted by David Middlecamp on October 11, 2013 

Ole Viborg, left, and Unocal supervisor Frank Perry discuss moving the Jeanesville steam-powered pump to Paso Robles. ©Telegram-Tribune


Paso Robles has long celebrated its pioneers.

Pioneer Day started in 1931 as a way for the community to bond and celebrate history in the tough Depression years. "Leave your pocketbook at home," was the motto.

The Arroyo Grande Harvest Festival is a spry 76 years old compared to the 83-year-old Pioneer Day.

San Luis Obispo's La Fiesta de las Flores was founded in 1925 to support repairs to the dilapidated Mission, but las Flores no longer blooms.

One of the two museums in the city of Paso Robles is the Pioneer Museum, which houses garage-sized artifacts and larger.

Some of the tractors they store still work and parade down Spring Street during Pioneer Day, scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 12.

Other items you don't want to move, like the Jeanesville steam-powered pump.

Do you own anything that has worked for more than 76 years, at least 20 days a month?

They do.

Bill Bryan wrote this story published in the Telegram-Tribune on Sept. 24, 1987:

Pioneer Museum pumped up about exhibit

PASO ROBLES — A relic from oil-boom days east of San Luis Obispo County is coming to rest in Paso Robles.

A group of local history buffs have arranged to dismantle the mammoth Jeanesville steam-powered pump sitting idle in Shandon and truck it to the Pioneer Museum grounds.

The 70-ton machine, 47 feet long and 18 feet wide, was once used to pump molasses into ships. It was brought to Shandon in 1910 by Union Oil along with several other pumps to move crude oil from a huge new well in Taft through a pipeline to Port San Luis.

From there the oil was shipped to San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The pumps were kept in service for 76 years, in operation at least 20 days a month, according to Unocal superintendent Ron James.

They were replaced with natural gas engines and electrical motors last year.

Ole Viborg, chairman of the Jeansesville Oil Pump Committee of Paso Robles, said the historic machine should be in place on the museum grounds by Christmas.

He said it will be housed in a building with shatterproof windows so people can view it any time of day.

The acquisition, transporting and reassembly is a volunteer project, said Viborg.

A long list of local businessmen and others have contributed labor, equipment and materials.

Cash donations of $11,000 so far are also fueling the project.

The pump itself was donated by Union Oil's corporate reincarnation, Unocal.

Viborg said the committee is still looking for about $20,000 more in cash donations. He also welcomed volunteer labor at the exhibit site.

And, said Viborg, "Any person or corporation donating over $100 in cash or labor will have their name inscribed on a plaque at the exhibit."

Pump committee vice chairman Don Campbell said the pump, the last of its kind in existence, will be listed in the U.S. History directory.

Campbell also noted, "It's amazing how many people seek these (old pumps) out."

He said the Jeanesville pump exhibit will include "the original old lights" and original photographs of a 20-mule team and heavy wagon that hauled the pump into Shandon some 77 years ago.

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