26 Mott Place Rockaway Boro, New Jersey 07866
I am vice-president of The North Jersey Antique Engine and Machinery Club, based in Sussex County, in Northern New Jersey. We have members from all over the state, and indeed some out of state as well. Our club's purpose is to educate the public in how the old engines and machinery, we demonstrate, operated and made life easier on the farmer, improving the quality of life for all the people in the future generations. Our club has been up and running since 1980.
In October of 1987, I was contacted by a gentleman named Bob Fossetta, who expressed an interest in joining the club. He wanted to tap our knowledge of and information on engine repairs and operations for some equipment he had on his job. As it turned out, his job was operating a farm! I had quite a few conversations with Bob about the equipment on his farm, and we traded information. He is Manager of Farm Operations at the Morris County Park Commission's Historic Foster fields Farm, in Morristown, New Jersey.
Bob was cleaning out several old farm buildings filled with nearly 50 years accumulation of farm debris. In one of the buildings, workers found many old tools and implements, including an Associated Hired Hand engine which he wanted to get running for display and use. As a historic farm, Foster fields is run as a working farm, using no or little modern equipment in its daily operations. Its operational time frame is from 1890 to 1920. Being built about 1913, the little Associated would fit just fine in the time frame, and would be a welcome addition to the farm display.
Bob had wanted to use the expertise of the members of the club to learn how to restore the little 1 HP engine, in order to use it at the farm. Unfortunately, through the winter months, we did not have any winter projects going that Bob could use to get his own project underway. We gave him some advice on how the engine should run, but I guess that hands on practice is the best way to learn. Anyway, in March of 1988, I received another call from Bob. He had tried all of our suggestions on how to start the little engine, but all it would do is sputter when it was cranked. He wanted to know if I knew anyone he could call with the experience in running these engines, who could give him a hand in getting it started, or at least give him a few tips on start up procedures, as he was really getting frustrated with it. I tried to help out over the phone but it was clear, after a few minutes, that it wouldn't work. I realized that it was easier for me to go to the engine in order to see what was going on, instead of trying to second guess the problems over the phone.
I was met at the farm visitors entrance by Bob, who gave me a quick tour of the farm facility. Although it had been part of the county park system for about eight years, the farm was just now beginning to come into its own as a working farm. The staff was working full time just putting sections of it back into operation.
As we approached the main barn I could smell the latest object of their attention. The smell of old varnished fuel could be detected from 50 feet away with no problem! It really stunk!!! After a quick demonstration of their starting efforts I immediately saw a few problems. First was the obviously extremely STALE FUEL. Next were the semi-stuck intake and exhaust valves. They were heavily coated with waxed up oil, dead gas, and a liberal coating of grain dust, left behind by about 40 years of being buried under tons of wheat and hay in a shed. Thirdly, the governor was stuck in the open position. If the engine had started, it would have accelerated until the old iron failed, and the engine would have blown up with disastrous results. Lastly, the engine had been forcefully turned over before all of the moving parts had been checked for freeness. Luckily the ignitor was free, as well as the rocker arm and exhaust valve. But alas, the magneto did not fare so well. The rear bearing was made of yanuck (a zinc alloy), and it had been seized on the armature. When the engine was turned over, the yanuck armature core mount could not take the stress, and it self-destructed, taking the 45 degree angle drive gear with it. It appeared that the Associated two-bolt mag had 'bought the arm' as it were.
To their credit though, they did have the battery and coil set up right, and if the battery weren't dead, the old engine might have given them a few smoke rings to think about! I did keep hearing 'Where does the spark plug go?' though! I decided then and there that I would give the farm hands a lesson in antique engine repairs. 'Old Iron 101 is now in session' I said, and I went to work on the Associated in earnest.
