Can Old Engines Talk

By Staff
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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.

So, can old engines really talk? No, I don’t think so. So
now when you see an antique engine collector out working in his
shop and you hear him talking to someone, it’s just to
himself-I think!

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Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines