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Antique Gas Engine Discussion

Hercules Gas Engine Works Find

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Old 10-16-2018, 10:33:22 PM
Slocan Kid Slocan Kid is online now
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Default Hercules Gas Engine Works Find

Well, boys (and any interested girls!), I thought I’d share another recovery and restoration story from the Silvery Slocan area in the Great White North...

Over the years I’ve done my fair share of studying, researching and reading a ton of old mining reports and turn of the century newspapers on microfilm and, more recently, scouring the ‘net for items of historical interest. Of course, of particular interest were the ads expounding the virtues of Hercules vertical engines that I ran across in one of the local small town mining newspapers from the late 1890s, particularly so as there just so happens to be a Hercules horizontal hoisting engine on public display in the same small mining town, which happens to be near where I live.

Over the years I’ve hiked into a lot of mines in the area, and had many times seen the tell tale and disheartening signs that some sort of early day gas engine was there at one time or another but had obviously been scrapped out for the war drives or salvaged for beer money in the ‘40s or ‘50s when Jeeps and Cats became popular and everyone was all over these mountains.

Given the above, and ever on the calculated hunt for that next elusive engine, I suspected my odds of finding a Hercules gas engine somewhere in this Silvery Slocan region of BC were relatively good, especially considering how many years I’ve been scouring these mountains looking for cast iron and the like. Surely I was living right and good and it was going to happen just one more time...

One day nigh on 25 years ago I was talking with my bush partner, Gary, and he happened to mention that his old grand dad had seen some machinery laying about at one particular mine site while he was hiking in the mountains in the 1950s. I filed that bit of information away in the old brain bank and made a point to investigate the matter within the year.

On a clear, hot summer day in 1994 I hiked to the mine Gary’s grand dad had mentioned, hoping to find some inkling that his recollection was accurate. It was a long, arduous hike across steep scree slopes, sweeping granite basins and alpine tundra and finally, a couple hours in, I was able to pick up the trail to the upper portal of the mine in question, located at about 7500 ft.

I was beat tired and bone dry and it seemed to me that the last 50 ft of the trail to the flat where the camp was all those many years ago would just have to wait while I stopped to rest and quench my thirst with the nearest snow melt.

As I surveyed the situation I saw a belt driven jaw crusher off to the right hand side of the flat and, instantly rejuvenated, made my way up to the flat where I saw lots of debris scattered everywhere.

My pulse started to race and my heart pounded when I saw an early gas engine cylinder laying in the gravel, surrounded by a connecting rod with big brass bearings and an ignitor and the cylinder head. The cylinder looked familiar but I just couldn’t place it at the time.

My excitement waned as I realized there was no crank, no flywheels, no crank case and no hope of enough engine to restore.

Still, it occurred to me that the connecting rod would look nice hanging on the shop wall so I hefted it into my pack, and took a bunch of photos of the site for posterity’s sake.

When one last stubborn excavation of the flat failed to yield even the smallest trinket, I resignedly made my way to the lower portal of the mine, anticipating yet another debris field filled with possibility.

I ventured my way down the trail about 300 ft in elevation to a bench that had been cut into the granite wall to create a 50 ft pathway between the lower portal and the mine’s blacksmith shop.

Metal artifacts were scattered everywhere at the blacksmith shop - rock drills, tools, hammers, ore car bodies and parts, fittings, valves, aerial tramway parts and the like. The debris field went on and on, until one particular piece of machinery caught my eye.

It looked to be some kind of compressor or pneumatic winch. I made my way around the back of this hulk of cast iron to take a closer look. I stopped breathing when I saw “Hercules Gas Engine Works SF Cal” cast in big, crisp letters right into the base of that hulk.

Holy Hell! The lights went on and I realized with a start that this must be the crank case for the cylinder at the upper portal!

Turns out, it was, indeed, the crank case that went with the cylinder and the connecting rod with the big brass bearings at the upper portal. The engine had served its purpose and long before it was fashionable, the blacksmith had repurposed the crank case and used it as a base for an Anaconda air hoist cylinder and crank to run his line shaft for the mine.

I was in my glory, on top of a mountain, discovering my next great find, imagining all sorts of possibilities. It just doesn’t get better than this, I thought, as I stood atop the debris field, with the sun on my face and scanned the site further.

As I pondered the situation, thoughts swirled - where’s the rest of the engine? crank, no flywheels, no it do-able...? who’s gonna help? much does this thing weigh, anyway? and this is a no-go zone for god’s sake... is it really worth the risk...?

A plan starts to be formulated, and then, the hard work begins...

Stay tuned for part two: plan and recovery.
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Old 10-17-2018, 02:04:03 PM
Kevin O. Pulver Kevin O. Pulver is offline
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Thanks kid, I'm excited to see part 2!
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Old 10-17-2018, 07:25:17 PM
Gilbert_Bates Gilbert_Bates is offline
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Default Re: Hercules Gas Engine Works Find

You say it's a 'no-go zone' and is it 'worth the risk'. What do you mean, are you talking the 'historical artifacts' thing?
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Old 10-20-2018, 09:54:38 PM
Ihcguy Ihcguy is offline
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Default Re: Hercules Gas Engine Works Find

Great story Kid cant wait for part two, I think this is a least a four part adventure. A snow slide took out that camp , back in the day and killed many men too and maybe the Hercules?
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Old 10-20-2018, 10:26:09 PM
MFaris MFaris is offline
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Default Re: Hercules Gas Engine Works Find

That almost sounds like you have inside knowledge of the situation.....
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Old 10-23-2018, 12:47:36 AM
Slocan Kid Slocan Kid is online now
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Default Hercules Gas Engine Works Find, PART 2: Plan and Recovery

Hercules Gas Engine Works Find, Part 2: Plan and Recovery

And so, the plan for the recovery went something like this: use some kind of contraption to get the crank, cylinder and parts to a lower elevation closer to the main hiking traiI, stow them neatly in the bushes adjacent to the trail and then return to move them down the mountain, under cover of dark.

