Petrolia Discovery’s Fitzgerald Rig silent for repairs

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For the first time in recent memory, Petrolia Discovery’s storied Fitzgerald Rig is silent for an extended period of time.
The historic site has been closed for several years. The foundation which runs the site went to Petrolia council for help after the sudden death of the long-time manager in 2015. A county building inspector found a number of problems and ordered the site closed.
It was also obvious the Fitzgerald Rig has needed repairs for some time. In 2016, the foundation ran an online campaign hoping to raise $10,000 for major repairs on the wheel, including replacing the clutch which was once used to engage the belt-driven system.
Since then, foundation members have changed but the work to improve the site enough to reopen permanently continues.
Saturday, the foundation opened the site for tours. Richard Poore, the foundation chair, says about 30 people came out to see how repairs are progressing.
But they weren’t able to see one of the Discovery’s most unique items in action. The Fitzgerald Rig, the powerhouse for all the historic jerker lines which pump oil from the ground, is silent in need of extensive repairs.
Poore says the main bearings in the big wheel need to be replaced, as well as the bearings of another bull wheel that operates with it.
The wheel also has to be realigned because “it shifted when the bearings settled,” says Poore.
Volunteers have been working on the wheels’ bearings almost every day. and there is other work required.
“We’re figuring this project alone will be $25,000 to $30,000 alone. It will be well worth it once we find the money because of the historic significance of it. It’s a big beautiful machine.”
For more on this story, pick up your copy of The Independent, on newstands now.