Old Stuff from the Oil Fields
  (The vanishing outdoor oil museum of the San Joaquin Valley)

Not long ago the San Joaquin Valley was a fantastic outdoor museum with a lot of really cool stuff from all the old oil fields. Unfortunately, many of the ruins and relics that were once out there for all to see have been torn down, or hauled off to scrap yards. Clicking any of the links or photos below will give you something of an idea of what you used to be able to see on a short drive out to Taft, McKittrick, Oildale, or any of the other old oil field towns. Fortunately, some of it has been preserved in our oil museums, but a lot of it has been lost for good.

Derricks - Once old wooden derricks were everywhere, but now the originals that once graced the valley floor are all gone. A few of the fixed steel derricks still remain, but they are disappearing fast.

Drilling Equipment - The old timers used cable tools to drill for oil, but today pretty much everyone uses rotary tools. It's hard to believe the old timers made much hole, but they did surprizingly well.

Jackline Plants - These were an ingenious way to run several pumping jacks from a single engine. Just a few years ago, the valley still had operating jack plants, but now there is just the one at the Kern County Museum.

Oil Spills - The Lakeview Gusher of 1910, the greatest gusher the U.S. has ever seen, leaked about 9 million barrels of oil, only about half of which was saved. The old spill site is still worth a visit.

Pumping Jacks - There are still a few of these old pumpjacks around. They literaly "lifted" the oil out of the ground with their up and down motion. Almost all of the oil museums in the area have an old wooden pump jack on display.

Refineries - The old oil refineries of the San Joaquin Valley are long gone, but just over the hills to the south in Newhall are the ruins of the old Pacific Coast Oil (Standard Oil) refinery, which was actually one of the first commercial oil stills in the state.

Trucks & Trailers - A lot of old oil field trucks used to hide out in forgotten corners of the San Joaquin Valley, but they are disappearing fast. A few can still be found out on the back roads, or in the museum yards. The truck on the left is old, but the link below leads to photos of stuff that is even older!

Tar Mines & Tunnels - The San Joaquin Valley had the McKittrick tar mines, and there were also oil tunnels dug into the mountains between the San Joaquin and Santa Clara Valleys. The latter were essentially hand-dug horizontal wells, and at one time they supplied most of the oil produced in California.

Wagons & Engines - The California oil industry dates back to the days before before gasoline engines had been invented - a time when wagons were used for transportation, and steam was used to power oil field equipment. When trucks first made their appearance at the turn of the century, they were rudimentary in design with wood spoke wheels that in many cases saw prior service on a wagon.