Saving the ‘Bessie 7’

By Staff
1 / 5
2 / 5
3 / 5
Standing on one of the engines, Tim Christoff lends some perspective to their size.
4 / 5
One of the 14-foot flywheels clearly visible, fronting a row of the Cooper-Bessemer engines.
5 / 5
Looking across the cylinders down the row of engines.

The fate of these 1927 Cooper-Bessemer 1,000 HP engines is still
up in the air. The engines are 4-cycle, double acting, tandem
horizontal twins. They run at 125 RPM. They’re also huge – 52
feet long, 19 feet wide, 12 feet tall, with flywheels 14 feet in
diameter. Weight is estimated at 80 tons each.

The fate of these 1927 Cooper-Bessemer 1,000 HP engines is still
up in the air. The engines are 4-cycle, double acting, tandem
horizontal twins. They run at 125 RPM. They’re also huge – 52
feet long, 19 feet wide, 12 feet tall, with flywheels 14 feet in
diameter. Weight is estimated at 80 tons each.

Last issue in the Hit-and-Miss column I told you about
the seven Cooper-Bessemer engines found by engine collector and GEM
reader Tim Christoff of Basehor, Kan.

Built in 1927 and rated at 1,000 HP each (I mistakenly reported
them as 1,250 HP units last issue), these 80 ton, four-cycle,
double acting, tandem horizontal twin engines were slated for the
scrap yard before Tim discovered them and launched a campaign to
save them from the crusher. Until just last year these engines had
been in continuous operation at the natural gas pumping station
owned by Williams Pipeline in Ottawa, Kan., where they currently
reside.

When we went to print last issue I was set to have my first look
at the engines and snap some photos for GEM. The next Saturday
morning, as I was gathering together my equipment in preparation to
look at the engines, Tim called and told me our trip had been
cancelled. Williams Pipeline, apparently uneasy about any press
coverage and unsure what course they were going to take with the
engines, decided not to let anyone else in to look at the
units.

For a few weeks it was starting to look as if the Bessie 7 were,
indeed, headed for the scrap yard, as officials at Williams
maintained a closed-mouthed stance on what direction they were
going to take with the engines. Initially receptive to the idea of
the Bessie 7 being saved for posterity, Williams Pipeline seemed to
have new reservations about the idea.

One obvious reason would be liability fears, the company
doubtless concerned about unlicensed and uninsured individuals
injuring themselves during the process of dismantling and moving
the huge engines. And further, there’s the simple issue of
expediency – Williams just wants the engines gone to make way for a
new building, and if they think a professional wrecking company
will get the job done quickly and cleanly, it makes sense from
their perspective to go that route.

After weeks of stalling and minimal contact, Williams Pipeline
has evidently opened the door again to conversations about saving
the Bessie 7, and it’s looking like the engines might get
saved, after all. When I last spoke with Tim, he had just gotten
off the phone with the pumping station’s district manager, who
informed Tim that the contract Williams Pipeline had on the
building’s removal and replacement has been cancelled until
next year.

Tim was further told it is now likely the engines will be made
available rather than being scrapped. Better yet, it also looks
like the new timetable will allow the engines to be removed one at
a time. Initially, Williams Pipeline officials had adamantly
maintained that all seven engines had to be removed at once. This
is good news, because it gives volunteers who have pledged their
time and equipment to save the Bessie 7 more time to plan how
they’re going to move these huge engines.

Tim has been literally swamped with offers of help. He estimates
he’s received over 1,000 e-mails and hundreds of phone calls
offering assistance, ranging from pledges of time, tools and
equipment for disassembly, to homes for the engines. Tim says new
homes have been established for the engines, but he won’t say
where until final arrangements for their removal have been
made.

So for now, we’ll just have to sit back and wait. The
district manager told Tim that final determinations would be made
within a few weeks. If that’s true, then next issue, with any
luck, we’ll be telling you about how plans are shaping up for
saving the Bessie 7. Stay tuned.

Richard Backus is editor of Gas Engine Magazine. Contact him
at: 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609-1265, (785) 274-4379, or
e-mail: rbackus@ogdenpubs.com

Gas Engine Magazine
Gas Engine Magazine
Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines