R. D. #4, Box 145, Greensburg, Pennsylvania 15601
Last summer the 'old iron bug' bit me. I acquired a 5 HP Hercules, refurbished it, and started going to shows. To my surprise and pleasure, my ten year old son Danny went to most of the shows with me. He seemed to be as interested in the other engines at the shows as I was. By the end of the summer, thanks to his grandfather, he was even a dues paying member of The Fort Allen Antique Farm Equipment Association!
At our club's 'Apple and Arts' show (August 1993) in Delmont, Pennsylvania, I met an individual who told me that he had a Hercules engine that was 'just like (mine) only smaller.' When he said that he wanted to trade it for Maytag parts, I became more than a bit interested! After telling him that he might want to simply sell his engine and buy whatever Maytag parts he wanted, I got his name and phone number just in case.
As September passed into October and October into November, my son went through each issue of GEM page by page. I began to think that perhaps he was old enough to have some old iron of his own. Christmas was coming and if the man I had met at Apple and Arts still had the engine, maybe it would be a good Christmas present for Dan.
In mid-November I called the owner of the engine and couldn't believe my ears when he told me that he still had the engine and what he wanted for it! The next day my father-in-law and I went to see (read that 'buy') the Hercules that was 'just like (mine) only smaller.' The engine was under a workbench which was covered with some of the most beautiful Maytags that anyone would ever want to see. After admiring the Maytags, we moved parts off the engine we had come to look at and moved it out into the center of the garage. It was dirty, greasy, and red. Definitely not a Hercules but who knew what? The owner said he hadn't started it for 14 years. After putting gas in the carb and priming the engine, he spun the flywheels only twice and it started! I gave him what he was asking for the engine, quickly loaded it into my truck and started home. We were only about a half block down the road when my father-in-law turned to me and said in almost a whisper, 'You thief!'
After arriving home, I spent several hours searching through Wendel's American Gasoline Engines. I determined that what I had in the back of my truck was a Witte Type B, 2 HP throttling governor engine. Would Danny like it? I hoped so but neither his mother nor I were sure!
When Christmas morning came we couldn't believe the look on his face! He really couldn't believe that he now owned some old iron! It took Dan a number of tries but he was finally able to start his Witte. As he stood by it watching, I think my wife's smile and mine were even bigger than his.
For the next three or four weeks Dan worked on his Witte like you wouldn't believe scraping, sanding, polishing and buffing. The flywheels came off, as did all the gears and the mag. He took pictures before he took anything apart and he made notes of how things fit, together so that they would go back the same way.
Then the painting. Our research told Dan that the original color of his Witte was dark green. He decided that the flywheels and gas tank would be black. After using several spray cans of each color, his Witte looked like new!
We then started to work on the hand truck for Dan's Witte. The 100 year old oak 2 x 4s that I had purchased about 20 years ago worked out just fine. After we planed and sanded them they were cut to the appropriate length and configuration. More sanding and then five coats of polyurethane made the old oak ready to accept Dan's Witte.
Now for the moment of truth. Dan's engine looked like new, but would it run? Had he followed his notes and the pictures he had taken when he reassembled it? Dan was sure that he had I wasn't quite so sure. After all, much of the engine had been reassembled when I was not there with him. With a smile on his face, he spun the flywheels and nothing happened. Two more tries and still nothing. His smile was gone! With a frown on his face he tried one more time. His smile returned as his Witte coughed, barked, then settled down and began to run smoothly. We stood watching it for several minutes before he pushed the kill button on the mag.
Now, at 11 years of age, Dan has exhibited his own engine at its first show. The Fort Allen Old Farm Days Spring Exhibit, on May 28 and 29, 1994, was the 'spring gas up' for our club, and Dan was proud to show his Witte for the first time I was even more proud of him!