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  The Lady "B"

The Bessemer Type IV oil engine is of the two-cycle semi-diesel design. Manufactured in Pennsylvania, this particular engine came in a single or twin cylinder configuration and ranged in size from 25 to 180 horsepower. It was used in applications where an abundance of steady power was required, such as to power pipelines and irrigation work, lighting and refrigeration, as well as oil field use. This particular design has adjustable water injection, which enhances the proper combustion of the various fuel oil grades commonly used. According to the operating manual, "the Bessemer Oil Engine is guaranteed to use successfully crude oil, fuel oil, or distillate … including all Eastern crudes, fuel and gas oils, most Southern and Southwestern crudes…, as well as "California fuel oils of the kinds sold in that state for Diesel Engine fuel. Kerosene, distillates, alcohol and even gasoline, are of course included."


After much discussion as well as a few heated arguments among the gin membership about which make of engine (Bessemer vs. Fairbanks Morse) was the best, the Burton Farmers Gin decided to replace the original steam engine with a Bessemer Type IV two cylinder oil engine. The engine was brought into Burton by rail. Mule teams, levers, and manpower moved the 31,738 pound engine up the hill and set it on its concrete foundation in the gin. This Bessemer engine, affectionately known as the "Lady B,” supplied the power to run all of the ginning equipment and a grits mill up until the failure of a critical part (the cross head) during the 1963 ginning season. After the electric motor took over main power supply duties, the engine was repaired but was never brought back online as the principle source of power during the final years of commercial ginning.


The project to overhaul the engine and rebuild the fuel injection system was undertaken in January 1991, with parts, materials and services donated by many companies and machine shops throughout the state of Texas. A grant from Houston based Cooper Industries, the company that manufactured the original Bessemer Engine, provides funding for most of the engine’s maintenance and repairs. Many hours of volunteer labor were involved. The engine was put back in service on February 29, 1992 and has operated for over 100 hours since its overhaul. It is the largest operating internal combustion engine of this vintage in the southern United States.