After about three hours of cleaning, oiling, and tapping stuck and semi-stuck parts, everything movable was free and lubricated, with the exception of the poor magneto. With the addition of fresh fuel to the now clean fuel tank, we were ready to do some serious cranking! During the cleanup, I had even taken the ignitor off the engine, and had shown the interested people how it worked to ignite the fuel-air mixture in the combustion chamber. Now with the battery charged, we were ready to try again. Noting that the compression was down, I gave the engine a few good fast spins with the original hand crank freshly discovered on the shed floor. The engine belched blue smoke, backfired a few times, spraying everyone with rust, and finally coughed to life! As the engine spit and sputtered, it slowly picked up speed until it finally latched off and began to coast on its idle cycle.
'What's wrong with it?' one of the hands asked. 'Nothing' I replied, just as the engine began firing again. I then explained how the hit and miss governor worked on this style engine. After about five minutes the engine stopped spitting out mouse nests and seeds and was running well. After a final carb adjustment, and a load test (a three foot section of a 2 by 4 against the flywheel) the engine was all set, with the exception of the mag that was broken.
I took the mag apart, but internally it was hopeless. I called a few of my magneto repair friends, but they told me what I had already suspected, the mag was shot, and there were no parts available as Associated had been out of business for about 60 years! I told Bob that his best bet was to contact some of his friends in the Amish section of Pennsylvania, and ask them to try to locate a replacement mag, or one for parts, even a dead one we might salvage, it might work.
In the meantime, it wouldn't hurt to run the engine on battery and coil, as the magneto was an option at the time the engine was built. At a later date I did make up an operational magneto, out of the original, and three others that Bob had located in the Amish country.
That summer, the North Jersey Antique Engine and Machine Club was invited by the staff to give a demonstration of our old engines and equipment at the Foster fields Farm. We have been doing the show annually ever since, and it is now our annual show site. Gioia Webber, the Historic Programs Specialist at the farm, has been most helpful in making sure that both exhibitors and spectators alike have a good day at the farm. A big round of thanks also goes to all of the staff who have helped with the show over the years.
Little did I guess that Foster fields wasn't through with me yet, I was to be given a new challenge to work on!
In October of 1995, I received a call from Keith Bott, Historic Sites Manager for the Morris County Park Commission. Keith called me to set a date for our 8th annual show at the Foster fields Farm Site so that he could prepare the information for a press release. I told Keith that I would return the selected dates as soon as we held our monthly meeting and approved a date. Keith asked me if I work on my own restorations on engines I display. 'Yes, I do,' I replied and gave him some of the background on a few of my projects, including the work I had done on the engines at the Farm. He told me that he had a possible donation to Foster fields that he was going to look into and asked if I could give him some advice on it? I told him that I would try to help, if I could.
In December I called Keith with the confirmation of our show dates, and he told me that the donation he had mentioned was a Silver King tractor of approximately 1937 vintage. The tractor had been used until 1981 by a neighbor of the farm, who then died. The machine sat idle for 15 years inside a garage, along with many of its implements. Keith also told me that a snow-plow was mounted on the tractor.
A few days later Keith called me again and we set a date in January, 1996, to go and have a look at the old Silver King. Unfortunately, the date we chose also happened to be the day the big blizzard hit the East Coast! I had up to 18 inches of snow, with drifts up to three feet in the backyard. I called Keith at Foster fields on January 16th, and asked him if he still needed my help with his project. He asked me where I was on the day we had set and I told him 'shoveling snow.' He laughed and said that he had gone to take a look at the tractor. It was indeed a Silver King, and it had a four cylinder engine on it. The engine was seized tight and he felt there wasn't much hope for it. I told him that I would take a look at it anyway, to see if it was in any condition to rebuild, or if it was salvageable or not. I asked him when we could go take a look at it. He said, 'How about now?' and over to Foster fields I went.
I met Keith face to face for the first time at the visitors center and we hitit right off. He seems to be enthusiastic about the various Park programs he is responsible for, however, it seemed that some of that enthusiasm had been lost, as far as the old tractor was concerned. Keith explained on the way over to where the tractor was stored, that a friend of his had told him to forget the Silver King, as parts were hard to find, and it wasn't worth the trouble to rebuild. I told him, 'Well, let me take a shot at it. It can't hurt. Let's see what we have before we give it up.' We pulled to a stop in front of a neat little carriage house that doubled for a garage. As we walked to the left side of the garage, Keith told me that when he first went to look at the tractor, it had been buried under a pile of wood and debris and it had taken two trips with a big dump truck to get rid of the junk. After all of the junk had been pulled off the tractor, the men left, and this was the first time he had been back to look at it.
