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Thread: Summer Camp At Fort Yarocki

  1. #1
    AdminGuy Guest

    Default Summer Camp At Fort Yarocki

    SUMMER CAMP AT FORT YAROCKI
    By Larry Barnes

    In January of this year, the board members of the Antique Motorcycle Club of America, (AMCA) contracted me to build a library of antique motorcycle literature for use by the AMCA’s current and future members.

    This library was not to be built of bricks and mortar, but was to be built on a computer, to be accessed “online” through the Internet via the AMCA’s website. While I have just a basic knowledge of computers and the Internet, I figured that if a person with only a basic computer skills built the virtual library, then people like me, and most of us over-50 guys, could actually figure out how to use it!

    After a month or so of studying computer programs and shopping for equipment, I was ready to scan some documents. I started with some of Rocky Halter’s Indian parts manuals to hone my skills. I learned that antique motorcycle documents came in all types of shapes & sizes, plus they can be very fragile, although the paper stock used back in those days seems to be pretty durable.

    The big moment came when word reached me that the renowned George Yarocki would make his vast literature collection available to me to scan for the AMCA. Now if you have been into Indians for any length of time, you have no doubt heard of George Yarocki. At 80-years young, he is undoubtedly the world’s most knowledgeable Indian 101 Scout restoration expert and machinist.

    George has rebuilt countless 101’s over the years and, along with his dear wife “Millie” in his sidecar, has probably ridden more miles on them than all the rest of us…combined!



    George L. Yarocki

    So when George offered his literature collection to the AMCA for scanning, I jumped at the opportunity to go to Torrington, CT, where he lives. So along with my wife, Debbie, our Doberman, “Lady,” and the AMCA’s computer equipment, we headed out to see George in our RV. (And, oh yes, I took along the 101 that I inherited from my Dad years ago, just in case George had any extra time.)

    Torrington, CT, founded in the 1700’s, sits in the foothills of the Berkshire mountains, so it’s postcard beautiful. George’s shop, or as it is fondly called, “Fort Yarocki,” is an old dairy creamery that he converted to machine shop some 30 years ago. While he sold off his machine shop business several years ago, he kept half of the buildings for his Indian workshop. And it really feels like an Indian “workshop,” not a retail store. There’s welding equipment, lathes, sandblast cabinets and paint booths everywhere. Not to mention dozens of Indian frames and parts for older Indians stacked everywhere.
    While it took us days just to figure out how to get around “Fort Yarocki,” it didn’t take long for me to think of the place as being in heaven for an Indian motorcycle fan. It’s absolutely amazing! Nothing fancy. Just very real. Like when George is going to work on a bike for a customer, he fires up a tow motor and lifts you and the bike up onto a flat roof where you push the bike off the skid and then into a special upstairs room!


    Careful there, boys!

    And no fancy hydraulic lifts in there! Just block & tackle chain hoists to lift your bike onto one of George’s three 2’ x 8’ wood work tables. And on the other tables sat not one, not two, but three Indian Powerplus machines under various stages of reconstruction. George has been diligently researching Indian’s Powerplus models history for the AMCA judges, and had chalk-labeled many of the parts on all three bikes with the model year that it belongs on.

  2. #2
    AdminGuy Guest

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    Part II

    Although I didn’t press him for shop time, George took an interest in the history of my Dad’s 101 and I’m delighted to say that one evening my beloved 101 went onto George’s “Number One” table, a spot that other 101 owners have been waiting several years to experience! He quickly diagnosed that my magneto was dead and he would attack it the next day.


    My Bike On Bench #1

    Inside George’s office is a veritable museum of antique motorcycle literature and photographs; each one carefully hand-labeled by year, make, model and description. This guy is a fanatic for organization! Every drawer, shelf, and box in every one of George’s buildings is hand-labeled. As George says, “a drawer isn’t worth anything unless it’s got a label.”

    As Debbie and I began to scan George’s literature collection, only then did we realize how massive and significant his collection really is. It starts with original 1900 factory brochures, drawings and specifications, and goes up thru the mid 1950’s. Virtually thousands of pages to be scanned about almost any motorcycle ever made in the United States, not just Indian, but exotic brands like the Flying Merkel, Yale, Marsh, Cushman, and yes, even Harley Davidson.

    This stuff is priceless and the most valuable pieces are locked into a giant antique safe each night to protect against fire or theft. And the whole compound is enclosed by chain-link, topped by barbed wire, hence the name “Fort Yarocki.”

    So here we are, sitting at Fort Yarocki, unfolding delicate pieces of paper and placing them face down on the scanner; page after page. While this may sound boring to some, to me it is great fun. It’s absolutely amazing to read the detail that is contained in those pages! Do you need to see the inside of 1915 engine before you tear it apart? Do you want to know what year had what part or accessory on it? Or do you want to know how to ride, maintain and work on an antique motorcycle? It’s all there.

