Hit-and-Miss

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Exactly one year ago, we told you about the seven Cooper-Bessemer 1,000 HP two-cylinder | compound engines Tim Christoff, Basehor, Kan., discovered in Ottawa, Kan. Built in 1927, these huge engines (the flywheels alone were 14 feet tall) had been quietly working away pumping natural gas. Williams Pipeline, owners of the engine, had retired them, and when Tim discovered the engines they were set to be scrapped. Tim launched a one-man campaign to save the engines, and initially it looked as if he had succeeded, as interest came flooding in from around the country. Sadly, the engines have been destroyed.

For whatever reasons, the people and clubs interested in the engines weren't able to muster the needed resources of time, energy and expertise - not to mention money - to save the Bessie 7. I can't blame them, because it was clearly a Herculean task, and pulling off a project like that would be difficult even under the best conditions - and the conditions were far from ideal.

Williams Pipeline officials weren't going out of their way to make acquiring the engines easy, and depending on your perspective there's no reason they should have. They just wanted the engines gone to make way for new turbines. What's sad is the company's lack of appreciation for what these engines represented in terms of our industrial past and its lack of appreciation for what it could mean to preserve these engines.