The Swamp Sparta

By Staff
1 / 3
2 / 3
3 / 3

1810 Point of Rocks Road, Chester, VA 23831

In September 1992, at the Virginia State Fair, a fellow came by
my engine display and told me about a big motor that had once run a
mill that belonged to his uncle. In late October 1992, I decided to
try to find the engine. I walked for two hours around a swamp,
through briars and thick brush to get to the engine. When I finally
found it, the sun was almost down, but the engine was a pretty
sight. It was a big, 10 horsepower Sparta Economy! It was getting
dark, so rather than trek two hours back around the swamp in
unfamiliar woods, I waded back out through the swamp up to my
waist.

The next April, I went back with a friend, Dwight Vivas, to get
another look at the Sparta engine. I still hadn’t decided
whether to get the engine, or how I could remove it from where it
was sitting on a little hill in the middle of the swamp. After this
second look, though, I decided the engine was worth the effort. Now
all we had to do was figure out how to get this much iron out of
the swamp!!

The next trip in was to break the engine down so it could be
moved across the swamp. Dwight and I took the cylinder and
connecting rod off in one section, and the base and flywheels made
another section. After removing the cylinder, we found the whole
base was filled with honeycomb. It was old, and thankfully, it was
also empty!

Now I had to put a crew together to execute the plan for
retrieval of the Sparta! The crew members were Jim and Flyn Windle,
Clyde Adams, Bud Holmes, Edward ‘Whit’ Whitman, Dwight
Vivas, David Frazier, Dave Ferguson, and myself.

Whit brought an old International Cub tractor, and I brought
over 200 feet of steel cable, come-alongs, and snatch block. We met
at about 8:00 a.m. on a hot morning in June 1993, to go get the big
swamp Sparta. The temperature was in the 90s and the humidity was
about in the 90s, too!

We hiked about mile through the brush down to the swamp,
everybody carrying tools and helping to cut a path for the tractor.
We strung the cable between two trees across the swamp on either
side, and Clyde, Bud, Dave, and I waded across the swamp. We used
the come-alongs to pull the engine cylinder up to the cable, and
hooked it to the snatch block. It pulled across hanging from the
cable just fine. Then we went back for the base and the flywheels,
which turned out to be a slight problem. We again had to pull the
base up to the cable with the come-alongs. We hooked the base and
flywheel section up to the cable and started it across. As we got
to the opposite shore, the cable broke just short of the bank,
dropping the engine in the swamp and losing the snatch block! Now
we said a prayer, and a few other choice words, and backed up the
tractor as close to the bank as the brush would allow. We used the
tractor and the come along to pull the engine out of the swamp.

Once we got it out, we turned the engine and base upside down on
its flywheels, so we could pull it behind the tractor like a
trailer. We pulled the base up the hill, fighting the brush,
mosquitoes, poison ivy, stifling heat, and the tractor all the way.
Then, Whit went back for the cylinder while the rest of us gathered
up the tools and loaded the engine on my pickup truck. Despite the
heat, we managed to get the engine out and loaded in only four
hours.

The same gentleman who first told me about the engine said he
thought he could find the hopper, which was missing when I found
the engine. I found the hopper later, a few miles down the road it
was being used as a flower pot!

Five weeks later the engine was running, and I invited all the
crew members back to watch it go for the first time. The swamp
Sparta went to its first show at Somerset, Virginia, in August,
1993, where it ran like new! I’m glad I decided to go ahead and
get the engine, because there are only three of the 10 HP Spart as
known to exist.

Gas Engine Magazine
Gas Engine Magazine
Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines