Hidden Hercules

Forgotten and Neglected for Decades, a 5 HP 1919 Hercules Model E Comes Out of Hiding

The engine room

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July 3, 1919. It is most likely just another day for the farmers of Delaware County, N.Y. The first cut of hay is done, the corn should be knee high in the fields and life goes on for the area's dairy farmers.

First Light

But it's not just a regular day at the Joe Roberts dairy farm; for this is the day they are getting a new Hercules engine delivered. The Roberts are getting a shiny green 5 HP Hercules Model E, purchased at the Hanford Bros, store in East Meredith, N.Y., for $145, . Included in the price is a 20-inch pulley to run a lineshaft and a vacuum pump for their milking machines. A concrete foundation for the engine has already been built in a separate room adjoining the main barn, and a section of 2-inch cast iron pipe is ready to be plumbed to the engine to carry exhaust gases outside. New windows set in the walls of the south and west side of the room will let some light in, and outside the engine room a shiny, glazed brick silo glistens in the sun.

Year after year the Hercules engine does its work. Like any machine it requires attention once in a while, and for reasons unknown the mixer is replaced. A new one comes from Hanford Bros., the local Hercules dealer. The old mixer is tossed into a corner of the engine room.

The years go by, and one day electricity comes to the farm, a new form of power that eventually replaces the Hercules, rendering it obsolete, motionless. The farm passes to new owners, but the Hercules remains, its 6-inch flat belt, although a little tired, still attached and ready to work.

The years continue to slip by, the farm animals are sold and the milking equipment disappears, but the Hercules remains. The Hanford Bros, store where the engine was bought finally closes. The farm is neglected, pastures return to woodland, but the Hercules still sits on its concrete foundation. Somebody removes the vacuum pump from the foundation and sets it on the floor where it will remain for years. Over time the engine room windows get broken, the shiny silo starts to crack and fall apart, and the oiler glass on the Hercules gets broken. But nothing else is disturbed. Sumac trees grow close to the engine room, concealing its content.

And then a new owner, Marvin Glass, takes over the farm. Marvin carries out some structural repairs to the neglected barn, and he finds the old Hercules sitting in the engine room, just as it has been for many years, its belt still attached, seemingly frozen in time.

Inspecting the engine, he decides to donate it to the Hanford Mills Museum. The museum, located on the site of the old Hanford Mills complex where the Hanford Bros, store was also located, runs a water-powered sawmill using the same equipment the Hanford Mill used generations ago. The museum gladly accepts the donation, agreeing to remove the Hercules from its foundation and to add it to their collection of antique gas engines, joining two other, smaller, Hercules engines already there.

Second Light

Aug. 16, 2002. It is most likely just another day for the remaining farmers in Delaware County, N.Y. The second cut of hay is being gathered, corn is being harvested, but life goes on for the dairy farmer.

But it's not just a regular day for the Hanford Mills Museum, because this is the day a well-used, non-running Hercules engine will be delivered - the rusty and stiff 5 HP Hercules Model E that was sold by the Hanfords on July 3, 1919. Included is a rusty 20-inch pulley to run a rusty line shaft the engine once powered.

A week prior to that day preliminary measuring, planning and clearing of a path for the removal of the engine are done. While moving some small, discarded item on the floor, a Hercules mixer is found mostly buried in the dirt. The original oiler is found in a like manner. Two of the museum's staff, Rob Grassi and John Anderson, and a volunteer unbolt the engine, rolling it on pipes out of the barn and onto a waiting trailer. Before lunch, a 1919 5 HP Hercules, serial number 186627, is back at the very location where it was sold 83 years earlier.

The museum is happy to have the engine, especially since they have original documentation of the sale from 1919. They thank Mr. Glass for the donation. Over the course of the next several months it will be evaluated for work needed to get it operational again, but leaving it as original as possible.

The story continues with the pictures and their accompanying captions. They show the removal of the engine on that August day 83 years after the engine was moved into the Roberts dairy farm.

Contact engine enthusiast Bob Naske at: 2059 State Hwy. 29, Johnstown, NY 12095. Contact the Hanford Mills Museum at: P.O. Box 99, East Meredith, NY 13757, (800) 295-4992, or on the Web at: www.hanfordmills.org

Hanford Bros. Hercules Sales

Hanford Mills Museum Hercules Serial Numbers

In researching the Hanford Mills Museum archives for documentation on the 'Hidden Hercules' engine story, the curator of the Hanford Mills Museum compiled a list of 37 different Hercules engines sold by the Hanford Bros, from 1916 to 1920. Of this total, 18 Hercules engines had their serial number recorded upon sale. All of the engines recorded include the date sold, the original buyer, the size of the engine and the amount paid. Some entries have purchased accessories listed, such as a saw rig, a washer of some sort, a milker or in some instances a flat belt.

The museum has decided to make this list available to the public, as it might aid owners of existing engines in compiling a working history of an engine. One of the entries recorded was, of course, for the engine in the accompanying story. Anyone owning an engine included in this list is encouraged to contact the Hanford Mills Museum, as they would like to add that information to their records.

The list presented here includes all the Hercules engines that are recorded with serial numbers in existing ledgers. No other serial number records have been found as of this time, but if further research reveals more engine numbers they will be noted and made available.

The list presented here shows only the serial number and the date sold. Every effort has been taken to ensure as accurate a transcription as possible from the original ledgers. If the original owner's name, price paid, size of engine and any accessories sold with it is desired, contact the museum's curator by mail at the address below. The museum does not receive any government funding, relying solely on private contributions to keep it operating. Any and all donations are gladly accepted, but not required

Recorded Hercules Sales From Hanson Bros. Ledger

Serial Number Date Sold

124528 ...........09/16/1918

153577 ...........11/07/1918

157404 ...........11/23/1918

153586 ...........12/14/1918

152001 ...........12/27/1918

152069 ...........03/03/1919

167643 ...........04/29/1919

166368 ...........05/03/1919

169567 ...........06/02/1919

170439 ...........07/01/1919

170403 ...........07/02/1919

186627* ..........07/03/1919

186634 ...........07/29/1919

157262 ...........08/18/1919

175164 ...........09/22/1919

168590 ...........10/30/1919

222505 ...........08/19/1920

235576 ...........08/20/1920

* This is the engine written about in the accompanying article.

As an interesting side note, from the period of May 1915 to May 1916 the Hanford Bros, sold four Gray engines. Complete information was recorded, including serial numbers. They are: 6268, 5255, 6370 and 7331.

Contact: Curator, Hanford Mills Museum, P.O. Box 99, East Meredith, NY 13757.