Can Old Engines Talk

| March/April 1989

  • Hercules Engines
    Hercules Engines

  • Hercules Engines

12234 Harm Street, Carleton, Michigan 48117

Well, isn't that some kind of a question! I don't think they can talk with words, but they can tell a story. When I was looking for my 4th engine, I wanted a hit and miss. My first choice was an early Sattley, the second an Alamo Blue and the third a Hercules. Sattleys and Alamos are out there, but the price is getting a little high. So I thought a Hercules! Yeah! A Hercules-they're hit and miss and some are out there at a good price. The name even sounds nice-HERCULES!!! They paint up real nice with pin striping and all.

It was the start of summer, my brother and I were off to an engine show at Findley, Ohio. I had taken along my extra engine money so I knew I was going to come home with something. At that time the engine display was in its own corner of the fairgrounds. As soon as we arrived, I headed for the gas engines. My brother headed for the steam engines. Just inside the gate, the first display, the fellow had a Hercules for sale. I thought to myself this may be a long day. I stopped and took a quick look. I didn't talk to him about it, I had the whole rest of the show to see what I could find. I went back and looked it over three more times before buying it. It was mostly all there, but it wasn't much to look at.

After getting it home, cleaning it up and running, you could tell the engine was well used and worn out, but not abused. The main and rod bearings were all but used up and most of the shims were gone, yet the clearance was set right. The piston rings were replaced with two 1/8' instead of the standard ?' in each groove. Someone had told me this was a common practice in the 50's. The engine ran well but was low on power. The more I worked on this engine, the more I could see how much time and work was done to keep it running right. At one time, for whatever reason, the crankshaft and flywheels were replaced. With a little bit of light blue paint still on them, they may have been from a Jaeger. With all the work through the years, the nuts and bolts were in good shape. None of the corners were rounded off or the threads chewed up. Even the inside of the water hopper was in good shape. No heavy rust build-up or pitting of the iron. This is telling me that when this engine was used, care was taken to drain the water and store it until it was needed again. Someone took pride in their engine.

I think when someone works with tools and equipment for a long time, some of their spirit stays with it. When you work on, and fix up those old engines, you get a feeling of what the person was like who had it so many years ago.

When I was in high school working part-time at a body shop that specialized in antique auto restoration, I worked on the new late models while the owner, a tall, rough-skinned, gravelly-voiced hillbilly who went by the name of Slim, restored the old ones. He was a true craftsman. One day he made a statement to me. He said, 'You know, this old iron can really talk to you if you keep quiet and listen.' Well, that was some 20 years ago. It didn't make much sense then, but it does now.


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