Richard Fisher tends to his 1- HP 1918 Hercules Model E at this year's Brown County Antique Engine and Tractor Show in Nashville, Ind. Purchased as a non-runner, Richard and crew had it running after less than eight hours.
Bob and Linda Crowell are regular visitors to engine and tractor shows in the Midwest. As vendors of books and magazines covering the old iron hobby, the Crowell's have met collectors and restorers across the Heartland, and in the process they've seen more than their fair share of interesting mechanical moments. One such moment, or day, really, was at this year's Brown County Antique Engine and Tractor Show held May 2-4 in Nashville, Ind.
What caught their attention was the sight of Richard Fisher, Mooresville, Ind., busily working away on a stationary engine. Now, the sight of someone working on his old iron at a show is hardly surprisingly, but Richard's single-minded focus somehow demanded investigation.
The engine, a 1-HP 1918 Hercules Model E, was in pieces spread across the ground, so Linda asked him what he was up to. Richard explained how he'd just bought it that day at the show, and was trying to see if he could get it running before the day was over. It was a personal challenge, and of a sort Richard evidently engages in with some frequency.
'We bought it from a gentleman who kind of wheels and deals,' Richard explained. 'He had it as something he didn't want to spend the time to make it run, he thought it was passed what he wanted to fool with. The piston was stuck, but only because of dried grease. The magneto was on it, so we hot-wired around it. There was a little output, just not enough to fire the engine. The head was off and the valves had been pulled off and thrown away.'
Richard says he didn't really have a goal when he bought it, he just wanted to get the Hercules running. 'I thought we could have it running in short order, but the other guys around were betting we couldn't, so we had to.' 'We' in this case would be Richard's cohorts, David Pratt, Martinsville, Ind., (who bought the engine with Richard) and Kenneth Hill, also of Mooresville, Ind. 'About everything on it was stuck,' Richard says, including the governor and the pick. Even so, Richard figured they had enough to work with, and since he only lives 30 miles from the show he ran home and jerked the head off another Hercules he owns to use as a temporary donor.
Tearing the engine down to remove the stuck pistons revealed some pleasant surprises. Removing the crank they found the bearings were 'good as new,' Richard says, and a piece of oak fashioned into a drift drove the piston out easily. As for the rest, basically, Richard says, it was 'just a matter of using penetrating oil and light taps 'til things started loosening up.'
They worked on it fairly steadily through the day, Richard says, and at 5:50 p.m., just shy of eight hours after buying it, the Hercules was running. Not bad for a day at the show, and when it was all done, one more Hercules Model E was back in the fold of the old iron community.
Contact engine enthusiast Richard Fisher at: 10651 N. Gasburg Road, Mooresville, IN 46158, or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org