The Oil Patch has always been an interesting place to watch people at work within the confines of oil, dirt, and mud. However, 74-year-old Murray Cowan has come up with a cleaner, more environmentally safe atmosphere for his home-based oil patch.
“When I worked on the Oil Rigs, I moved a lot of heavy equipment for Pipeline construction, replies Cowan. “I was always intrigued with all the massive equipment and truck and tractors involved in setting up oil patch sites and because I worked there all my life, I was always in the centre of it all.”
Murray was born and raised in Waskada and moved to Reston, Manitoba in his younger years to pursue employment in the oil field. After many years of service within the oil patch, Murray decided to retire. He realized retirement for him was not putting up his feet and laying in his recliner all day, so he needed to keep busy with some sort of hobby. This is when he decided to continue on with his employment in the oil field, but with a twist.
“I started collecting steel, nuts and bolts, paint, and a hand MIG welder and started to make my own mini Oil Patch equipment by hand. I create several pieces of equipment such as side booms, heavy lift cranes, wheel ditchers, and have recently started on a dozer,” adds Cowan.
With several trips to Princess Auto in Brandon, Murray would pick up small motor parts to start creating a piece of equipment. “I need to purchase the motor first hand, so I know how to build around it,” says Cowan.
All of his implements are made right from scratch and sizes may vary depending on the piece he is working on. The nuts and bolts for his equipment are purchased at the Nut House in Virden and the steel comes from Morningside Steel in Brandon.
“I need to make sure the paint for each piece is exactly the same colour, so I resort to Caterpillar yellow for all my equipment colours. The crane, however, is red and white in colour, as it is not an actual piece of moving equipment. I have a shop attached to my garage where I spend hours and hours creating my oil patch segments. I recall it took me about 400 hours to finish and complete one piece of equipment.”
Murray worked for the pipeline in Fort McMurray, in the tar sands for many years and was able to create the equipment used to construct the pieces. “It can be a very time-consuming project, but I enjoy every minute I spend putting it together,” adds Cowan.
One of the cat side booms is 30 inches long, 16 inches wide and 17 inches high. This size gives a rough indication how big one of the pieces is. The steel crane, by contrast, is eight feet high which is a somewhat bigger scale than some of the other oil patch equipment pieces.
“I’m not sure what I will do with it all when the time comes, but for now I am going to continue building my pieces.”