New Jersey to Florida to Maine Maytag

By Staff
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Restored Maytag washing machine.
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Washing machine and engine before restoration with electric motor still installed.
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Maytag engine before restoration.

HC 32, Box 319 Bath, Maine 04530

This is a ‘short’ story about a Maytag washing machine
restoration project that I began in late November 1994, to be
completed by Christmas Day 1994 as a gift to my grandparents. I
found out that, as in all restoration projects, it turned out to be
much more work than I had anticipated. My father, mother and my
VERY understanding wife, Carolyn, came to my rescue in order to
help my dream become a reality. I’ll begin with a little
history on how we became interested in gas engines in the first
place.

In 1962 Russell Meixell found a Witte hit-and-miss kerosene
(walking beam headless style) engine with the original shipping tag
still attached. It had been used a little, but was almost new. He
bought it and thus a series of things began that got his son, his
grand sons, and his great-grandsons all hooked on gas engines.
Katherine, his wife of 65 years, is just as well known at engine
shows as he is. At the time I began writing this story, Russell
(‘Pappy’) was 84 and Katherine (‘Grammy’) was 82.
Now, 33 years later, Russell has a very respectable collection of
over 100 engines, many of which my father Robert, my brother Bob,
and I found for him all over the country. My father has about the
same number, and Bob and I have a few interesting machines. Russell
is an active member of Blue Mountain Antique Gas and Steam Engine
Association and a member of Maine Antique Power Association. My
father is one of the founders of MAPA, which participates annually
at the Owls Head Transportation Museum Rally in August. Russell,
Katherine and Robert have displayed engines at every one of these
rallies. 1994 was the twentieth one!

That is a very brief history. You all know how much time, effort
and fun go into 30-plus years of collecting. Now on to the actual
project:

While visiting my sister in New Jersey, I noticed an old Maytag
wringer washing machine sitting outside of an antique shop near her
home. I stopped and bought it for a very reasonable price. Much to
my wife’s dismay, my prize ended up in the back of the van all
the way to Florida and then back to my home in Maine! Two years ago
I had brought home a Maytag twin cylinder engine from my
grandfather’s to repair for him. It occurred to me on the way
home from Florida that I might install the Maytag twin on the
washing machine, and give them to Pappy as a unit. The washing
machine was currently equipped with the original electric
motor.

I decided that I should try to deter mine which engine was the
correct one for the washing machine I had purchased, so I looked in
the Gas Engine Magazine classified ads and contacted Mr. L. G.
Simpson of Simpson Motors, 3306 Amherst Pike, Madison Heights,
Virginia 24572. Mr. Simpson through out my entire project turned
out to be a wealth of information and a very patient supplier of
parts and advice to a novice Maytag restorer. Many thanks to him
for his help

Mr. Simpson led me to Schaffer’s Appliances, 1054 North
Hampton Street, Easton, Pennsylvania. Ron Schaffer was able to date
my washing machine between 1927 and 1930 and also told me that the
engine that really belonged on this machine was a long frame base,
single cylinder engine and not the twin that Pappy had given me to
fix. Now what do I do?

I remembered that on one of my visits to Pappy’s when I was
a teenager that we had fooled around with a one cylinder Maytag and
had it running, but it wouldn’t start hot. This was twenty
years ago! My father happened to be visiting Pappy while I was
restoring this washing machine, so I asked him to locate this
single cylinder Maytag and bring it back to Maine with him on the
premise that I needed to look at it to fix an engine of my own. It
turned out that the engine my father brought up for me to ‘look
at’ was a long frame single of the correct era.

With the correct engine on hand the restoration process began
with taking everything apart on both the washing machine and the
engine. Parts were cleaned with a parts washer and for the rusted
cast iron parts of the washing machine I used as fine grade of
Black Beauty sandblasting grit to prepare for painting. On the
engine Mr. Simpson recommended walnut shell as the abrasive,
because it does no damage to the machined surfaces of the engine. I
had a hard time locating crushed walnut shell abrasive, but after
some phone calls to industrial companies in my area, I was able to
locate jet engine grade walnut shell blast media. I constructed a
homemade blast booth for the walnut shell, which consisted of a
large wooden box with holes cut in it for my arms to fit through
and two Plexiglas windows to look through and shine light through.
This homemade box worked very well to clean the entire engine
although, if the engine had been rusty, the walnut shell would have
had a hard time removing the rust.

All of the engine parts, paint, decals were obtained from
Simpson Motors. The original type muffler was purchased from
Bob’s Small Engine Repair, 505 5th Avenue, Marion, Iowa 52302.
Paint for the washing machine was purchased from Unique Wood and
Metal Products, 114 Roy Avenue, Rochelle, Illinois 61068. After a
very painstaking process, washing machine decals were found, and
purchased from Dave Davis at Davis Advertising Company, P.O. Box
865, Newton, Iowa 50208. Davis Advertising has the original decal
cards from, the Maytag Company and was able to supply me with’
the absolute correct decals for this washer. I would recommend them
to anyone wishing to accomplish a correct restoration of their
washer.

We actually managed to finish the whole machine in time for me
to take it to Pennsylvania and present it to my grandparents on the
day after Christmas. I went to the local Maytag appliance dealer
and managed to get a box from a new washing machine. I then mounted
the machine on a homemade wooden base to make it more stable for
transport and fastened the box on top of it. It looked as if there
was just a new Maytag washer in the trailer, but weren’t they
surprised when we took the box off! They really liked the machine
and my parents and I are very proud of the results of our
efforts.

I must say here that my grandparents are the most wonderful
people that I have ever known. They grew up in the era when ice
boxes were just that. I have spent many an hour as a young adult
listening to them tell about the times when canning vegetables and
salting away meats were the only methods people had for preserving
food. These are becoming lost arts, and it is humbling for me to
think about how we lived before the modern conveniences that we
have grown so accustomed to. My father was in the Navy for much of
my younger years and ended up stationed in Maine for much of my
life. He also decided to settle here after his retirement.
Throughout all this time, when-ever we headed for Pennsylvania, it
was referred to as ‘going home,’ and I still feel that way
to this day, and I’m 38 years old. Russell and Katherine are
the finest, most loving, caring, knowledge-able people I would ever
hope to know. I think you older folks know what I’m trying to
say. I have the greatest respect for my family and the trials and
tribulations that they have endured.

Some of my fondest memories are of the days in the 1960s when my
grandfather was visiting us in Maine and we’d go for a ride
with Dad and Pappy in the ’57 Chevy pickup and brother Bob and
me in the back. Bob and I could seemingly ‘smell’ engines.
We’d bang on the roof and yell ‘Engine!’ Dad would stop
and we’d inquire. On one day we spotted 20 engines and bought
nine of them. I’m sad to say that I think those days are gone
forever. There are still engines out there, but not in the
quantities I remember as a kid! Happy hunting!

Writing this story began in early 1995 and has taken some time
for me to finally complete it. Since I started, we lost my
grandmother. Katherine passed away on July 28, 1995. She will be
greatly missed by all of us.

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