Hidden Hercules

Forgotten and Neglected for Decades, a 5 HP 1919 Hercules Model E Comes Out of Hiding


| December/January 2002



The engine room

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 time.