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Updated – Remarkable Spring Water Truck and Unique Pumping Rig

While looking through Michael J Semas’ exceptional postcard collection a fascinating image of this unusual rig caught our eye. This circa 1908 to ’12 chain-driven Spring Water Co. truck was quite a rarity in its own time when heavy duty trucks were just beginning to be built and sold. Note the large-sized front frame horns, large diameter wheels, hard rubber, vertical steering column and the driver’s seat located outboard of the frame.

Attached to the front of the truck is a crankshaft-driven power take off unit and pulley. The flat drive belt is kept in the center of the two sheaves by a slightly crowned shape machined onto the outside of both pulleys; in turn both drive a geared down two lever and connecting rod arrangement on the platform. The back in forth motion of this linkage operates a water pump visible behind the left-hand headlamp used for filling up the tank on the truck.

Updated – Thanks to reader Keith Canouse we now know this is an Avery Truck built in Peoria, Illinois. More information can be found in the enlargeable image above published in the “Automotive Trade Journal” November 1910 issue.

Tell us what you find of interest in this unique photograph. Both the maker of the truck and the location of the Spring Water Co. are a mystery.

16 responses to “Updated – Remarkable Spring Water Truck and Unique Pumping Rig

  1. The guy has a reason to look relaxed. He probably did that by hand before the truck came out. You say “steel lug” tires, are they not just hard rubber tires with a lug pattern? Or is “steel lug” the type) Regardless, look how many more spokes are on the back than the front.

    • Howard, Now knowing that it is an Avery truck more research led to finding that the tires are hard rubber. Avery also offered wooden plugs to insert in the holes that protruded for more traction.

        • Speed- faster than a horse drawn wagon- but still a relative term back then with the roads such as they were and the trucks and drivers built to do battle with the roads they drove on every day.

  2. As a teenager working on a farm in the high desert of eastern Oregon, I sometimes drove the water truck. When I look at that picture, the first thing that comes to mind is SLOW! From the well where we filled up there was a very mild slope up to the road, and with a full tank and in compound low and the engine wound up all the way we could get to maybe three miles an hour. Being an impatient kid, I’d try to upshift from granny fear to first, but by the time I double-clutched, the truck would be rolling backwards. I’d have to coast all the way back to the well and try again. I don’t remember ever making it to first, but I ground a lot of gears. These days I kind of wish I had appreciated that leisurely pace.

  3. These old pictures of elaborate mechanical contraptions with all their levers, gears, wheels, belts and everything else exposed to view are fascinating. And we think we’re so clever today when we hide all the machinery under sheet metal and plastic. I miss the Model T.

  4. David, A really fun photo. My first thought is that it would have been tough to get the take off lined up with the pumps wheel, but judging by the frayed edges of the belt, he wasn’t always successful the first try. I recall that, even with a tractor’s take off on the side, it was a little tricky, but my dad grew up with this stuff didn’t have any trouble. Just stay clear until it’s going good.

  5. It is interesting that the pedals seem to be behind the right fender and beside the engine cowling but the steering wheel is slightly left of the driver? He seems to be in line with the fender. I could see where this would be useful, like on a farm tractor you could see the tire location for maneuvering. Also the load would not block your view for backing up.

  6. I’d love to watch the operator install the flat belt. The common procedure is to line up the pulleys with the vehicle forward of its final position. The belt is placed over the pulley and tightened by backing “into” the belt. How would this be accomplished with a 90 degree belt takeoff? The drive pulley appears to be mounted on the crank, making it impossible to “walk” a (somewhat) tight belt onto the pulley.

    Very interesting conundrum.


    • Bill, my thoughts exactly, how did he get that belt on? First off, he had to have help, guy with the camera. The belt is not very tight. I Don’t see any clutch on belt wheel so he had to get it on while spinning at crank shaft speed, extra tough. The ground around front wheels is tore up some from jockeying around. I wonder if he pulled in, put the belt on then started the engine?


  7. Hey Bill,
    You can see there is some slack in the belt and the driver probably lined up the tires with the regular grooves in the mud and that was good enough with the friction of the take off pulley turning the pump pulley.

  8. SOLID tires . No problem — with “coming off at speed” for the pegs ! I estimate the top speed ,on the flat, –loaded would be: between 10to 20 MPH, maximum! Lights? We don’ need no steenkeeng lights, especially with a Moon in the sky! The belt? Laid – on, while running! , guided – off, while running, — with a stick with hook ! No clutch , not necessary , just a skilled (fast thinking & moving ) Operator! Fill tank to slosh-point . Edwin W. Think: Old times, old ways, NO fancy stuff , and no osha off any kind, — just common sense & tradition.

  9. My old man had a wood shop with two motors, and leather belts. we never had trouble slipping them on and off.

  10. The rod arrangement is usually called: A Pump-Jack , typically operating a 2- piston pump : “UP-stroke = draw the water out of the ground , — the “DOWN” stroke = send the water over to the Truck’s Tank. This is accompanied by: “A set of sounds”: 1. Truck motor speed “rising & falling” ( No Governor) with the Load at a set throttle lever position. 2. The Click-Flap sound of the flat belt’s “joint”. 3. The straight-cut cast iron Pulley & the Pinion Gear shaft – contacting the Pump’s Mainshaft Bull Gear lubed with thick tacky-snapping Gear Grease , Like the same (noisy) Grease used on the Truck’s (rear wheels) Pinion & Bull —Chain Drive Sprockets. 4. The water, splatterring into the tank, —in spurts.

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