Keith had figured to take the spark plugs out and load the cylinders with kerosene and oil to try to loosen the stuck pistons, but if that didn't work, he would abandon the effort to repair the unit. We opened the left side door and looked inside. To the left of the open door sat a fairly new large John Deere garden tractor, and to the right, there was the old Silver King! However, it was no longer silver with the exception of the engine and the frame, the body was now a deep green! Keith looked kind of downhearted as he gazed at the old relic, but he said, 'Well, maybe we can get it going.' At this I began to take a closer look at the old tractor.
The first impression was, 'Man, look at this mess!' Covered with dust and debris, battery swollen and dry (the old tar top 6-volt variety), rotten wires all over the place, 2 flat tires (right rear and left front totally flat the right front nearly so), boy what did I get into now, I thought! As I studied everything in view, I began to take in details that seemed to say, 'Here was a man who worked like me!' The debris on top of the hood turned out to be ahomemade battery charger, including a set of huge diodes, used as a rectifier. Also the wiring on the left side of the engine was actually part of an old charcoal grill grill-starter, that did double duty as a manifold pre-heater! I also found that an automotive style flywheel had been added to the back side of the PTO pulley, and that a Delco inertia drive electric starter had been carefully mounted in place, to turn over the engine. Along with the starter, a generator was also installed, along with its regulator. An old amp meter and voltmeter had also been installed to monitor battery condition. All of these 'improvements' were well thought out when they were added. I later learned that the gentleman who ran the tractor had added all of the 'extras' himself.
As for the basic tractor, the sheet metal was in good to excellent condition, with just a little surface rust present. However, the radiator screen was rusted out on the left, probably as a result of the radiator having a short overflow pipe. Except for being flat, the tires seemed to be okay. The engine had some surface oil on it but it did not seem to have any major leaks. The crankcase was full of oil, and it looked like new. At this time, I told Keith that it would be worth looking into, as it seemed that the tractor was well cared for. I told him that my main concerns were the stuck crank and the lack of water in the radiator.
I didn't bring any tools with me so, after the quick look over, we shut the door and went back to the farm.
I arranged another date with Keith to go back to actually begin working on the old tractor. The next Saturday, I loaded my car with my tools and supplies and headed back to Foster fields Farm, at 9:00 a.m., to see what I could do.Keith was unable to go over to the tractor with me because of another project he was involved with at the time, so I told him that I would go over to the garage myself. I also let him know that I would tell him what I found when I was finished. When I arrived back at the carriage house, I cleared a 15 foot widepath to the door through 10 inches of snow in order to get my car up close to the doorway. The weather looked threatening, but it didn't snow any more. However, it stayed cold outside, about 25 degrees F.
The first thing I did, after I got all of my stuff unloaded, was to remove the 4-18 mm spark plugs. I filled a one pint oiler with a mixture of Marvel Mystery Oil and Gas. I put equal amounts into the open spark plug holes on top of the pistons. Then I turned my attention to the carburetor. Thankfully, thefuel valve on the gas tank filter bowl had been turned off, keeping the gum down to a minimum. With the fuel flow cut off, there was only a little gum in the bottom of the fuel bowl of the carb, and with the help of some Berkbile 2+2 carb cleaner, it was soon all cleared out. I disconnected the fuel line from the gas tank filter and, with the drain plug removed from the carb fuel reservoir, the little bit of gum and varnish was flushed out with more 2+2. The fuel tank itself will be another story, though, it will have to be removed and the inside will have to be boiled out by a professional, as the tank has 15 years worth of gum and varnished fuel in a viscous mess about an inch thick in the bottom. Since the tank itself is riveted to the hood sheet metal, this will be a major job to accomplish at a later date.
