Back Road Bessemer

By Staff
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David Johnson's 8 HP Bessemer Gaso-Kero doing its duty as a mailbox. Bessemer Gas Engine Co., Grove City, Pa., built the two-stroke Gaso-Kero line in sizes ranging from 2 hp to 10 hp from around 1913 to 1925. Close inspection shows this engine to be surprisingly complete, certainly a deserving candidate for restoration.
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David Johnson's 8 HP Bessemer Gaso-Kero doing its duty as a mailbox. Bessemer Gas Engine Co., Grove City, Pa., built the two-stroke Gaso-Kero line in sizes ranging from 2 hp to 10 hp from around 1913 to 1925. Close inspection shows this engine to be surprisingly complete, certainly a deserving candidate for restoration.
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It’s not pretty, but it probably worked: The Bessemer obviously suffered a freeze at some point in its life, evidenced by the large patch on the side of its cylinder.

I work for a construction company that contracts with the local
power company. My work keeps me outside, and depending where I am
and what time of year it is I keep an eye open for gas engines, old
tractors or wildlife. In March 2003 I found and bought a CT2 Stover
in the course of making my rounds, and feeling lucky after that
find I hoped I might discover another engine before things greened
up here in southern Illinois. In early May I had a day at work that
put me in the truck. It was raining hard, and after lunch I decided
it was time to go on a back road trip.

I never really plan these little trips, I just take off with
good thoughts in mind and the hope of finding something worthwhile.
Within a few miles I spotted some old farm machinery, and as is my
habit I marked the location of the place in a book I keep and
started back, but going a different way than I had come. Looking in
fencerows and at old barns, I almost wrecked as I just about drove
over a gas engine sitting right alongside the road. I skidded to a
stop, backed up and there it was, just sitting there holding up a
mailbox for the entire world to see; an 8 HP Bessemer upright,
serial no. D269. It was still raining and getting close to time to
get back, so I made a few notes and started planning my return.

Back Road Bessemer

A month went by before I could get back to the Bessemer, and I
pooled my breaks and dinner together in hopes that would give me
enough time to find the owner and secure the engine. With camera in
hand (and plans to build them any type of mailbox holder they might
want) I pulled in their driveway. The owners were working in the
yard, and after introducing myself I explained why I was there and
asked if I might take a few photos of the Bessemer.

David Johnson and his family own the engine, and it turns out
the Johnsons are engine collectors. We talked about the different
shows we attend, and David gave me a tour of one of their engine
buildings, where we looked at David’s nice 9 HP Economy, serial
no. 201815, and a whole lot of other goodies. David’s son,
Ezekiel, has the mark of the Sears Economy; when he was a little
tyke he fell against a head bolt, leaving him with a nice imprint
of a national coarse thread in the middle of his forehead.

David told me he started in this hobby when he was in junior
high after his father gave him a subscription to Iron-Men Album. He
learned how to run a traction engine when he was 14, and he went to
the Old Threshers Reunion in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, every year until
he was out of college. David started collecting gas engines while
living in Kentucky in the early 1970s.

The Bessemer has been supporting the mailbox for the past 10
years or so, a job it was given after David decided it needed too
much work to get running. This engine must have had a hard life;
the connecting rod is broken, the main bearing is worn out and the
cylinder was in rough shape when David found it. Add to that some
old freeze damage and it becomes a pretty big job. Even so,
David’s son might take a shot at fixing it when he finishes
college.

David’s interest in engines is still strong, and his wife,
Susan, and Ezekiel make it to Mt. Pleasant most years and to the
Antique Steam and Gas Engine Club show in Boonville, Ind., every
October.

My time drew to a close too quickly, but with any luck the next
time I head in the Johnsons’ direction it will be raining and
I’ll spend a little more time with them. Nice people, with lots
of nice engines and one very nice mailbox. Not barn fresh, but
still a great find.


Contact engine enthusiast Gary G. Bahre at: P.O. Box 40,
Sparta, IL 62286; e-mail: gsrba@egyptian.net

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