The Sounds of Life

A circa 1911 Bessemer made everyday life a little loud, but memorable


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Ted and Tom Hawk have done their share of restorations: From cars to tractors to their current project - the Queen Anne Victorian house Ted was born in - they have a vast repertoire. But perhaps none have meant as much as when they restored their father's circa 1911 60 HP Bessemer enclosed crankcase engine.

Their older brother Jack's first memory of the engine is from age 10. Their father - with World War II and a possible attack on their hometown Canton, Ohio, looming - moved to the country and bought the Bessemer in Bath, N.Y. Ted's family moved 30 miles east of Canton, where the engine generated power 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for their machine shop and five other farms. Neighbor Russell Sanor, who lived about a mile from the engine, told Ted that when the engine was under load it would rattle the plates in his wife's china closet. It ran this way for 23 years.

"You could hear the engine from four or five miles away," Ted says. "It was running when I went to sleep and running when I woke up. It has such a distinctive, low sound that I used to think it was Indians."

From 1964 to 1967, the engine was run on weekends and evenings. "The engine disturbed everyone from sleeping when it first started up," Ted says. "It also prevented them from sleeping when it was shut down." The Bessemer was retired after 1967, spending the next 29 years outside.

Ted was interested in restoring the engine because it had been such a big part of his life; it has been in his family since he can remember. And he is trying to get it back to its original state - original meaning before his father made changes to it.

His father and brother Jack made the head on the engine after the original broke, so Ted purchased an original head as well as a magneto. At present, Ted is running the engine using a Ford coil and points operated off the center of the flywheel. He still needs to install the original head, find gears to connect the magneto to the governor shaft and make a bracket to hold the magneto. He needs to find the original governor valve and linkage to the governor. Currently, the engine has a throttle valve from a Bruce Macbeth engine. He wants to install the original air-start tank and starting engine. The air-start engine runs a regular air compressor, but Ted discovered that the original ran with a 2-cylinder engine (one cylinder running the engine, the other pumping air).

While this restoration is far from complete, there is no questioning the significance of this engine: It is a spectacular sight to behold, a behemoth among the masses.

Contact Ted Hawk at: (330) 525-7481;