Retrieving a BIG ONE

24 HP Bessemer oil field engine

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Last summer I again attended the fine little engine show at Glenford, Ohio. It was an impressive show with the large number of steam engines, including two Leaders. There was plenty of the usual activity to keep the crowd amused and entertained. Bryan Orr had a vast array of equipment in action.

While making the rounds I was especially interested in a large oil field engine which was slowly chugging away. The owner told me that he had operated such engines for years as they pulled the oil from the hills of southern Ohio. It came natural to ask if he knew where such an engine could be bought. I was surprised when he said that Jim Dittoe at Somerset, Ohio, had a 24 HP Bessemer oil field engine to sell for $100.00.

A few days later I contacted Jim Dittoe and a deal was made. He told me his grandfather originally had eight wells. However, the wells were shallow and played out after 50 years of use. All of the wells had been dismantled except this, the last well in production.

After the show season ended, our Dayton Area Antique Engine and Equipment Association had its first fall meeting. At this meeting I told about my recent purchase and asked for volunteers to help get the engine. John Barnes, the president of our club, said he wanted to help and so did Schneider, our secretary.

On October 16th we headed for Somerset with my truck and trailer taking the necessary tools, chains and jacks. It was a beautiful day with the air just brisk enough to be invigorating. Don and John expressed their anticipation at salvaging this old antique from its jungle resting place.

We met Jim Dittoe at his home in Somerset and followed him out of town, down narrowing roads, across grass land to the edge of a great timber. We were greatly relieved to find that Jim had cleared a road down the hill and through the giant trees. He had even anticipated our need for a large clear area around the loading site. As we made our way through the narrow clearing, we could see ahead a rusty, metal-roofed building with a large tank at one side. This was it! With some close maneuvering down the hill, we arrived alongside the old pump engine house.

Jim Dittoe cranked up the chain saw and cut some more trees to allow us more maneuverability. After some adroit piloting of the truck and trailer, we were backed up to the tin-roofed building. Jim quickly opened up the building wall with the saw and there it was in all its glory! Very majestic! It commanded most of the area inside the building.

The big Bessemer name stood out on the side. The oiler was missing, but this is easily replaced. The hot tube stood high on the front of the cylinder, it also had a spark plug, but no magneto.

John Barnes got busy taking off the heavy belt pulley with its outer carrier bearing. Don began removing the rod bearing, while Jim and I removed the base bolts, which were about 18 inches long. There was a festive spirit about it all and Don tried to capture all of the activity with his camera.

Things were moving fine until the truck winch broke as we moved the engine off its base. From then on we laboriously hand-moved it with a heavy cable come-along.

All is well that ends well. In a few hours the prize, with its big belt pulley and base planks, was chained securely to the trailer. John said it would be great to take the big 12-foot wooden belt pulley left in the engine house. We even left the 14-inch wide belt.

It was with lots of luck and jockeying the truck and trailer about that we were able to wind our way back up the hill. We lost traction in spots where residual timber dampness made the ground soft. But with lots of backseat driving, the truck made it to solid ground.

We had a wonderful time and met a fine man in Jim Dittoe. His help was greatly appreciated.

Now we can relate to other recovery events we read about in the Gas Engine Magazine. We have been down that road, too. The hard work, and the anticipated success make it a stimulating experience.