A Second Chance

12 HP Economy gas engine

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3286 Cramlington Drive Gibsonia, Pennsylvania 15044

We have all heard the old saying that, at some point in time, most things in life don't get a second chance, but one particular 12 HP Economy gas engine got its second chance, when I discovered it out in the woods while hunting for ruffed grouse.

During the fall of 1987, I was hunting on lands near the village of Petrolia. By mid-afternoon, I had not seen any ruffed grouse, and headed back to the friend's camp that I was visiting. Mr. Tom Rapp, realizing that I was bored, asked if I would accompany him up be hind his farm to aid in the removal of a 15 HP Evans gas engine cylinder he needed to complete an earlier restoration. I agreed, and the two of us proceeded up a hill with a John Deere tractor and a small utility tractor.

We spent a few hours wrestling the old cylinder off a 'dead' engine, when Tommy called to my attention that an old Economy gas engine was near where we were working and would I like to see it. Tommy knows I love Economy engines and that I had a couple of 1.5 HP ones at home.

We worked our way through the grapevines and red briars that blanketed the hill. Tommy said, 'There it is!' and I said, 'Where?' All I could see was more brush. Sure enough, under lots of spice bush and young black cherry, was a single flywheel sticking up in the air sideways. The engine was on its side.

As I stood on the flywheel in awe, I asked what horse it was. He said the tag used to be on the hopper. The tag was still on the hopper, held on by one rivet. It read: 'S.N. 196,490 12 E.' I knew I had to have this engine to restore!

I have seen a lot of gas engines at shows and the remains of many oil field engines out in the woods, but never had I seen a 12 HP Economy. Even at shows, they seem to be somewhat of a mystery. I had always heard of that someone who was supposed to have one, but nobody ever knew who he was. Heck, the largest Economy that I ever saw was a 9 HP shown at the Delmont Apple Festival.

Tommy, (Bear) was quick to point out that it was in really sad shape. The piston had been pulled out for scrap years ago and was badly decayed from lying on the forest floor, as well as the connecting rod which had a good case of alligator skin (rust pits). The engine was lying on the magneto side, and at first glance I couldn't tell if it even had a magneto still on it. One flywheel was completely obscure from sight, as it had sunken into the forest floor. The head was missing and the cylinder bore looked like the surface of a sponge rough, that is, really rough.

During the course of a year, I showed the engine to several other engine collectors, who all turned up their noses at it, and they continued to remind me that it would be next to impossible to remove from its resting place, which was nestled deep in the woods. The engine was on private property, the land was leased, and finding the owner could pose a problem. Also, finding a head, not to mention a mixer, would also pose problems.

By the summer of 1989, I had purchased the engine for $100.00. The owner of the land was located in Connote, Ohio, just a few miles away from Petrolia, Pennsylvania.

The restoration started by trading a few of my choice oiler sold style Lunkenheimers from my collection. The head was very rough, in that both valves had broken off inside the guides, and the head must have been buried for sometime. It too had alligator skin really bad. I drove the cylinder up to Tanawanda, New York, where Mr. Joe Sykes bored it. He had to remove almost .125 inches of rust away before clean surfaces were found. So much for trying to use the original piston!

Up and back to Tanawanda twice was a real trip, 16 hours each time. The crankshaft was found to have three multiple bends in it. I can only speculate as to how that happened, but my guess is that since this was an old engine graveyard (scrap), it was probably hauled up the hill when trees were absent and tied to a fixed object, at which point the truck and driver pulled away allowing the engine to practice Sir Isaac Newton's Physics law, which states that: 'The unit of force in the meter-kilogram-second system, that is needed to accelerate a mass of one kilogram one meter per second, equal to 100,000 dynes.' In this case, the Economy which weighs in at just over 2,000 pounds, was dropped real hard on its flywheels, and rolled down a slight grade where it came to rest on its side.

A local machinist who is an engine enthusiast offered to fabricate a new crankshaft. A second idea was to mig weld up the bent crank shaft and turn down the high spots, thus producing a straight shaft. I went for the new crank shaft. The only difference between this one and the original is that it looks like an old style Galloway shaft.

