Restoration of the Bair Hercules

Bair Hercules engine

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RD#2 Columbia, Pennsylvania 17512

Restoration of the Hercules actually started in the early 1960's while I was in high school. Like so many other projects, this one took one step backward before it moved forward.

I was involved in vocational agriculture and had access to a steam jenny. I convinced my instructor to allow me to bring the jenny home one weekend to clean up the engine. Like other teenage projects, I lost interest in the engine after I had all the grease and grime steamed from its metal surfaces. Twenty plus years later when I got serious about restoring it, I had to deal with a coating of rust on most of its surfaces hence the one step backward!

Between the early 1960's and 1984 it is really a miracle that the engine stayed in the family. During that time I went to college for six years, spent two years in the Army, moved four times, and changed jobs twice. During that same time my parents retired from farming to pursue an educational career, had a public farm sale and moved several times. Getting your friends to move a rusty hulk of iron can strain the best of friendships! Through it all, the Hercules survived sorely neglected, but complete.

Actual restoration began in the winter of 1984. For about a year prior to that, I had been reading my newfound friend Gas Engine Magazine. Through this reading I learned a lot and got interested enough to finally tackle the restoration.

Prior to disassembly I did take a few poor quality black and white photos. I also made drawings and took notes during the process. When I finally got around to putting everything back together, my notes and drawings were more for 'moral support' than actual help. The photos and sketches of the striping were a help in final painting.

The condition of the engine can best be described as almost complete, some light rust, a little original paint, and a lot of old dry grease and crud. My steam cleaning of 20 years prior had only removed the dirt and oil from the flat surfaces. The only missing part was the muffler. A new muffler was purchased from Ritter's Engine Shed.

I completely disassembled the engine and cleaned each piece in kerosene. A power wire brush was used on all rusty surfaces. Most of the pieces were painted before the engine was reassembled.

The paint was a real challenge to match. There was enough original paint to get a good idea of proper color but it still took eight trips to the paint store for a good match.

With all those many parts laying around for so long there was a good bit of family skepticism about the engine ever running again. As it turned out on the big day, the only reason the engine did not start on the first try was not enough gas in the tank!

Now the final striping is complete and all adjustments made, it is safe to say that the Hercules is 'good as new'.

This engine has a lot of sentimental value and I enjoy having it around and listening to it run. However, I'm ready to tackle one of the 'finds' that your readers talk about as soon as I 'find' one!