The Uncle Earl Engine
The Uncle Earl Engine, as Dean Hayden affectionately calls it,
is actually a 1925 Hercules-built 1-3/4 HP Economy Model S, serial
number 331389, showing a casting date of 10/29/25.
Back in the mid 1970s, I remembered that when I was a boy, my
great uncle Earl had two flywheel engines. A big engine ran a
sorghum cane mill, and a smaller one pumped water for the
I paid uncle Earl a visit and asked him about the engines, and
he told me the big engine had gone to Indiana, along with the
sorghum mill, when he sold out several years earlier. But he
thought the little engine was still in the fencerow, where he had
left it 17-1/2 years before.
We took a tractor and trailer and went down the lane looking for
the engine. What we found was a 1 -3/4 HP Economy – buried almost
halfway in the dirt. After digging and cutting some tree roots, we
extracted the engine and loaded it onto the trailer. Uncle Earl
said I could have the engine, and he said he ‘just knew’ I
could get it running again. I can still hear him say, ‘You can
get her runnin’ again, boy. I know she’ll run.’
Never having restored an engine before, all I knew to do was
just start soaking everything with penetrating oil. After about a
year of soaking I started removing a few things, and then I decided
to have the engine metal blasted – not a good idea. The bearings
were in good condition, at least until I had this done. I found out
the hard way that metal shot will go places it shouldn’t, or
you don’t want. At this point I decided to paint the engine and
keep it for a decoration.
One day while talking to a friend of mine, Don Sheets, I
mentioned the engine and how the steel shot had found its way into
the babbitt bearings. Don said that was no problem, as he could
pour new ones for me. Well, that was in the early 1980s, and the
engine stayed a decoration, only now with new bearings. I
remembered how confident uncle Earl had been that I could get it
running again, but there it sat.
Another 20 years went by (nothing like a little procrastination
in one’s life), and I got to thinking about uncle Earl and
decided it was time to finish the job. I called another friend,
Dave Harris, and ask him if he would work on the mag for me. Dave
agreed, but he could not find a place to stop. One week – and a lot
of work – later, he had made new parts, installed new springs,
everything to get the mag working.
Now, some 30 years later, the engine runs again, and
surprisingly well, with just a little blow-by. Thanks again to Don
and Dave for a job well done, and to Charlie Brewer for the donated
spring collection – it was desperately needed. The Uncle Earl
engine is not fully restored, but is at last ‘runnin’
good’ and giving much pleasure. I know that 1 -3/4 HP Economy
engines are not real rare or valuable as engines go, but you
can’t put a price tag on sentimental value. I only wish uncle
Earl could hear it. He probably has one just like it up in Heaven,
and he’s probably thinking, ‘Boy, what took you so
Contact engine enthusiast Dean Hayden at: 11919 N. Riverview
Rd., Chillicothe, IL 61523-9527, or e-mail:
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