The next items I attacked were the wiring system and the battery. I disconnected the battery at the terminals and removed it from its homemade mounting, above the PTO pulley, on the right side of the tractor. I set the battery on the floor and looked it over for cracks. Although the battery was swollen it wasn't cracked and I filled the three cells with water. Then I hooked my 6-volt charger to the battery and turned it on.
The next item that caught my attention was the magneto. At some time in the past, the mag must have given the owner some trouble and so he rectified the problem his way. The American-Bosch mag must have had an internal fault. It had been altered so that the high tension power, usually supplied by the mag, could be supplied from an outside source. The points still supplied the low tension make and break, but the high tension was now supplied by an automotive style coil. Thus the mag still provided the timing and the proper spark distribution, but the energy was now supplied by the battery instead of the mechanical activity of the mag itself. As the rest of the wiring appeared to be intact, although the insulation was a bit rough, I proceeded to the next step, the stuck crank.
I had brought along, with my tools, an automotive flywheel turning tool that I used when I worked at a service station many years ago. Just for fun, I put it on to the jury rigged flywheel on the tractor, and gave it a yank. I never thought that the wheel would turn on the first try without some drastic force applied, but move it did! A whole inch!
At first I thought the tool had slipped on the teeth of the flywheel, so I reversed the puller and turned the wheel in the opposite direction, while watching the fan and harmonic balancer at the other end of the engine. This time the wheel moved two inches, and so did the fan and pulley!!! I reversed the puller once again and then pulled the engine through one complete revolution. Although the engine was stiff, it did not seem to be binding, and luckily, I had started turning the engine in the correct direction to begin with! At this point, the engine still would not turn with its starter hand crank. I decided to try something else to turn it over.
Something else turned out to be the 12 volt battery in my car, a 1988 Plymouth Voyager. I made sure that I could isolate the starter motor from the rest of the tractor's electrical system, and got out my set of Sears heavy duty jumper cables. I hooked the cables to the battery in the conventional manner, but reversed the polarity on the tractor. The positive cable went to the ground side of the starter motor, and the negative went to the starter motor power post, which was on the top of the starter, bypassing the starter solenoid. As the circuit was completed, the starter motor began to turn. As it built up speed, the inertial clutch engaged, and the motor began to turn over the tractor engine. Now the engine began to turn over faster and faster, until the maximum speed of the starter motor was reached. I disconnected the starter, and the starter motor stopped very quickly. The engine crank itself kept turning for another six or seven seconds after the starter had stopped. I knew now that the crank was good and free. I still didn't know about the ignition system or the valves yet, though. Now it was time to try to actually start the engine.
I disconnected the battery charger from the tractor battery, and hooked them onto the battery post terminals on the tractor itself. I made sure that the terminals could not short against the tractor frame, with a piece of cardboard, too. Using the starter motor to turn the engine by turning on the ignition switch, I found that the ignition system was still in working order. As the starter motor was still running, I disconnected the battery charger leads, and let the starter turn the engine for about two minutes. As it was turning, I observed the oil pressure gauge and noted that it read 20 psi. When the two minutes were up, the starter was shut off and I got ready to try to start the engine.
First, I made up another pint can full of the Marvel oil and gas mixture, and again put equal amounts into the spark plug holes. I reinstalled the plugs themselves. I should note here that when the plugs were taken out, the forward two plugs were slightly car boned up and, when they were put back in, I made sure that they were installed in the rear, so as the engine was run they would clean themselves. I filled the oiler with straight gas and proceeded to fill the carb fuel bowl and the fuel line. When this was done, I gave the carb throat a few shots of gas as a primer as well. Then I hooked up the starter bypass and the engine began to turn over.
At first the engine only turned and I noticed that I had not hooked the battery charger to the battery terminals to provide the ignition power. As soon as this was done, the engine fired one cylinder. Immediately the slight speed change kicked out the starter drive, and I had to disconnect the power to the starter. After several more attempts, I had to shut everything off to refill the oiler can and the fuel system.