    George built his collection over the past 30 years so that people like you and me, antique motorcycle enthusiasts, could actually find what we need, when we need it. And, as we all know, finding correct information about a bike can be a very difficult and time consuming exercise. George, his wife Millie, and his sister, Ruth Deming, should have a special place reserved for them in motorcycling’s Hall of Fame. For many years they have meticulously catalogued, copied, and sent requested documents to motorcycle restorers all over the world. And at a price that barely covered their costs, let alone the value of the information contained.

    George likes to tell how he never sold any originals.…“Just copies” said George. “Except that time when Harley Davidson wanted to buy a piece from me that had been signed by Arthur Davidson. I needed a new car, so I sold that one,” laughs George. “But I still can still legally make you a copy from a copy that I made of it,” he added.

    But now days, it makes more sense to scan the material digitally and “ship it” via the Internet. Then anyone with a computer can download the information they need. And the Yarocki’s will not have to unfold, put face down on a copy machine, copy, and “snail mail” these rare documents anymore. They can be preserved for future generations and can be easily accessed by anybody in the world.

    We started with his “Sales” literature category that was produced by the various factories. This category includes photos and specifications. Then we worked on his ”Rider Instruction” category in which the factories and various authors told you how to ride, maintain and overhaul a machine.

    All this will be available to all AMCA members online at a reasonable cost. It will be organized and searchable by year, make, model and description…at least what we’ve gotten scanned so far. By George’s own estimation, it would take us a year, full-time, to scan his entire collection.

    So for now, we’re working from the perspective of “what documents would the most AMCA members want and need first?” There will be many priorities to be set over the upcoming months and if you need information about a particular year, make and model of a machine, let me know.

    George would like to “retire” from the literature part of his business within a few years, sell it to a collector or a museum, and then concentrate on fixing bikes the rest of his days, doing what he seems to enjoy most.



    And speaking of fixing bikes, when George gave the signal, it was time for us to go work on my Dad’s Indian. Let me re-phrase that...go watch George work on my Dad’s Indian. He’s the maestro and you are there to assist and learn. (Or fetch a wrench, or wipe a spill.) I spent the better part of two days hanging over his shoulder watching his deft fingers rebuild a Splitdorf magneto from the ground up, including replacing all bearings and wires, measuring and shimming for proper shaft clearances, and recharging the magnets. Although George performs almost all the work himself, he does it in a warm teaching manner so that in the event the customer ever has a breakdown, he will be able to make repairs himself the next time. While I’ll never be able to re-build a magneto like him, I now have the knowledge about what could go wrong and how to fix it.


    Hands of the master,
    recharging the magnets

    After completing repairs and reassembling the magneto, he tested it with his own amp measuring device that runs the mag at a speed equivalent to 50 MPH for an hour. After that, if the testing spark plugs won’t start a paper towel on fire, it goes back to the bench for more tuning. I’m happy to say my revitalized magneto passed with flying colors!

    Speaking of colors, did you know a blue spark is not the hottest spark? It’s a reddish-yellow spark. And a Yarocki secret is that your points contact base is of utmost importance. They need to be absolutely flat, so as much contact can be made as possible between their surfaces. You need to “true” your points with a flat surface grinder, if you’ve got one. And 101 Scout points are very rare and expensive because they are made out of platinum. After the magneto was re-installed in my bike, the timing checked, the head de-carboned and bolted back on, the oil pump was checked and adjusted, it was time again for the tow motor. The bike (and me) were lowered to the ground very gently. After just a few kicks, it roared to life. With minimal carburetor tuning it just sat there and purred. It hadn’t run that well in, oh, say, 75 years or so. So now that I had a good running Indian motorcycle in the foothills of Connecticut, each work day began and ended with a run to a small café somewhere. I rode along with another 1929 Indian rider, Tim Raindle, who is a traveling vintage bike enthusiast from the United Kingdom. Raindle discovered Fort Yarocki a couple months ago and didn’t leave until his visa expired in late July. The learning experience he gained by working with George is priceless. And it is clear that Millie and George enjoyed Tim’s company immensely.

    Finally, while George is one of the nicest people you’ll ever met, he cannot maintain an open door policy for unlimited visitors and phone calls. He works on bikes only by appointment, and usually only with the owner looking over his shoulder to learn. His mission is to pass along as much information and techniques about antique motorcycles as possible…in the hours he has available before “Seinfeld” comes on TV at 6:30 each night. Then he goes online to do more motorcycle research. The man never stops!


    Mission is a success!

  3. #3
    c.o. Guest

    Thumbs up

    Great news and a cool story!!! George is a treasure for sure.....

  4. #4
    petri Guest

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    What a wonderful inspiring and interesting story. It's great to know there are still a few people out there like that. People like that are what make the vintage world a nice place to be.

    The digital library will be a wonderful benefit to the antique motorcycle community. Frankly I don't see how all of the literature out there can be scanned in a lifetime. I would think some volunteer help is in order. This is really going to be a huge effort. Perhaps this could be arranged amongst those of us that have scanners on our computers. A lot of organization will be necessary to get this job done.

    Howard

  5. #5
    Buzz K Guest

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    George is one of the true treasures we have in the antique American motorcycle scene. Knowledgable, friendly and honest. What more can we ask for?

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