The plan being one thing, the actual recovery was another...

Bright and early I got up to the site and thought I would just put the cylinder into my hunting pack. I’ve done 75lb and 85lb packs out of the bush, but 150lbs pack was just a little more than I was able to manage.

So back to the contraption. I had a wheelbarrow type thing made up of aluminum to keep the weight down and readily disassembled and got it up to the site. So I figured I’d take the lightest part first, and tied on the cylinder and started trying to roll it across the tundra sideways and it didn’t quite work. The ground was too rough, too many chuckholes and nuggets in the way, so what I ended up doing was rolling the cylinder sideways across the tundra until I could get to a snow slide path that would get me straight down on top of the main trail.

Same with the crank case, took a couple of days to get it about 1500ft across and then straight down the hillside to the trail. Safely hidden by the trail, several days later I got hold of my old pal, Gary, and I enlisted his help getting the cylinder and the crank case down the main trail to the parking lot where the truck was, about a mile and a half.

This area is a huckleberry feeding ground for grizzlies so one has to keep one’s eyes peeled. With flashlight in hand and crankcase tied down to the contraption we made our way down the trail, trying to hold back the 225lb crankcase while Gary tried to stay ahead of me with the flashlight. We ran off the trail a couple of times and had to wrestle it all back up but we finally made it down, which going downhill, only took about half an hour. No grizzlies.

We went back up the same night and did the same for the cylinder.

After a few days, my knee started making a funny clicking noise every time I went up the stairs to my house. Turned out I did a little damage trying to slow that crank case down and had a little corrective knee surgery down the road a bit. Why is it that the things I love the most, hurt the most...?

Possession being 9/10ths of the law, once the cylinder and crank case were in the back of the truck, she was as good as mine and we made for home.

Next up: Part 3: Restoration
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Old 10-23-2018, 09:03:59 AM
Lester Bowman Lester Bowman is offline
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Default Re: Hercules Gas Engine Works Find

Did you haul out the steam cylinder and crank ?
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Old 11-03-2018, 10:17:18 PM
Ihcguy Ihcguy is offline
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Default Re: Hercules Gas Engine Works Find, PART 2: Plan and Recovery

Cant wait, for part three .
Thanks Kid
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Old 11-03-2018, 11:52:00 PM
Slocan Kid Slocan Kid is online now
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Default Re: Hercules Gas Engine Works Find, PART 2: Plan and Recovery

It's coming Ed...still rearranging the new office desk. Trying for Sunday night!
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Old 11-04-2018, 11:03:58 PM
Slocan Kid Slocan Kid is online now
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Default Re: Hercules Gas Engine Works Find

Hercules Gas Engine, Part 3: Restoration

Time for the next instalment...late due to domestic responsibilities, my apologies.

So enough of findin’ and a-gittin,’ now we get into fixin’

There were three large issues that had to be solved: damage to the block by the blacksmith, flywheels having to be replicated and crankshaft having to be fabricated, among numerous other smaller problems.

Starting with the block, as you can see in the photos, the blacksmith chiselled the cylinder mounting deck down and also bored some holes horizontally through the block to secure his Anaconda air hoist cylinder. My first thought was to machine the damaged area square and flat and then make a steel wedge and mechanically secure it to the newly machined deck, then mill that down to the appropriate dimensions, allowing the cylinder to mate to the block.

So we started the machining on that and soon enough I had second thoughts about it because no matter how well it was mechanically secured, it was still going to be two different pieces of metal secured together with blind studs and then sandwiched between the block and the cylinder flange.

Secondary to that, was that one of the large, horizontal holes that the blacksmith had drilled through the base, took out half the threads for one of the hold down bolts for the cylinder and I wasn’t sure how we were going to get that put right. I wondered if the damaged deck could be built up with cast iron, slightly oversize, and then it could be milled down to match the opposite side.

I wasn’t sure if “Cast Iron Mike” was still doing his gas cast iron welding down near Everett, WA so I phoned a friend of mine down in Oregon and he said that Mike was still welding but that he didn’t have any internet so I’d have to give him a call and send him some pictures.

For you fellas who might not know, Cast Iron Mike is famous up and down the West Coast for his ability to gas weld some of the most busted up and fragmented engine parts. I got hold of Mike and sent him the pics and he said “yeah, we can do that,” so I loaded up the block and drove it down to Everett.

Even though Mike is somewhere in his 70s, he still had a full shop and was showing me some Mercer cylinders that he was going to fix up. I figured if somebody with a Mercer was okay with Mike fixing their stuff, then I sure as hell wasn’t going to worry about my stuff in his hands.

It took a while but I got the block back, Mike was kind enough to bring it along to Spokane as he was dropping off some other parts for another party, which saved me about 16 hours of driving.

Next move was get the block down to the machinist, Marvin, just outside of Vancouver BC. Now Marv’s the same guy that was running the shop that did all the machining for the Weber, and he’s a fellow engine collector, so he knows a thing or two and the block was in good hands.

The machining was fairly straight forward but time consuming (set up). We had a couple of cast iron threaded plugs made up to fill the horizontal holes that the blacksmith had made and they were Loctited and driven in hard. Then on the hole that had half the threads drilled off it, we were able to pick up the existing threads, mill and then tap right through the new horizontal pin so that we had 100% contact for the cylinder hold-down bolt.

You can see in the one picture how the blacksmith chiseled and knocked off any protrusions on the side of the block, too. We had to deal with them at a later date.

That pretty much took care of the block. Next it was on to the crankshaft. Stay tuned for that part of the story...
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