Saving the 'Bessie 7'

Salvation or Salvage In Rural Kansas, Seven 1927 Cooper- Bessemer 1.000 HP Engines Quietly Await Their Fate

Cooper-Bessemer Engines

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The fate of these 1927 Cooper-Bessemer 1,000 HP engines is still up in the air. The engines are 4-cycle, double acting, tandem horizontal twins. They run at 125 RPM. They're also huge - 52 feet long, 19 feet wide, 12 feet tall, with flywheels 14 feet in diameter. Weight is estimated at 80 tons each.

The fate of these 1927 Cooper-Bessemer 1,000 HP engines is still up in the air. The engines are 4-cycle, double acting, tandem horizontal twins. They run at 125 RPM. They're also huge - 52 feet long, 19 feet wide, 12 feet tall, with flywheels 14 feet in diameter. Weight is estimated at 80 tons each.

Last issue in the Hit-and-Miss column I told you about the seven Cooper-Bessemer engines found by engine collector and GEM reader Tim Christoff of Basehor, Kan.

Built in 1927 and rated at 1,000 HP each (I mistakenly reported them as 1,250 HP units last issue), these 80 ton, four-cycle, double acting, tandem horizontal twin engines were slated for the scrap yard before Tim discovered them and launched a campaign to save them from the crusher. Until just last year these engines had been in continuous operation at the natural gas pumping station owned by Williams Pipeline in Ottawa, Kan., where they currently reside.

When we went to print last issue I was set to have my first look at the engines and snap some photos for GEM. The next Saturday morning, as I was gathering together my equipment in preparation to look at the engines, Tim called and told me our trip had been cancelled. Williams Pipeline, apparently uneasy about any press coverage and unsure what course they were going to take with the engines, decided not to let anyone else in to look at the units.

For a few weeks it was starting to look as if the Bessie 7 were, indeed, headed for the scrap yard, as officials at Williams maintained a closed-mouthed stance on what direction they were going to take with the engines. Initially receptive to the idea of the Bessie 7 being saved for posterity, Williams Pipeline seemed to have new reservations about the idea.

One obvious reason would be liability fears, the company doubtless concerned about unlicensed and uninsured individuals injuring themselves during the process of dismantling and moving the huge engines. And further, there's the simple issue of expediency - Williams just wants the engines gone to make way for a new building, and if they think a professional wrecking company will get the job done quickly and cleanly, it makes sense from their perspective to go that route.

After weeks of stalling and minimal contact, Williams Pipeline has evidently opened the door again to conversations about saving the Bessie 7, and it's looking like the engines might get saved, after all. When I last spoke with Tim, he had just gotten off the phone with the pumping station's district manager, who informed Tim that the contract Williams Pipeline had on the building's removal and replacement has been cancelled until next year.

Tim was further told it is now likely the engines will be made available rather than being scrapped. Better yet, it also looks like the new timetable will allow the engines to be removed one at a time. Initially, Williams Pipeline officials had adamantly maintained that all seven engines had to be removed at once. This is good news, because it gives volunteers who have pledged their time and equipment to save the Bessie 7 more time to plan how they're going to move these huge engines.

Tim has been literally swamped with offers of help. He estimates he's received over 1,000 e-mails and hundreds of phone calls offering assistance, ranging from pledges of time, tools and equipment for disassembly, to homes for the engines. Tim says new homes have been established for the engines, but he won't say where until final arrangements for their removal have been made.

So for now, we'll just have to sit back and wait. The district manager told Tim that final determinations would be made within a few weeks. If that's true, then next issue, with any luck, we'll be telling you about how plans are shaping up for saving the Bessie 7. Stay tuned.

Richard Backus is editor of Gas Engine Magazine. Contact him at: 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609-1265, (785) 274-4379, or e-mail: rbackus@ogdenpubs.com