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
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.