Let me back up some. The machinist who made the shaft brought it over one night to see how it looked. Somewhere along the line of measuring, he had recorded the wrong width, and his plus or minus .001 shaft was too wide for the journals. He cried! The shaft had to be torn back apart, re-machined to the correct width and now is plus or minus .003 out at the end of the shaft.

A new cam gear and cam were fabricated since the original was missing all of its teeth from being buried in the dirt. The only difference in the reproduction and an original is that the tear drop timing mark, a small casting mark found on Economy timing gears, is absent. The crank gear was re-fabricated to fit the new shaft. It, too, had gone the way of the dodo bird. A push rod was fabricated, using a 7 HP Economy rod and lengthening it with square bar stock. The Economy, when found, had been converted to using a WICO PR and spark plug. I understand that the majority of the 12 HP models came equipped with a Webster Tri Polar magneto. I decided to re-equip mine with a WICO mag. A search went out to find a mag bracket that fit. As fate would have it, all mag brackets for the WICO are the same for the 5,7,9 and 12 HP engines. I located the bracket at the Upper Peninsula Gas Engine Show held in Escanaba, Michigan, during 1990. I also was able to locate a real nice governor assembly. The weights are square vs. the egg shaped weights so often observed on Economy/Hercules gas engines. I believe they fit the model K, but they worked and look like they are supposed to be there.

The head was a big stumbling block. The valve stems were drilled out and I had a machinist re-size 15 HP Reid valves to fit the Economy. The valves from a 15 HP Reid offer enough stock to work with. A fellow from Minnesota called and informed me that he had a rocker arm that he felt would fit the 12. The rocker arm was the wrong size, but I have lengthened it, and it looks and works just fine. I have written a few of the other 12 HP Economy owners to see if I could borrow their rocker arm to cast from, but no one seems willing to trust me with one for a few weeks.

The WICO PR was located by trading a MARSH air cooled motor cycle gasoline engine for it. I thought the trade was a good one, but I later found out that the MARSH is a highly prized rare engine, sought after by motorcycle collectors who are restoring 1905 vintage bikes. Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

Finally the piston, what to do? It was decided to fabricate one, using the original as a pattern. The reproduction piston is an exact reproduction, in that it even had the oil line leading into the wrist pin, just like the original. Bearings were reproduced using aluminum bronze vs. babbitt. I have aluminum bronze bearings in the connecting rod and mains; they will last longer than babbitt.

I can tell the other 12 HP Economy owners that flywheels weigh just under 400 lbs. each. From Mr. Glenn Karch's book on the Economy/Hercules gas engines, I learned that my #196,490 was built sometime in 1919.

I know this has been a long drawn-out story about another gas engine, but I felt that with this much restoration work to bring a really 'dead' engine back to life, it was worth a few minutes of your time.

One funny note: I was at the Northwest Pennsylvania Steam and Old Equipment Show, commonly referred to as Portersville since the show is in Portersville, Pennsylvania, and a man had a 12 HP Economy model E on a trailer. Being a smart-ass sometimes, I felt obligated to comment to him that I had one just like it. Isn't that fun to do? He asked me my name and I told him it was John. He replied, 'You must be John Derby from 3286 Cramington Drive, Gibsonia, Pennsylvania.' I about fainted! How in the H... did he know that? I affirmed that was who he was addressing, and he produced a list from Glenn Karch with, at that time, 25 other 12 HP gas engine owners. I was the only one at that time from Pennsylvania with one. We became fast friends. To date, his is the only other 12 that I have seen. I now understand that more of you out there have come forward and said that you, too, have the big 12 HP and a few 14 HP Economy and Hercules have also surfaced.

In closing, I would like to thank: Mr. Joe Sykes for his work in boring the cylinder; Mr. Tom Molnar for fabricating all the other parts; Mr. Jake Faith for swapping the head for my oilers; Mr. John Lon for swapping the WICO for my MARSH motorcycle engine; Mr. Henry Wessel (a John Deere collector and dear friend) for keeping me focused on the project; Mr. Glenn Karch for his fantastic efforts in researching the history of the Economy/Hercules gas engines and last GEM for publishing this winded story.