Restoration of an 1898 Hercules Gas Engine

| July/August 2000

Unusual Old Engine

43 Cardigan Bay Road Mataura, R. D. 2 New Zealand

Made in San Francisco, California Serial #5558 HP 5 Bore 5 inches Stroke 8 inches Fuel: Producer gas (L.P.G.) Style: Vertical open crank

The year was 1993, location Edendale Crank Up. I was setting up my engines for the show when a fellow pulled in towing a trailer with what looked like an old pump lying on its side. On closer inspection it turned out to be a very unusual old engine.

On first sight I could tell there were a lot of parts missing and the owner was hoping to locate some information at the show. Very early on in the day, I let him know I was interested in purchasing his engine if he was interested to sell. He told me he'd think it over. After another very good day at the crank-up and the engines behaved all day, I decided to call him into the tent and have a beer. It was hot! The owner happened to be there too, so we got to talking about the engine again. After a while he told me he would be interested in swapping it for a more complete engine. A deal was made that I think we were both happy about.

After getting the engine in the workshop, I had a good look at what I had just acquired. I found it was in worse condition than I first thought. The governors were missing, as was the big end bearing block, and the crankshaft had been hack-sawed off flush with the main bearing housing, so it was missing a flywheel, as well. But worse yet, was when I took the head off, I found the engine must have been lying upside down for many years because, halfway up the bore, rust had eaten ? inch into the bore! All the moving parts were badly worn, the white metal mains were paper thin, the crank was out of round, the ring were about 1/8 inch thin at the gap. The piston pin you could ride a horse and cart through the gap! The past owners sure got their money's worth out of the old girl!

A year had passed and it was time to attack the bore problem after discussing it with my engine mates. It was decided to bore the cylinder and fit a dry sleeve. The cylinder and frame are one casting that stands about 4 feet so the whole thing had to be set up on a lathe. Then I got a length of 5 inch hydraulic tubing and got it machined to fit. I lock-tightened the sleeve in place. Next was the piston pin and bearing. The bearing was made round again and a new pin made on my good engine-buddy's lathe.