Ol Bessie

Two Friends Restore a 50 HP Bessemer

| February 2005


Jim Baue inspects the Bessemer, Nov. 15, 2003, three days after purchase.

For the last couple of years, my buddy Jim Baue and I have been looking for a large gas engine to restore. We had gone through many of the normal channels in our search, but finally, on Nov. 12, 2003, we found our engine - and it was advertised in the local trading newspaper.

An early 1920s 50 HP Bessemer, this engine was previously used by an oil company to generate electricity to run their wells. Fortunately, it had been stored inside until late 2000, so it was in better than average condition when we saw it for the first time. After looking it over we made a deal to buy it, and Larry and Chris Schmittler of Grayville, Ill., agreed to furnish the truck to move it as part of the deal.

On Nov. 22, 2003, we met up with Larry and Chris in Grayville to get the Bessemer out of the field where it sat. Lloyd Schoenheit brought out a Mack truck with a boom and had the engine and frame loaded on the trailer within 30 minutes.

Larry and Chris had originally intended on restoring the engine, and they had discovered that a local man, Wayne Knight, was the last person to run the Bessemer. It took a couple of weeks to catch up with Wayne, but when I did, he told me the engine was taken out of service around 1971.

Although "Bessie" had worked faithfully, she was retired because it was cheaper for her owners to buy electric power off the grid than to produce it with the engine. Regretably, in August 2004 I found out Wayne had passed away in the spring. We all had plans of having him start the engine at a show.

The Real Work Begins

Once we had the Bessemer at Jim's shop, we jumped right into trying to find out what we were up against. We removed the crank cover, along with the governor, air and fuel valves, the exhaust pipe and the side covers. As we took the parts off, water poured out of everything we touched.