I primed the carburetor once again and tried to start it half a dozen times, all with the same result it would fire a few times, throw out the inertial drive, and quit. After the sixth or seventh try, the engine actually kept firing on a few cylinders after the starter had disengaged. I am getting close, I thought! Just then, my old Sears battery charger decided to give up the ghost, with a real impressive puff of thick white smoke. Oh well, I was so close! After pulling the plug on the now defunct charger, I decided to use the 12 volt power supplied by my Voyager to also power the tractor ignition. After placing a blocker into the generator relay, I hooked the 12 volt jumper cables directly to the tractor supply cables, again using the positive ground set up. A note of caution is due here! NEVER EVER hook a 12 volt battery to a 6 volt battery. The tremendous voltage and current surge will cause at least the 6 volt battery to explode with extreme violence, causing severe injury or blindness from sulfuric acid burns. I've seen a few cases where both batteries have blown up, sounding like a stick of dynamite exploding, and spraying battery acid for 50 feet around! I primed the carb again and tried the starter button that had been mounted on the dash. The engine turned over fine, but wouldn't make a peep. In about 15 seconds I got the hint, let go of the starter button, and started going over the electrical system again. In about another 15 seconds I found the problem. In my haste to pull off the power earlier, when the charger itself fired, I must have turned off the ignition toggle switch. Talk about being embarrassed! I flicked the switch on and it was back to the same old thing. Fire, kick out the starter, tick over a few more times and quit.
After several more tries and another fuel system refill, I thought that, possibly, it was too cold for the fuel to vaporize properly, seeing as the temperature had not risen above the 25 degrees F, it had started at, all day. On a whim, I decided to plug in the makeshift manifold heater that I had mentioned earlier. Amazingly, the element began to heat up very quickly. In about five minutes, the manifold was quite warm to the touch. I refilled the fuel system again, unplugged the heater and hit the starter button once again. The engine turned over and began to sputter and backfire as cylinders fired and then missed, but the engine kept building up speed until at one point, I had to release the starter button, as the engine was now running, although badly, faster than the starter could spin the crank. When the starter was killed, the engine, running very roughly, slowed to a stop in about 45 seconds of running on its own! I again refilled the fuel system and pushed the starter button. This time as the engine fired up, I opened the throttle. The engine promptly quit. I tried a third time without moving the throttle, and the engine again sputtered to a stop in about a minute, slowing all the while. I refilled the fuel system again and tried the starter. This time, as the engine fired up, I advanced the throttle slowly, and the engine actually began to accelerate!
As the engine accelerated, it began to run more and more evenly until at quarter-throttle it was quite smooth. I kept accelerating until the engine reached about half-throttle, when it ran out of gas. As the engine was picking up speed, all the while, it threw out the up-turned exhaust pipe a great amount of rust, seeds, carbon, and oil. I had to pull the hood of my jacket up over my head to keep the fallout out of my hair. However, all the debris made a black mess of the ceiling, for about two feet around the pipe.
I noticed for the first time that the exhaust pipe had been extended upwards with a three foot piece of downspout pipe, which probably kept the exhaust gases away from the operator on a windy day. I refilled the fuel line. This time, as the engine turned over, you could hear the individual cylinders hit their respective compression strokes before the engine fired up. As the engine picked up speed, it accelerated very smoothly. Then I let the engine idle and noted that the mixture was way too rich. I refilled the fuel line as the engine was running, and tried the manual throttle. The governor appeared to work perfectly, keeping the engine, at each setting, with ease. I refilled the fuel line with the rest of the fuel in my oil can and then adjusted the carburetor mixture screw until the engine ran most smoothly.
After about two more minutes of idling, the engine quit, out of gas, and I turned off the ignition switch and disconnected the jumper cables from both the car and the tractor. I didn't want to run the tractor engine too long because of the lack of water in the radiator. At the time the engine quit, it was no longer smoking and it was running very smoothly. I rechecked the oil and it was still clean, and surprisingly, did not smell of gas, considering it had run about a half-gallon of gas through the engine before it was running smoothly!
