Back Home Again

A Hercules Model S That Never Really Left


| July/August 2002



Hercules Model S Engine

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.