My Bessemer HALF BREED

| October/November 1996

  • Bessemer gas engine

  • Bessemer gas engine

R.D. 1, Box 757 Luanda, Pennsylvania 16235

The brass nameplate reads, Bessemer Gas Engine Company, Grove City, Pennsylvania, No. 283, series C. Before this was made into a gas engine, it was an air compressor used in a local grist mill. This little compressor was used to compress air for starting a 40 HP T. W. Phillips natural gas engine used in the mill. Through the years the 40 HP engine was scrapped for junk and the small gas engine was sold. The compressor remained in the mill until 1993, when I acquired it. I had it sitting in my shop for a couple of years until one day when I thought I could make an engine out of it. It would have been easy to make a c-cycle from it, because it had ports on the back stroke of the piston. However, the crank end was of the open type, so I had to scrap the idea of the 2-cycle.

This compressor works upside-down and it had a four inch bore and four inch stroke. I now thought I could make a 4-cycle from it. I found an old Briggs and Stratton HP that I had torn apart because the rod was broken, and I reclaimed the timing gears and cams for exhaust and intake valves. I used the intake cam to fire the engine and adapted the timing gears to the end of the crankshaft. I made the adapter to hold the large gear and cams. I used a micro switch and cam to make the points (the micro switch was from a heating control), and scrap odds and ends of steel for the pushrod. I removed the head and installed an inlet valve and exhaust valves. I then made a cylinder extension 1 inches long and drilled it to match the head bolts. In addition, I had to match the inlet valve port on the extension and install a inch pipe thread long reach spark plug on the extension. I plugged the ports on the cylinder walls and used by bar stock to make the rocker arm assembly. I installed automatic oilers on the main bearings and an automatic drip oiler on the piston to lube it.

This engine also has a water cooled jacket. I made the water tank from an air tank removed from a truck with air brakes (modified by cutting off one end). The water gauge was salvaged years ago from an old steam boiler. The engine skid is made from 3 inches by 6 inches of red oak. I also fitted a Pickering size , which I think was originally from a steam engine, for the governor. I used buzz coil and battery for the ignition system and made the battery box from red oak wood.

The time came for starting in February, 1996. I turned everything on for the start and after attempting a few times and with a few adjustments on timing and valve settings, it fired and went off running. It runs very well at 75 rpm. After I discovered it would run, I had to tear the crazy thing all apart to clean and paint everything. It now runs well again. Though I have restored several gas engines from 15 HP to HP Maytags, this was my first attempt to tackle a project like this.

I would like to thank the former owner from whom I acquired the engine, John Ochs. Also to thank are my son-in-law, Matt Smerker for making the flat belt pulley used n the governor; Caswell Machine Works for making the cylinder extension; my friend, Joe Schettler for various odds and ends of steel; and last but not least, my wife, Beverly, for putting up with me while I do my thing. Thanks again, to all!


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