Sparta Engine: 40 Years an Anchor

The amazing rescue and restoration of a 1912 2 hp Sparta engine from the bottom of a lake.

| June/July 2017

  • John Asmus' 1912 Sparta engine.
    Photo by John Asmus
  • The Sparta as it appeared when first discovered in the lake.
    Photo by John Asmus
  • Mark Joachimiak watches as the winch line starts pulling the Sparta.
    Photo by John Asmus
  • The Sparta emerges, heading to dry land after 40-plus years under water.
    Photo by John Asmus
  • The Sparta after power washing to clean off barnacles and mud.
    Photo by John Asmus
  • Amazingly, the crankshaft separated from the engine base fairly easily, and there was shiny metal visible on the crank journals.
    Photo by John Asmus
  • Removing the cylinder head showed the piston to be at almost top dead center.
    Photo by John Asmus
  • John's dad, William, checking measurements before making the final cut with the boring bar.
    Photo by John Asmus
  • The engine back together and ready to run.
    Photo by John Asmus
  • John left barnacle shells on the hopper as a reminder of the engine's history.
    Photo by John Asmus
  • The almost completed engine during reassembly.
    Photo by John Asmus
  • The Sparta running. It's almost impossible to believe this is the same engine John pulled from the lake!
    Photo by John Asmus
  • A closer look at the Sparta's rust-encrusted flywheel and pulley.
    Photo by John Asmus

1912 2 hp Sparta engine

Manufacturer: Holm's Machine Manufacturing Co., Sparta, MI
Year: Circa 1912
Serial Number: NA
Horsepower: 2 hp @ 450rpm
Bore & stroke: 4in x 6in
Flywheel: 22-1/4in
Weight: 550lb
Cooling: Hopper
Ignition: Igniter, coil and battery
Governing: Hit-and-miss


It was getting late and I was busy unloading our vehicles, but they said they were sure about it. So, I put my goggles on and jumped off the raft. Imagine my surprise: “It” was an engine, and it appeared to be complete with the mixer, muffler and igniter!

Ever since I was a kid, our family vacations have usually brought us to the Finger Lakes region of New York state. This was the third year we had rented this particular house on Canandaigua Lake, the fourth largest of the Finger Lakes, and our 2014 vacation started off like many others.



We had helped out at our local Wyoming County (Pike) Fair the week before our trip to the lake, mostly with the antique and farm displays. On the day we arrived at the lake, my daughters and stepson headed to the lake while my wife, parents and I unloaded the vehicles. The kids went swimming out to the swim platform, which was about 100 feet from shore and in about 10 feet of water. As we were unpacking for the week, I heard my oldest daughter, Bella, shout for me to come out right away, that she found an engine “like the ones at Pike fair” – at the bottom of the lake.

I was skeptical – to say the least – and went about unpacking. By now, her younger sister and older stepbrother were also calling me out. The lake was clearer than in years past, and they were using goggles and swimming around the chain that held the platform to the lake bottom. They were quite adamant, so I went for a swim, and indeed, there was an engine.