Restoration of an 1898 Hercules Gas Engine

By Staff
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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.

Another year passed, and it was the crank’s turn. After many
months of trying to remove the flywheel, I gave up. In steps,
another engine buddy who just happened to have access to a press,
the wheel was off in about two seconds. Then the crank was sent to
an engine reconditioner in Gore, where they lengthened the shaft
and ground it true again.

Now the main bearings; they had to be re-poured. My
father-in-law is very good with wood so he got a job making a mold
the size of the crank. I took out the remaining bearing metal which
didn’t take much and fitted the mold and filled the gaps with
pastercine. Then we melted the metal and poured it through the oil
hole. Oh, no, there’s hot metal running all over the floor!
Cleaned everything up and added a bit more Plasticine and started
again. Success this time! A few months passed scraping the bearings
off and on, being very careful to make sure the crank would run
true with the bore, and that the timing gears meshed properly. With
that done, I turned to my father-in-law again to make a pattern of
the big end bearing block and the local foundry cast one from
bronze. Then another friend machined it at work for me. The parts I
managed to make myself with my lathe were: inlet valve, cam
follower, governors and the usual bits and pieces. The governors
were made of scrap metal lying around. I think they suit the style
of the engine.

In the summer of 1998, while cutting new gaskets and fitting
each part as I went, it just dawned on me. There’s no reason I
can’t get a shot out of her. I tipped some petrol down the
inlet, hooked up a battery and coil, one pull on the flywheel and
she fired three shots! Man, what a rush! I went and dragged
everyone out to the workshop to witness the momentous occasion.
After I settled back to earth, I rigged up a temporary cooling tank
and hooked the L.P.G. up and ran her for 1 ? hours with no
problems.

Then I stripped the engine down again, got parts sandblasted,
polished the brass. My father-in-law made the skids. I painted the
parts, had a cooling tank made, had a go at the sign-writing on it
and she’s finished!

Her first outing is going to be the 2000 Edendale Crank Up.

I have to thank my engine buddies for all the help they provided
to get the old girl going again and all the friendly advice I
received from the Stationary Engine List.

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