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Rusty Wheels Club displays engines, tractors of yesteryear at Melonfest

The Rusty Wheels Club of Hope opened up its museum and had many tractors and small engines on display on Day Two of the Watermelon Festival.

The first thing you hear when you approach the Rusty Wheels Museum at the most western part of the Fair Park is a steam-driven pulse of over 24,000 pounds and 85 horses of cotton ginning power from what the Museum labelling calls a Bessemer Oil Engine Type IV, manufactured in Grove City, Pennsyvania. The engine, about a foot taller than the average man, was last used in 1954 to keep a cotton gin in Crossroads, Arkansas running.

“It’s a single cylinder engline . . . that runs on kerosene,” a Rusty Wheels engineer named Jerry told me. Since the Bessemer is free running and bearing no loads right now, it’s a fuel sipper, using only half an index finger top knuckle in kerosene per hour.

Martin “Butch” Jones, who came here from Texarkana, Arkansas brought three tactors, “two little engines,” and an antique truck. “I’m a jack of all trades and a master of none,” he said.

Jones said that it was important to display older engines because “most people don’t even realize how much effort went in to farm life. It’s just to preserve history. A lot of people don’t realize what these engines did. Engines were used to pump water, to grind corn, to power lights.”

Dean Smith from Hooks, Texas brought a flywheel engine. He said he remembered his father and grandfather using a simple engine machine to pump water to cows in their dairy. The Bessemer Cotton Gin engine, he pointed out, could be heard from five miles away when it was running in Crossroads.

Smith said he enjoys being in the club for the camaraderie and the chance to hear stories.

Both are available to everyone who visits the Rusty Wheels Museum during the Watermelon Festival.

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