At this time, my feet were getting cold as the temperature was dropping, and I had another appointment to keep, so I collected all of my tools and supplies and put them in the car. On the way back to Foster fields, I stopped at the house that belonged to the lady who was going to donate the tractor, and rang the bell. The lady's name is Shirley St James. I told Mrs. St James that I had gotten the tractor running. She said that she had heard it, but she wasn't sure if it was the tractor or the car at the time. I told her that I had to leave but that I would be back later in the week to complete the work that was needed. Mrs. St James said that she would look forward to seeing the old tractor run again and she hoped that it would work out. Then I drove back to the office at Foster fields Farm.
I walked into the visitors' center office and asked if Keith was in. Gioia told me that he was and his office was around the corner. I went to his office and said, 'Keith, can I see you for a few minutes?' I could see that he was busy working on his computer. He said, 'Sure' and stood away from his desk. I offered my hand to him, and said, 'Congratulations! You have a running Silver King tractor!' He stopped shaking my hand for a second, and said, 'Uh, what?' I said again,' You have a running tractor!' This time the words sank in, his eyes got real big and he said, 'I do? You actually got it running? When can I see it? I don't believe it!' all in a rush. I explained to him that the engine was too hot, and besides, I had another appointment to go to. I also told him there were a few things to be done before we tried to drive it, but, I would like to come back and set the tractor up after an extended run.
On Tuesday, the 23rd, we went back to the carriage house and I unloaded my parts and supplies again. Keith had to leave for a few minutes and I spent the time setting up the tractor. First, I inflated the flat tires, using an air tank and compressor that my wife had given to me at Christmas. I installed a one-gallon fuel tank from a lawnmower onto the open fuel line on the engine. I also double checked the electrical system.
As Keith arrived back at the carriage house, I was just finishing installing the battery that I was going to use to run the tractor. Earlier in the week, I found that the original battery had an internal short, probably due to the swollen plates, and it would not hold a charge. I ended up using a small 12 volt battery that I had at home, to start and run the tractor. When I was checking the electrical system, I made sure that the blocker was still set between the points on the regulator on the 6 volt generator, to prevent any damage to the generator itself.
Keith watched me fill the small gas tank. As he was still watching, I pressed the starter button with my hand. The engine turned over about three or four revolutions and began to pick up speed until I was idling at a fast idle. I let the engine run for about two minutes, and then idled it down to the idle stop I had set a few days before. Keith just stood there fascinated, as the engine idled very slowly (about 300 rpm), until I shut off the ignition switch. 'Wow,' Keith said softly, then, 'What happened?' I explained that the radiator was empty and I didn't want to overheat the engine before putting the coolant into the hot block. I had thought that, possibly, the radiator had a leak, or worse, that maybe a casting plug was bad (freeze plug). I knew the block and head were okay because the oil was so clean, so I thought that there were only these two options.
Good old Mr. St James proved me wrong again! As we were filling the radiator, all of sudden, the antifreeze began spilling onto the ground, very quickly. Almost immediately Keith said, 'I've got it,' and just as fast, 'Nuts!' As it turned out, Mr. St James had drained the coolant the last time he had used the tractor and the petcock had been left open. Keith had seen it from his vantage point, but had turned the valve the wrong way, causing it to fall out of the body onto the floor. It was a mad scramble to stop the coolant from spilling, and trying to reinstall the fallen part at the same time. We finally succeeded in getting the valve closed, but not before loosing about a quart of antifreeze. I walked up to the farmhouse and asked Mrs. St James for a gallon of warm water to put in the radiator. She seemed glad that someone was working on the old tractor, and we chatted as we waited for the bottle to fill. I carried it back to the carriage house and finished filling up the radiator. I restarted the engine and ran it at varying speeds for over an hour. As the engine was running, I tried to put the tractor in gear. The gear shifter would not move! I idled the engine down and started trying to move the gear selector by tapping it with a hammer near the base, in order to set up a vibration in the shifter shafts. The first gear to loosen was the reverse gear. At least I could move the tractor a little bit under its own power. By rocking the tractor back and forth, I got the lubricating oil to get to the shift levers and sliders, and the rest of the gears freed up in short order. I was then able to move the tractor both forward and backward in and out of the carriage house. I tried the brakes, which were controlled by two hand levers, one on each side of the tractor.
