Dean Tapley’s Big 6 HP Sandwich gas engine.
Manufacturer: Sandwich Mfg. Co., Sandwich, Ill.
Year: Circa 1919
Around 13 years ago I was showing a few of my engines at the Lincoln County Old Threshers show just west of Elsberry, Mo. A friend of mine, Jack Folta from Laddonia, Mo., who owns a large collection of engines, was showing some of his as he did every year. When I passed by his display I noticed in the back of his van trailer an engine that really caught my eye. I asked Jack if I could go inside and take a closer look.
It was a beautifully restored 1-1/2 HP Sandwich engine made in Sandwich, Ill. I have seen a lot of engines in the past but nothing stood out like this one. I asked him why such a beautiful engine was still in his trailer and not out on display with the rest. He said that on the way to the show it fell over, scratching the side of the water hopper, and he was so disgusted he just decided to leave it in the trailer. After looking at this engine a long time, I knew I had to have one like it some day.
The first chance
About a year later there was a public sale in Moscow Mills, Mo., not too far from where I live, with a lot of gas engines for sale. I got real excited when I saw that two of them were Sandwich engines: a 4 HP and a Big 6 HP both restored.
After waiting for the day of the sale, I could feel my heart begin to beat loudly in anticipation when the two were ready to be auctioned off. Then, I noticed a well-dressed gentleman, who appeared to have expensive jewelry, sitting in a chair right by them. I knew then I was probably in trouble. It didn’t take long for me to get outbid by him, and he wound up purchasing and taking them to Iowa to display in his museum. Now I wanted one more than ever.
Close but not quite
Another year passed and I found a sale advertised in Gas Engine Magazine in Peoria, Ill., in October 1997 with a lot of engines for sale but only one Sandwich – a 1-1/2 HP just like the one I saw in Jack Folta’s van trailer. I was determined this time to buy it.
After getting to the sale, I found the Sandwich and it was in poor condition. A mouse nest was in the gas tank, a bird nest in the water hopper, and it looked like it had been outside for a long time. Even though the engine looked well worn, all the parts were there including the original cart and Webster magneto. A total restoration would be required but what the heck, it was the Sandwich I had been looking for! I finally purchased my first Sandwich that day. After about six months of hard work, I had it up and running and it looked as good as new.
Closer than ever
Ten years later, in 2007, I found a 4 HP Sandwich for sale in Indiana by Steve Hoskins. I thought, here is the engine I missed out on years earlier. A deal was struck and I was on my way to pick it up. It’s amazing how far a guy will go to pick up a piece of old iron that he really wants!
I was glad to get it home so I could restore it. It turned out to be a very nice engine and runs excellently. I was also able to purchase an original cart from him for this engine a few months later. Then I started wishing I could find the Big 6 HP Sandwich that I missed out on at that auction in Missouri.
The dream comes true
Last year, I located a 1-1/4 HP Sandwich Cub and a 2-1/2 HP engine that Matt Weismiller in Sandwich, Ill., was willing to sell me. We agreed on a price and a week later I was off to Sandwich.
After getting there and loading the two engines, I noticed he had a Big 6 HP Sandwich (they also made a Light 6 HP) with the original horse-drawn cart, but the engine was apart and some restoration had been started. He said the Big 6 was not for sale, much to my disappointment.
Anyway, that was all I could afford that day and I believe a divorce would have been in order if I had brought it home with the other two! Women just don’t seem to see the value in these old engines like us men folk.
Matt was nice enough to take me on a tour to see some of the remaining buildings where the Sandwich engines were built. It took up a whole city block. That really made my day.
While restoring the Cub and the 2-1/2 HP, I kept thinking about the Big 6. I just couldn’t get it out of my mind. I e-mailed Matt about every month asking that if he ever decided to sell it, would he give me first chance.
Finally, after much persistence on my part, Matt agreed to let me have it. He said he started restoring it five years earlier but never seemed to have time to finish it. Now, I had my dream engine. I put countless hours in to it reassembling and making a few new parts to make this one the “Pride of my Collection.” And regarding the detailing, I have to thank Linda Stahlschmidt for the fantastic job with pinstriping and lettering.
This is a very big engine for its horsepower size. With the cart, it weighs more than 2,090 pounds. The flywheels are 35 inches in diameter with a 2-1/2-inch face, and it has a maximum speed of 350 RPM. I am not sure of the year it was built because most of the records were purposefully destroyed in a fire.
When I am no longer able to show my engines I plan to hand them over to my two sons who are now getting the gas engine fever. I hope they will appreciate and take good care of them as much as I have.
Contact Dean Tapley at 1446 Browns Mill Rd., Elsberry, MO 63343 • (573) 898-2800 • firstname.lastname@example.org