The jerker rod is a Canadian
invention used all over the world. In the 1890s, J.H.
Fairbank founded an oil company in Oil Springs,
Ontario but was short on start up capital. Instead
of having a separate, expensive steam engine for
each well-head pump, he came up with what he called
a "jerker line" system, which let him operate
clusters of pumps from a single engine. Modern
recovery technology still uses Fairbank’s invention.
Pumps are lowered down to the bottom of a well on
steel rods, called a rod string. The rod string is
hung from the wellhead and connected to a drive unit
and motor on the surface. The rods convey power to
the pump by rotating or moving up and down, or
“jerking.” Multiple pumps can be attached to the one
motor on the surface. The old “iron horse” pumps
commonly seen are one type that uses jerker rods.
Other types of pumps such as submersible and
progressive can also be attached to a jerker rod.