I found that the brakes worked just fine, thank you, but it takes a lot of getting used to, in order to stop this unit straight ahead! The Silver King can be turned merely by holding one brake on, but at a higher speed, applying just one brake you could possibly flip it! It took several tries before I could stop the tractor, using the brakes alone, in a straight line.
Keith asked me if the tractor could be driven over to the farm. I told him that I didn't see any reason why not, and he said, 'Let's go!' I asked him if we could show the running Silver King to Mrs. St James before we took it away, and he said that would be an excellent idea. I started the old tractor and drove it up the slight incline in the driveway to the Victorian farmhouse that was her home. I stopped near the side entrance and shut off the engine while Keith went to ring the door bell. Shirley came to the door and just stood there for a few seconds, looking at the tractor standing in the driveway, and then she disappeared from view. In what seemed to be about a minute, she was back, holding a camera! As she came down the steps from her home, I started the tractor's engine. She listened for a few seconds and then said that the old tractor didn't sound that good when her husband had last run it. She asked Keith to take a few pictures and then said goodbye. Keith helped her up the stairs, and she watched from the porch, as the tractor made its slow trip down the driveway from her home, for the last time.
Going down the drive was an adventure in itself! About halfway down there was a pile of frozen snow that Keith went around with his car. I, however, in trying to keep the tractor out of the ruts left by other vehicles, clipped the snow bank with one of the rear tires. It was not going very fast, but the tractor spun to the left as the left tire stopped its forward motion. I grabbed the right hand brake and pulled hard, stopping the right side tire in its tracks. This did two things nearly at the same time; first, when the right wheel stopped, so did the tractor. So far so good. Second, when the right side wheel stopped, the left side, through the differentials, began to turn at double speed, not so good. As the wheel was spinning, it cut its way through the snow and ice until the tire hit the pavement, at which time the tire got some traction, causing the tractor to spin to the right. Now I grabbed the left brake, and yanked that back too, and with both wheels now locked, the engine quit. I was now working up a sweat driving this old tractor and I haven't even gotten it to the road yet! I collected my thoughts and then restarted the engine. Using a light touch on the brakes, I managed to get the tractor over the rest of the snow, and immediately ran into another obstacle in front of me. The next one was a deep rut to one side of the drive, left by a large truck. As the tractor went over the hole, I gave thanks that the ground held, and the machine didn't fall into it. I figured that once I hit the road, it would be a piece of cake to drive to the farm.
The tractor did not handle too badly on the road, in first or second gear, but third was positively scary! In third, the tractor developed what I call the 'weavies' (an uncontrollable swerving from side to side, caused by excessive speed, front end play, and probably low tire pressure as well), at about half-throttle. With this going on in third, the best I could do in fourth was little better than just above idle! I didn't stay at that speed long though, I merely wanted to see if all of the gears in the gear box were okay, and that the shifter mechanism was in good working order. It was! Otherwise, steering wasn't too hard, and the biggest problem to me was the unfamiliar braking system. Stops were fairly quick, as long as you were careful to apply the brakes evenly, as they had a tendency to lock the wheels if you pulled too hard. Another problem was to use the both brakes at the same time, you had to let go of the steering wheel, as there was no foot brake pedal!
By the time I got the tractor to the main road, I had figured that between engine braking, and using only one hand brake judiciously, the tractor could be brought to a near stop very quickly, and it was the last ten feet that was a handful (literally!). It took me only about eight minutes to drive to the parking lot at the farm, and by the time I stopped in front of the farm Visitors Center, I was pretty confident of my handling of the tractor. As I was pulling to a stop behind Keith's car, I noticed that the engine was not smoking at all and, in fact, was running quite smoothly, with no noise in the bearings, either. When I shut the engine off, though, I noticed a lot of steam coming from the front of the radiator. I got down from the tractor seat, after setting the brakes, and walked to the front of the tractor to see where the steam was coming from. When I turned to look at the front end, I noticed that the steam was mainly where the radiator screen was missing. I noticed that the water and coolant were not leaking from the radiator itself, but from the overflow tube. Apparently a rubber hose was missing, that would lead the coolant to the ground, between the overflow pipe and the chassis. It must have been missing for quite a while, as I am sure that this is the cause of the rusted out screen.
