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Antique Gas Engine Discussion

Hercules Gas Engine Works

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Old 10-16-2018, 10:53:54 PM
Slocan Kid Slocan Kid is offline
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Photo Hercules Gas Engine Works

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, 07:47:46 AM
ScooterBob ScooterBob is offline
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Default Re: Hercules Gas Engine Works

Awesome find.

Is this going to be like Dennis's story a couple months ago where we all will be checking Smokstak every 2 hours for the next 2 days.
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