A look at a Ruston-Bucyrus 22RW.

Greg Ettling, editor ofNational Driller, sent me this picture of a truck-mounted cable tool rig. The picture was taken by a Mr. Vittoros in Greece. Greg asked me if I could write an article explaining some of the details of this truck/rig combination. This seems to be what happens when one becomes an old-timer, and while I hate to admit to my age, those of us who are in our mid-to-late 70s and older are the old-timers of our industry. I hope what I write brings back some memories to you older fellows, and maybe will give you younger readers a little insight into the way things used to be. We will talk about the truck first.

About the only thing I really can say about the truck is that obviously it is a Bedford brand, which was made in England. I believe this company also made diesel engines, but from the picture we can’t really tell what kind of engine powers the truck. It’s quite unusual in that it has single tires on the rear axle as most drill-carrying trucks have duals, and it is a four-wheel drive – you can see the transfer case under the middle of the truck and also the front differential. This would be very handy and keep the operator from getting stuck in a lot of cases, but is rather unusual at least from my neck of the woods, as most trucks that mounted drill rigs were two-wheel drive.

Getting into the cab of this truck would have been interesting as there appears to be no running board or even a small ladder to get up to the doorstep, which looks to be about shoulder height. The fairly large rear-view mirrors indicate to me that this probably is a 1950s- or early 1960s-model truck, as before that, most trucks had a tiny little mirror, and it usually was on the driver’s side only. Note, too, that the truck has fender-mounted turn signals, and these became popular or even required in the 1950-60s timeframe. If you look closely enough, you will notice the truck has no windshield wipers. You can see a couple of spindles at the top of the windshield where the wiper arms would attach, but no wipers themselves. My dad and I had a couple of drill rig trucks like this with a minimum of safety equipment or even the bare essentials for safe driving. Today, the DOT boys or girls would have a field day with this truck, and the operator would be facing serious fines and perhaps some jail time. The fact that it is a right-hand drive makes it almost a certainty that it is a British design and build.

Take a look, too, at the walkways or catwalks along the side of the drill, and the space between the drill rig frame and the truck cab. These are filled with all kinds of small tools, including pipe lifters, which are a short piece of threaded pipe with a U-shaped steel bar welded on. These were threaded into pipe or casing and a hook attached to the U-bar for lowering pipe into and taking out of the hole. These also were known as poor man’s elevators. Also note the small lumber yard of timbers, which were necessary in those days to level the rig up as placed under the tires or for cribbing under the jacks that supported the well end of the rig so it did not bounce on the truck springs. If you tried to drive this thing down the road as pictured, you would be littering the area with all kinds of tools, although it probably could be driven slowly from hole to hole off the road without any tools bouncing off.

One last thing to note is that the three I-beams used to support the rig and catwalks on the truck frame are laid on their side. Usual practice in our area would have been to rotate them 90 degrees where they are stronger and stiffer. In fact, the last spudder that I bought was mounted on 6-inch I-beams to give us straight catwalks with no bump or hump over the rear wheels. Perhaps the rig pictured was mounted the way it is to keep its height a little lower as it looks to sit plenty high as it is. That is about all I can write about the truck; perhaps one of you readers knows more about Bedford trucks than I do – both Greg Ettling and I would be interested in your comments.

Now the rig itself is rather obviously a Ruston-Bucyrus 22RW. Ruston was the English branch of Bucyrus-Erie (B-E), established in 1930. B-E built the 22W from 1940 to 1984. At that time, they sold the entire line of water well drills to the Buckeye Drill Co. of Zanesville, Ohio, and to the best of my knowledge, Buckeye still is building the 22W today. In the 45 years of production, B-E built just under 3,500 22Ws. This was far and away the most popular cable tool drill they ever made. The next most popular was the smaller 20W, built from 1949 through 1981, with about 1,650 models made.

All told, B-E made about 11,600 drills from the small 1W, which basically was a 2-inch machine up through the 48L, which could handle a 6,000-pound drill string and drill 6,000 feet deep. The 48L was strictly an oil-field machine.

It is easy to understand how the 22W would be the most popular model. It is kind of like the Ford F600 or the Chevy/GMC C60 two-ton trucks. You can drive these trucks to the coffee shop for your morning get-together with your buddies and also carry a big load of pipe, hay bales, drilling water or what-have-you – a real versatile truck. Likewise, the 22W is a rig that will drill a 4-inch domestic well, a 6-inch to 8-inch well for a farm, a 10-inch or 12-inch for an irrigation project, and if it is reasonably shallow, a 16-inch well that hopefully will produce a lot of water. I owned some 20Ws, but never owned a 22W. I did have the opportunity to run one for a brief period. My friends who own them have said they are a little much for a 4-inch well, although I know some fellows who use them for just that and that only. Six-, 8- and 10-inch wells are the bread and butter for these machines, although I know drillers who drill 12-inch wells with them regularly and say they work just fine.

Well, long-winded John has gotten to the word limit that his editor wanted, so I will have to continue my story about the 22W and other spudders in my next column. In my monthly weather report, winter got to southern Michigan rather late this year, and we have had some snow, but it mostly has melted off. As this is written in mid-January, you can see the grass sticking up through the little bit of snow that we do have. It did get below 0 degrees F last night, so all of you friends in the South can laugh at us.