585 W28188 Hartwig Ave Mukwonago, WI 53149
My father, Norman Knoll, got his first engine ten years ago and
has only been collecting for the last five years. My father’s
first engine was a 6 HP Economy that had seen its better days; to
me it was beyond repair. Norm set it out in our backyard and there
it sat for another six years, just the way he had gotten it. One
day, my father became bored and decided to attempt to restore her.
The Economy was in very rough shape; many things had to be done,
including putting in a new sleeve.
When it came time to fire her up, my mother, Ann, and I watched.
We had our fingers crossed when my father went for the first crank.
The first crank over had her popping. My father said, ‘It’s
running better than it did when it came off the factory
That year my family brought the newly restored engine to the
27th Annual Thrashing Bee Show in Sussex, Wisconsin; we all had a
great time that year. That’s what started my father’s hobby
The next spring we started going to auctions and other shows in
Wisconsin. These caused us to meet and see other people with their
engines. One knows how it works, one guy will ask ‘Hey I got
one of those for sale, or I got that.” We got some of our
engines through conversations like those.
In the spring of 1988 my father got tired and bored of working
on and restoring the small engines (1? HP-6 HP). My father wanted
something a little more challenging; he wanted a big one.
My father was talking to one of the club member’s that is
also a big engine collector. My father’s friend replied,
‘I’ve got a big engine for sale.’ Hearing this from my
father’s friend got him interested.
It’s very ironic about my father and his friend. They both
collect engines, and they were born three days apart. The most
ironic thing is my father’s friend has the same first and last
name, but my father’s friend’s last name (Noll) is spelled
with an N instead of a K like my father’s last name
My father and mother and I went over to Norman Noll’s shop
to see the big engine that he had for sale. When we got there he
opened the doors to the huge building. There were engines all over
the place. It was like engine heaven.
After looking and walking around and over most of the engines we
were shown the Bessemer.
The 22? HP Bessemer was huge. Many things were wrong with it
when my father looked it over. The biggest thing was that the
piston was frozen.
All the way home we were amazed about what we had seen. My
father was especially amazed. The next two weeks my father thought
it over and talked to my mother and me about what we thought about
it. We thought it would be a great piece to add to our
The next three weeks my father worked on building a cart for the
Bessemer. After the cart was totally built and painted, the
following weekend we went to pick it up at Norm Noll’s
Picking it up was not a big problem. My father is a heavy
equipment mechanic by trade so he was able to borrow one of the
crane trucks from his shop to lift it off the concrete floor of
Norman Noll’s shop and set it on the truck.
On the way home it looked bigger than when it was in the
When we got home Norm Noll, Norm Knoll and I unloaded the old
piece of iron onto its newly-built cart. The bolt holes on the cart
lined up just like it was factory made for the Bessemer.
Norm Noll was sad to see it go but he knew that my father would
restore it to factory condition, just like we do with all the
engines we get.
I did some research on the Bessemer. Originally the Bessemer
came from Pennsylvania. It was designed to pump oil and be fueled
by natural gas tapped directly from the well head where for sixty
years this process went on. After it came off the oil fields a guy
from Tisch Mills (up around Green Bay, Wisconsin) obtained it from
Pennsylvania in the late 60’s. Then Norm Noll bought and hauled
it down from Tisch Mills to Big Bend, Wisconsin with the help of
his good friend Tom Nau. It sat in Norm Noll’s shop the same
way he found it until my father bought it in March of 1988.
That night, after getting it home, my father started to take it
apart to break the piston free. Amazingly, it broke loose on the
second hit with a 20 pound sledge hammer. My father couldn’t
believe his eyes. He said, ‘That was the easiest engine
I’ve ever freed up!’
That following weekend my father and I seriously started to take
her apart and getting her ready to be sand blasted at my
That Sunday my father and mother went to sand blast and I went
to a friends house for the whole day.
When I got home that night I was told to look in the garage.
When I opened the door my mouth dropped to the floor. There the
Bessemer sat mostly together on the cart-sand blasted and
It was unbelievable to see what my parents had gotten done that
Sunday. Little minor things had to be done to the Bessemer now like
making seals, putting the piston back in, putting the head back on,
machining the parts for the governor, pinstriping and last of all
building a cooling system for the Bessemer.
We hoped to have the Bessemer done before our show in Sussex.
The last weekend in August, Sussex held their 30th Annual Thrashing
Bee Show. It was one of the best shows that Sussex had since its
first show in 1958.
A lot of people came to see all of the interesting engines and
machinery. My father was the main attraction of the whole show.
My father is still not satisfied. He is looking for something
bigger yet. For now the newly restored Bessemer is my father’s
pride and joy.