Keith asked me if he could drive the tractor. I showed him the controls and how they worked, and he operated each a few times to familiarize himself, and then off we went! He drove the tractor down to the storage barn and maintenance shop. He didn't do too badly, and we parked the tractor in front of the barn. At this time Bob Fossetta and a. few of the farm crew came out of the building, and Bob said 'so this is it, huh?' We both said 'Yeah.'
Bob and the crew made room for the tractor inside the storage side of the building, and I drove it in. Bob said that he would locate a new 6 volt battery, and I took down the engine serial number and manufacturer's information in order to do some research. Bob and the crew removed the dirty fuel tank in the meantime, to have it sent out to be cleaned. They also removed the two snow plows. At a later date I will rewire the tractor, as most of the insulation is in poor condition. The shop had the fuel tank about a week.
In the meantime, I had been busy, too. I had placed a call, and sent a letter to a friend at the engine manufacturer's offices. The engine in the Silver King was built by the Hercules Engine Company, of Canton, Ohio. This is NOT the same company that made the hit and miss engines, although this company dated nearly back to the same era. This Hercules Company also made small engines for agricultural use, but they were of the high speed variety. Hercules built engines for generators and tractors and also for marine use. I had originally made contact with my friend at the company, when I was researching a generator. It was a U. S. Motors 115 volt A.C. generator that was built in 1943. Its engine was also built by this company. (See 'One Man's Junk,' October 1993 issue of GEM, page 26). At that time I received a lot of technical data and other information from Dave Rollins, at Hercules. I called Dave once again about the Silver King's engine.
Dave Rollins is Director of Product Services at the Hercules Engine Company, P.O. Box 24101, Canton, Ohio 44701-4101. I sent him the serial number and specifications from the engine's I.D. Plate, and asked for some information on the unit. The I.D. Plate reads: Hercules Engine Model IXB, Bore 3 Stroke, 4' Firing Order 1, 3, 4, 2, Valve Clearances-Intake: .006', Exhaust: .008', Engine Serial Number-413320, Hercules Engine Company Canton, Ohio U.S.A.
I requested the following: (1) Date of manufacture. (2) Is the Owner's Manual available? (3) Is an Operator's Manual available? (4) Is a Service Manual available? (5) Any other technical data would be appreciated. Within a week I received a call from Priscilla Kovacsiss, Warranty Administrator for Hercules, asking for more information. She told me that Dave was away on business, but that she would try to locate some of the information in order to speed up my reply. By the end of the following week, I had the answers in my hands via a large envelope.
The answers were as follows: (1) The engine was assembled on March 6, 1937, although the sold data had been lost. (Hercules usually keeps very good records as to their sales. When I was doing my research on my U.S. Motors outfit, Hercules dated the engine, and even told me who had signed for the shipment at the U.S. Motors factory!) (2) an Owner's Manual was shipped. (3) An Operator's Manual was shipped. (4) A Service Manual was shipped, along with a listing of local Hercules service locations. (5) Some other information was also found: Engine HP 16.9 at the belt, and the engine's displacement 133 cubic inches.
The tractor is now in basic running condition, but there are still some things to be worked out. Bob Fossetta has located a new 6 volt battery, and I will install it as soon as I found out if the Park Commission is going to paint the old tractor, or if it is to be left in its found coloring. I will, however, have to rewire the add-on wiring, as the rotten insulation is liable to short out. I also have yet to find out if the 6 volt generator actually works. I will check it out after the battery is installed.
I am now looking for an operator's manual for the Silver King tractor itself. I am also trying to locate a replacement muffler for the tractor. I would like to know the location of the serial number for it. Lastly, does anyone have a parts source for the Silver King tractors? My most sincere thanks in advance for your help! As a final note, I will send in an update to GEM when the restoration project is completed.