Hidden Hercules

By Staff
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A closer look through the engine room window, the Hercules clearly visible.
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Rob Grassi, Hanford Mills Museum mill foreman, slids a shim under the Hercules to get it above the foundation studs in preparation for sliding the engine over onto wooden planks.
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The Hercules as found, still bolted to its concrete foundation, its belt still attached to a lineshaft as if someone went to lunch many years ago and never came back.
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Bob Grassi rolls the Hercules on pipes out to a trailer.
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Bottom: The Hercules in a trailer, ready to leave its home of 83 years and return to the building where it was originally sold, the Handford Bros, store, now the Hanford Mills Museum.
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Recording the Hercules' sale to J.J. Roberts on July 3, 1919.

July 3, 1919. It is most likely just another day for the farmers
of Delaware County, N.Y. The first cut of hay is done, the corn
should be knee high in the fields and life goes on for the
area’s dairy farmers.

First Light

But it’s not just a regular day at the Joe Roberts dairy
farm; for this is the day they are getting a new Hercules engine
delivered. The Roberts are getting a shiny green 5 HP Hercules
Model E, purchased at the Hanford Bros, store in East Meredith,
N.Y., for $145, . Included in the price is a 20-inch pulley to run
a lineshaft and a vacuum pump for their milking machines. A
concrete foundation for the engine has already been built in a
separate room adjoining the main barn, and a section of 2-inch cast
iron pipe is ready to be plumbed to the engine to carry exhaust
gases outside. New windows set in the walls of the south and west
side of the room will let some light in, and outside the engine
room a shiny, glazed brick silo glistens in the sun.

Year after year the Hercules engine does its work. Like any
machine it requires attention once in a while, and for reasons
unknown the mixer is replaced. A new one comes from Hanford Bros.,
the local Hercules dealer. The old mixer is tossed into a corner of
the engine room.

The years go by, and one day electricity comes to the farm, a
new form of power that eventually replaces the Hercules, rendering
it obsolete, motionless. The farm passes to new owners, but the
Hercules remains, its 6-inch flat belt, although a little tired,
still attached and ready to work.

The years continue to slip by, the farm animals are sold and the
milking equipment disappears, but the Hercules remains. The Hanford
Bros, store where the engine was bought finally closes. The farm is
neglected, pastures return to woodland, but the Hercules still sits
on its concrete foundation. Somebody removes the vacuum pump from
the foundation and sets it on the floor where it will remain for
years. Over time the engine room windows get broken, the shiny silo
starts to crack and fall apart, and the oiler glass on the Hercules
gets broken. But nothing else is disturbed. Sumac trees grow close
to the engine room, concealing its content.

And then a new owner, Marvin Glass, takes over the farm. Marvin
carries out some structural repairs to the neglected barn, and he
finds the old Hercules sitting in the engine room, just as it has
been for many years, its belt still attached, seemingly frozen in

Inspecting the engine, he decides to donate it to the Hanford
Mills Museum. The museum, located on the site of the old Hanford
Mills complex where the Hanford Bros, store was also located, runs
a water-powered sawmill using the same equipment the Hanford Mill
used generations ago. The museum gladly accepts the donation,
agreeing to remove the Hercules from its foundation and to add it
to their collection of antique gas engines, joining two other,
smaller, Hercules engines already there.

Second Light

Aug. 16, 2002. It is most likely just another day for the
remaining farmers in Delaware County, N.Y. The second cut of hay is
being gathered, corn is being harvested, but life goes on for the
dairy farmer.

But it’s not just a regular day for the Hanford Mills
Museum, because this is the day a well-used, non-running Hercules
engine will be delivered – the rusty and stiff 5 HP Hercules Model
E that was sold by the Hanfords on July 3, 1919. Included is a
rusty 20-inch pulley to run a rusty line shaft the engine once

A week prior to that day preliminary measuring, planning and
clearing of a path for the removal of the engine are done. While
moving some small, discarded item on the floor, a Hercules mixer is
found mostly buried in the dirt. The original oiler is found in a
like manner. Two of the museum’s staff, Rob Grassi and John
Anderson, and a volunteer unbolt the engine, rolling it on pipes
out of the barn and onto a waiting trailer. Before lunch, a 1919 5
HP Hercules, serial number 186627, is back at the very location
where it was sold 83 years earlier.

The museum is happy to have the engine, especially since they
have original documentation of the sale from 1919. They thank Mr.
Glass for the donation. Over the course of the next several months
it will be evaluated for work needed to get it operational again,
but leaving it as original as possible.

The story continues with the pictures and their accompanying
captions. They show the removal of the engine on that August day 83
years after the engine was moved into the Roberts dairy farm.

Contact engine enthusiast Bob Naske at: 2059 State Hwy. 29,
Johnstown, NY 12095. Contact the Hanford Mills Museum at: P.O. Box
99, East Meredith, NY 13757, (800) 295-4992, or on the Web at:

Hanford Bros. Hercules Sales

Hanford Mills Museum Hercules Serial Numbers

In researching the Hanford Mills Museum archives for
documentation on the ‘Hidden Hercules’ engine story, the
curator of the Hanford Mills Museum compiled a list of 37 different
Hercules engines sold by the Hanford Bros, from 1916 to 1920. Of
this total, 18 Hercules engines had their serial number recorded
upon sale. All of the engines recorded include the date sold, the
original buyer, the size of the engine and the amount paid. Some
entries have purchased accessories listed, such as a saw rig, a
washer of some sort, a milker or in some instances a flat belt.

The museum has decided to make this list available to the
public, as it might aid owners of existing engines in compiling a
working history of an engine. One of the entries recorded was, of
course, for the engine in the accompanying story. Anyone owning an
engine included in this list is encouraged to contact the Hanford
Mills Museum, as they would like to add that information to their

The list presented here includes all the Hercules engines that
are recorded with serial numbers in existing ledgers. No other
serial number records have been found as of this time, but if
further research reveals more engine numbers they will be noted and
made available.

The list presented here shows only the serial number and the
date sold. Every effort has been taken to ensure as accurate a
transcription as possible from the original ledgers. If the
original owner’s name, price paid, size of engine and any
accessories sold with it is desired, contact the museum’s
curator by mail at the address below. The museum does not receive
any government funding, relying solely on private contributions to
keep it operating. Any and all donations are gladly accepted, but
not required

Recorded Hercules Sales From Hanson Bros. Ledger

Serial Number Date Sold

124528 ………..09/16/1918

153577 ………..11/07/1918

157404 ………..11/23/1918

153586 ………..12/14/1918

152001 ………..12/27/1918

152069 ………..03/03/1919

167643 ………..04/29/1919

166368 ………..05/03/1919

169567 ………..06/02/1919

170439 ………..07/01/1919

170403 ………..07/02/1919

186627* ……….07/03/1919

186634 ………..07/29/1919

157262 ………..08/18/1919

175164 ………..09/22/1919

168590 ………..10/30/1919

222505 ………..08/19/1920

235576 ………..08/20/1920

* This is the engine written about in the accompanying

As an interesting side note, from the period of May 1915 to May
1916 the Hanford Bros, sold four Gray engines. Complete information
was recorded, including serial numbers. They are: 6268, 5255, 6370
and 7331.

Contact: Curator, Hanford Mills Museum, P.O. Box 99, East
Meredith, NY 13757.

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