Hanford Mills Museum Rehabilitates 'Incredible Hulk'

| October/November 1985

  • Shingle mill
    The shingle mill at Hanford Mills Museum

  • Shingle mill

The job was too big even for 'Ghostbusters.' Besides, the 'Incredible Hulk' that haunted Hanford Mills Museum wasn't quite a ghost.

It was a pink and green heap of metal, wrapped around more than 5,800 pounds of rust. For more than a decade, it had been sitting defiantly on the museum's lawn, perched atop railroad ties now rotting into the ground.

A 16 HP Sta-Rite gasoline engine dating from the turn of the century, it had been brought from a former sawmill near Oneonta, New York to Hanford Mills in the late '60 's by the individual owner of the site then. And, there it sat ever since, not fooling even the youngest of museum visitors that it was a piece of environmental sculpture.

But when Jim Williams became director of Hanford Mills in 1981, he also became determined to get the Sta-Rite engine running. Faced with more immediate tasks, he gave the mission to the museum's Collection Manager, Keith Bott, who readily admits he '...knew practically nothing about gas engines, much less single cylinder antique engines.'

Thus, Bott began an odyssey akin to Jason seeking the golden fleece. He began by going to all the major libraries and museums that might have special collections of this type. Curators at both the Smithsonian and the Hagley Museum, an industrial museum in Delaware, told him his best bet was to get in touch with Gas Engine Magazine subscribers 'a wide-ranging group of amateurs who really know their stuff.'

Fortunately, Bott's circle of friends included one gas engine hobbyist, Herb Von Kluge, who agreed to look at the engine in the Spring of '82.