12882 Mackinaw Road, Perrysburg, New York 14129
This story started several years ago when a good friend and fledgling engine collector, Art Crouse, was taking a load of scrap to the local junkyard. While there he saw what appeared to be an engine unceremoniously dumped on top of a large pile of scrap iron. Sensing that the engine's feelings had been hurt enough, Art offered the crane operator a few dollars to reposition it to the back of his now empty truck. After checking out and paying for his new find, he headed home wondering what to do with this new acquisition.
Art was relatively new to engine collecting and this one was missing many parts and in sad shape. When he got home he called to tell me about it. Art said he thought it might be an air compressor and it had Rumsey, Ripley, New York, cast in it. He said it was in such bad shape that it would make a nice ornament to plant flowers in.
Well, now my curiosity was really stirred up. I had limited knowledge of two early manufacturers of gas engines in Ripley, one being Charles Rumsey and the other being Alfred Huntington. Both engines are extremely scarce.
A fast trip down to Art's confirmed my suspicions. Art was gone but his wife, Linda, told me to look at it anyway. It was indeed what was left of a Ripley Rumsey gas engine, but looked like someone tried to convert it to an air compressor. It was missing the flywheels, governor, headplug, mixer, ignitor, intake valve housing, crankguard, throttle plates, cam gear with shaft and lobe, and all related linkages. Amazingly, the main bearing caps were unbolted from the engine but laid down in the crankshaft belly. This would be the perfect project to test my sanity. I had an over-restored engine at home that Art was interested in, and after some bartering the Rumsey was mine.
Upon getting it home, I called Dale Nickerson, a man whose name occasionally graces the pages of GEM. He has one of the remaining Ripley Rumseys and I knew he would be interested in hearing about it. As expected, he was very excited. He told me that he heard of someone who might have flywheels for this engine. Well, now it was my turn to get excited! The next night I called Roger Hayden of Springville and he said he had two flywheels that might fit this engine. I took my Rumsey up to Roger's and the flywheels fit perfectly. They had a raised number 5 cast on them, as did Dale's, and the governor weights were intact. A few more parts were brought out and they fit also. They were the governor collar, cam gear, camshaft and lobe, and headplug. I purchased these and asked Roger how he came by them.
It seemed that a couple of years earlier Roger and a friend helped out an elderly gentleman from Hamburg, New York, by cutting and hauling firewood. They became friends and Roger helped him out when he could. This fellow was the type who didn't want to be bothered by anyone and made his intentions known when people stopped by trying to buy old iron, as later stories from engine collectors brought out. He was also a sort of pack rat as he had accumulated quite a number of engines, tractors, cars, and motorcycles over the years.
As his health failed he went into a nursing home and Roger would go visit him there. It was there that Roger asked about the engines and tractors and the gentleman agreed to sell them. After a while, Roger and his friend were given the rest as the old gentleman said he really didn't need the money anymore. Shortly after that, he died. Relatives took over the estate and boarded up the building that the Rumsey parts were in, but not before Roger had found them. It was when looking for the rest of the engine that he was told that no further hauling would be allowed. Roger obliged and left, never finding the rest.
I got the names of the relatives and met them at the estate location. I was taken to the building the Rumsey was in and it was still littered with debris. The relatives had the engine a long time hoping to find the rest of the parts. Failing that, they gave up and took it in for scrap. It was then by coincidence that Art went to the junkyard and found it. With the engine and parts in hand, I went to Dale's to see what was still missing. The crankshaft guard, ignitor, throttle plates, intake valve housing, mixer, and some linkage were still missing. With a grin Dale said he had something on a shelf that might work as the valve housing. He reached up and pulled down the original housing! It seemed that Roger gave it to another man who then gave it to Dale. Dale graciously gave me the housing and loaned me his crankshaft guard, mixer and throttle plates as patterns to get my needed parts cast.
The crankshaft was welded and machined by Joe Sykes. Joe Detrick of East Concord made a new camshaft and bushed the engine housing for it. He made a new crankshaft timing gear and machined out the mixer.
The ignition was a version of the wipe-spark system. It consists of a stationary electrode made of spring steel and a round hub with five evenly spaced electrodes that wipe against the stationary one. Everytime the engine fires, the hub turns one-fifth of a revolution bringing up the next electrode. The hub was machined from a piece of cast iron and drill rod was used for the electrodes. It is connected to a long shaft driven by a five sided Geneva index that in turn is driven by a pin from the side of the cam lobe. This strange ignition system was probably meant to be long lived, but I tend to think that it's complexity undermined any benefit it was meant to achieve. It is interesting to note that a picture from a Friendship Rumsey catalog showed a very similar engine using a sideshaft with a conventional ignitor in the head, simplifying things greatly.
The gas charge enters the engine by means of a dual fuel mixer. It will burn gasoline or natural gas. The fuel enters when a valve in the mixer opens on the suction stroke, mixing fuel with air. It then passes through a matched set of throttle plates with tear drop openings. One plate is stationary in the intake housing while one rotates only far enough to align the openings. Throttle response is controlled by the amount of openings presented. The moveable plate is pinned to a long shaft controlled by the governor arm. The mixture then passes to the main intake valve, also opened by suction, and enters the combustion chamber to be ignited.
The head plug (this engine is headless) had been altered to contain an intake valve for air compressor service. It is not known if this engine was actually fully converted and used as such. I removed the valve and made pieces to weld in the hole and machined it smooth. A new intake valve was made for the intake housing, and the exhaust valve was reground and reseated as it was in good shape.
The main and rod bearings were in very good shape so they were reshimmed. I poured new babbitt for the linkage shafts, and a reamer was used to give proper clearance. The rings were reused as they appeared to have been replaced before.
The three copper gaskets on the front end were reused. They were for the head plug, intake valve housing and the exhaust valve access cover. I heated them until they just started to turn red and cooled them in water. This softened them, allowing them to seal more effectively.
The timing gears did not show any marks so it was the usual matter of assembly and checking for proper valve operation. After this, I prick-punched the gears for future reference.
The engine itself had a fair amount of green paint on it before I started. I lightly wet-sanded a spot and coated it with mineral spirits. I had different shades of green paint on the shelf so I sprayed test samples by the prepared spot. Krylon Hunter Green matched very well so it was chosen. I don't necessarily recommend using spray cans of paint but this project started in bits and pieces so it adapted well to this. I used a total of twenty cans of green and I never counted the cans of primer.
Prior to painting, the engine pieces were either sandblasted or cleaned with a hand grinder with a wire brush. During this process, the number 30 was discovered in most all the pieces, proving that all the parts found were from this engine. It also showed that this engine was most likely the thirtieth off the production line.
The skids were sawn from a white ash tree that grew on my cousin Jerry Hartloff's homestead in Chautauqua County. It wouldn't do to put foreign wood under such an engine. The log was cut into lumber by Brian Crouse, who owns a sawmill. The lumber was then run through a planer prior to assembly. Several coats of urethane finished a fine looking set of skids.
The engine was slid on skids and bolted down. I had an old ammunition box that served as a battery box. An aluminum tank was donated by 'Red' Ball of Wellsville. Red, until recently, owned the only other Ripley Rumsey besides Dale's and mine. I made a cooling cone and plumbed it with brass pipe. A brass waterpump driven by a flat belt was installed to increase circulation.
After everything was tightened and adjusted, it was time to try and start it. On May 14, 1996, 1 put gas in the primer cup on the mixer. I cranked and cranked and cranked with no luck. This wasn't quite what I had expected. I refilled the primer cup and tried again.
This time I got one pop out of it, but no additional coaxing would spring it to life. After wearing myself out, I gave up for the evening. The next evening was a repeat of the first. Finally getting fed up, I hooked up the mixer for propane. On the night of the sixteenth, I got several pops from this hookup. I renewed my attack with a vengeance. I played with the spring tension on the valves, adjusting the gas cock a little at a time, and before long it began to run. The neighbors must have wondered why a grown man was dancing around whooping and hollering! Mr. Rumsey himself would have been amused. After a little more adjusting it ran smooth and steady. I was very pleased with the results, but have not tried using gasoline since.
I took the engine to several shows this summer, with Coolspring Power Museum being the first. It was received well at all of them and I enjoyed showing it.
At the 1996 Chautauqua County Antique Equipment Association's Show in Stockton, New York, I met a fellow named Lewis Barnes who told me his grandfather actually worked at the Rumsey plant in Ripley. Lew's mother's maiden name is Virginia Rumsey, granddaughter of Charles Rumsey. Arthur Rumsey, Virginia's father, was taken out of school by Charles at age fourteen to work in the factory. Charles would be Lew's great-grandfather. Lew has compiled quite a bit of family history, which he copied and sent to me. Here is some information on the Rumsey Manufacturing Company:
The Rumsey Manufacturing Company was established in 1902 in Ripley, New York, by Charles B. Rumsey. This Chautauqua County firm manufactured gas and gasoline engines downstairs, while cotton dresses and aprons were reportedly made upstairs. An excerpt from a March 5, 1903 copy of the Ripley Review states, 'The Rumsey Manufacturing Company has their temporary plant in full running order and have already completed one or more engines. Six men are employed and we understand that they have orders for all the work they can turn out for some time to come. This will indicate that the venture will be a paying one from the start.' This paying venture came to an abrupt end in 1906 when a fire destroyed the building and Charles moved to Friendship, New York. The building was later rebuilt and sold to Alfred Huntington in 1911. He also manufactured gasoline engines.
Charles B. Rumsey was born in Dry-den, New York in 1857. During his life he manufactured gasoline engines in St. Johnsville, Binghamton, Ripley, and Friendship, all in New York State. He never personally owned his businesses but had financial backers. He also had many inventions but sold them for small sums to people who reaped the financial gains from them. His later years were spent in Tampa and Sarasota, Florida, making fountains, pools, and ornamental cement figures. He died there in 1950, just five years before I was born.
This was my toughest project to date. I would like to say that it was a true pleasure, but in truth it was sometimes downright aggravating. I didn't keep track of the hours spent on this engine but there were a lot of them. It was a very interesting experience and time well spent. I encourage all of you with project engines to dive in whole-hog before you come to your senses.
It is not known how many engines were built in Ripley, but the low serial numbers suggest not many. It is also the only style and horsepower (suspected to be 5 HP because of the raised 5 cast in some pieces) to have surfaced from there, and no proof exists of any other. I would enjoy hearing from anyone owning or knowing about Rumsey gas engines of any origins. Please feel free to drop a line.
I would like to thank Art Crouse for selling me this engine; Roger for the parts; and Dale Nickerson for his help and encouragement to get the engine back to original condition. Also thanks to Jerry for the local log, Brian for sawing it, and 'Red' for the cooling tank. Joe Detrick's machining skills were appreciated as was the information sent by Lewis Barnes. If I've left anyone out, rest assured your help will be remembered.