Bessemer Model IV At Burton Cotton Gin

| January/February 1990

  • White blobs
    The white blobs are bits of rags stuck into holes left by disconnected plumbing to keep dirt and mud daubers out.
  • Right-hand cylinder head
    Closeup of the right-hand cylinder head. The broken brackets on either side of the hole are from latter day propane burners for heating the glow plug in the center. The handle sticking out at the right is one of the starting air valves.

  • White blobs
  • Right-hand cylinder head

302 Scenic Brook Brenham, Texas 77833

The best preserved unrestored example of its kind,' is what antique engine collector Chris Kable Sr. of Spirit Lake, Iowa called the 1925 Bessemer Model IV diesel engine at the Burton Farmers Cotton Gin in Burton, Texas.

This has been determined to be the only gin in the country from the nineteen teens and twenties period of ginning technology that is still standing, intact and complete. Not only that, most of the machinery still works. A local non-profit organization, Operation Restoration, was formed by concerned local citizens to restore this facility and eventually operate it as a hands on working museum, actually ginning cotton. The motive power for this will come from the gin's pride and joy, the Bessemer.

The Smithsonian Institution, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Texas Historical Commission, state legislators and the National Register of Historic Places are all involved in the project.

The Burton gin was originally powered by a Tips steam engine from the time it was built in 1914 until 1925. After 11 successful years, the Gin Association replaced this power-plant with the more modern Bessemer. Though the three cylinder Tips engine was traded in, the cost of the Bessemer plus rail shipping to Burton was almost $10,000. The entire gin only cost $11,000 to build eleven years before.

Arriving partially assembled on a railroad flatcar, this five ton machine was physically manhandled onto the loading dock behind the gin and dragged up the hill to its present location in the then-new mechanical room. Some Burton residents still remember the day the Bessemer arrived. Using jacks, prybars and muscles, gin employees spent a day and a half dragging their new power-plant approximately fifty yards.


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