A Hercules Model S That Never Really Left
On hunting and fishing trips in my area I had come across hit-and-miss engines several times. I always liked how hefty they were, looking as if they were built to last a long time. I never gave much thought to getting one, but then I went to the threshermans show in Adams, Tenn., and seeing and hearing these old engines running told me I had to have one.
The next weekend I decided to go to one of those spots where I had seen one, and not finding the owner home I decided to walk down to the old cattle barn and look at the engine. The only thing I found was the concrete foundation where the engine had sat.
The next weekend I went to another spot where there had been another old engine and a cement mixer. The new owner of the farm said he had not seen the engine, but would like to walk with me down to the sinkhole where I had seen it. We walked around the area and finally found the remains of the skids the engine and cement mixer had been mounted on, but that was all. After a few more dry runs I gave up, thinking the collectors had found all of them. I decided instead to get my advanced Ham radio license, thinking that would be a good hobby.
I used to help Paul West (an old friend of the family) work on his tractors and other farm equipment, as old age prevented him from lifting heavy parts and pulling on wrenches, and one day I asked if he had seen any old flywheel engines. I expected him to say no, but instead he told me there was one down in the woods below the stable. He said the water hopper was broken, as it had flipped over when he pushed it into the junk pile. We finished the repairs on the tractor and drove down to look at the engine. The water hopper was not broken and engine wasn't stuck -only the valve stems and gasoline needle were badly rusted.
It took most of the fall season to free the gas chamber of the mixer, and the next spring, after getting the engine running, I had set it in front of the garage to do some painting on it. A neighbor came by and said, 'Where did you get that old engine?' I told him about what a hard time I had locating one and he told me about one that used to be at a local farm. About a week later I went to check on the engine, because after the neighbor mentioned it I saw the block and flywheel sitting under a tree by the barn. When I got up to Mr. Mason's farm he told me the engines was still there and that I could have it. He also gave me the history of the engine.
This is what the Model S looked like as it came apart, a very complete engine just looking for restoration. Showing serial number 333004, this is a 1925 production engine. The Model S was introduced in 1924 and discontinued by 1928.
This Hercules S 1-3/4 HP began its life right here where I live. Reverend Morris, who owned the property where I live, used it to saw a cedar posts and various woods. He later sold it to Mr. Mason and Mr. Mason's brother-in-law. They used it for several years, after which Mr. Mason decided to take it apart and rebuild it. He put all the small parts in a lard stand and put them in the barn, but he left the block, crank and flywheels outside under a tree.
Some 10 years later a storm blew the barn down, and while looking for the engine's small parts under various timbers and planks we spotted what appeared to be a spark plug among some rusty objects. The lard stand containing the parts had been crushed when the barn came down, and some small parts were buried a couple of inches in the dirt. By some plain luck we found all the small parts except one nut for the head. What amazed me was that the small screws on the valve and magneto-operating shaft came out after a little soaking in penetrating oil.
After sitting out exposed to wet leaves and the weather the cylinder was badly rusted, and it had to be bored so much the piston would no longer fit. I poured a new piston from cast aluminum, adding extra thickness on the skirt to try to equal the weight of the original. Mot trusting my abilities, I had the local machine shop cut the grooves for the rings. After putting it back together I ran it at various speeds, and it ran well and with no vibration. It is now ready for fine-tuning and painting, and it's back on home turf.
After getting my engine by just dumb luck, I started thinking about a man who collects old cars and jukeboxes. I had helped him on some of his jukeboxes, and I asked him to let me know if he ever came across an old engine.
About a year later I saw him, and he laughed and said, 'I found two engines just a rock's throw from you.' I asked him where they were and if I could talk to the owners. 'I already took them home,' he said. 'They are in my little barn.' Thinking he wanted them himself I forgot about them. Some time later he died of a heart attack, and his son asked me to check out a jukebox, as he was liquidating his father's collection. While I was there his son said, 'You need to get your old engines, as I am going to tear the little barn down.'
It turns out those engines came from the Keeling farm and orchard, which joins Mr. Mason's property, which makes them almost home again. One is a Novo TU and the other an IHC LA 1-1/2 HP. I have taken these engines down and the rings, bearings and cranks are very good.
I have sent the Novo rod off to be rebabbited, but everything else seems to be okay and as soon as the weather settles up I will start the outside cleaning and final touchup.
Never give up on finding an engine - they can show up any where, and it is a real thrill to hear the first pop from something that was headed to the junk pile. The Hercules has taken about five years to get in running shape, but I've gotten a lot of enjoyment doing things that seemed hopeless. Have fun, and don't pass up any thing - even if it looks hopeless.
Contact engine enthusiast John Mock at: 2860 Gospel Peace Rd., Hopkinsville, KY 42240.