Details and Descriptions of Vintage Tractors

Wilfred Koskela shares detailed descriptions of vintage tractors he has worked on or admired over the years.

1922 Rumely Oil Pull

Photo courtesy of Lloyd G. Howard, Macedon, New York.


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Let me share some descriptions of vintage tractors I have worked with or admired. The picture of the Wallis Bear tractor on the front cover of the July-August issue brought to my mind the improved later model of the Wallis-Bear sold by the J. I. Case Plow Works Co. in Minneapolis just after the World War I. It had the same Tee head motor but a different radiator and a hood over the engine. The frame was a long U shaped trough of heavy boiler plate extending from the front down back to the draw-bar making a very strong rigid frame and serving as the crankcase under the motor and as transmission case in the rear making it one of the first large tractors with enclosed gearing. It had the same internal tooth master gears with the pinions to the rear of the bull-wheel axle. The exhaust was piped to the master gears just where the pinions engaged the teeth. It blew away the grit and dust and left a coating of carbon as a dry lubricant on the teeth. Also there is less rubbing action to internal teeth compared to external teeth. Another good feature was the independent brakes inside the transmission for each bull wheel. That made for very good maneuverability as you could hold one bull wheel and turn the front wheel crossways and the tractor would turn pivoting on one wheel. The tractor would pull three 8-foot grain binders at a good clip and was good to maneuver the binders around corners in the field.

Sam "Snore" Schnur does much of his magic modelling work at the new lathe in corner of his garage workshop. For years he made small parts on tiny lathe he made, himself.

Some of the disadvantages were the Tee head motor having large pockets in the combustion chamber for the valves making for heat loss and excessive fuel consumption. The radiator was set too low with the top about even with the cylinder heads, so in going down hill it would blow the water out of the overflow tube leaving the cylinder heads dry to overheat. When the tractor came to level ground the water would rush into the overheated heads cracking them. The next bad feature was the rubber diaphragm in the water port acted on by the pressure from the water pump to regulate the speed thru connections to the throttle. The engine would act wild when steam pressure fluctuated in the water jacket after the water was blown out thru the overflow tube on downhill drive. The spokes in the bull-wheels were too light for the weight and would spring and break.

Using the Aultman-Taylor 30-60 for harvesting, we used to put a larger pinion on the crankshaft and a smaller gear on the countershaft to get a speed of over four miles an hour pulling five 8-foot grain binders following the Wallis Bear with its three binders around the fields. The horses pulling binders could not begin to keep up to us.

The different tractors had their own good and bad features. The Bates Steel Mule when you got into a hard pull and turned, the tractor would lay down on its side like a real mule. the 12-20 Emerson three wheeler did the same as it had only one bull wheel inside a rectangular channel iron frame with the drawbar back of the wheel. The frame would twist on side hills so the clutch would not release far enough to clear the flywheel as the transmission was a separate unit of the motor. You had to stop the motor to get the transmission out of gear and after the motor was started you couldn't release the clutch to get back into gear. You had to jack up the lower corner of the frame to line up the clutch to the motor so it would release. Wasn't that a lot of fun?

The 8-16 Mogul was supposed to do the work of eight horses so we hitched it to a three bottom plow which was a six horse load. It would boil the water in the cooling hopper and while going up hill, it would throw boiling hot water from the stack over your head. That was more than the horses would do.

The big four-cylinder Avery was one of the nicest balanced engines but oh-my, the amount of work it was if you wanted to take a piston out. That was an all day job to remove the exhaust and intake and water pipes and cylinder heads besides the fuel tank and hood over the engine on the later models and the camshaft and magneto and governor came off with the top of the crankcase. On the Aultman-Taylor 30-60 you could pull all four pistons out thru the inspection plates in the crankshaft in about 20 minutes without disturbing anything else.

One of the freaks was the Ford made in Minneapolis (not Ford Motor Co). It had two bull wheels in front and a small caster wheel in rear under the seat. No one could steer that thing when pulling a load and if you tried to back up it would throw the rear up as the pinions climbed up on the bull gears. I pitied any man who had one.

I always admired the early model 30-60 Rumely Oil-Pull for its power to pull a big load on good footing. In threshing it was there with steam. That was a real tractor to burn kerosene being the cooling was automatically regulated by the exhaust draft thru the radiator according to the load. Also the water feed was automatically regulated to the load by the suction in the intake mixer. When idling it would not take in water and the light exhaust would make little draft thru the radiator, thereby keeping even temperature automatically under all loads.

For a gasoline tractor the Aultman-Taylor 30-60 was one of the best if not the very best. With its big wheels and light weight it would roll along easily in the soft fields and stand up very well. A ten bottom John Deere engine plow was a nice load for it and you could plow deep. The old model square open radiator would mix dust into the water and fill the water jacket under the cylinders but the later model closed round tubular radiator worked very well. The governor action was very good but if you pulled the gas lever wide open the rod linkage to the throttle would flop open over center and the engine would run wild. You had to watch that and I don't know why they didn't make a stop against that link.

One thing I do not know is what the weight or heavier part is for on the flywheel of the 22-45 Old Reliable Hart-Parr tractors. The pistons and connecting rods balance one another and it seems to me that the weight on one side of the flywheel shakes the whole tractor. Will someone please tell me what that weight is there for as I would like to know that.

This is a 15-30 Rumely Oil Pull owned by Clifford Peterson, Grass Lake, Michigan, at Hastings, Michigan, reunion in 1964.

1922 Rumely Oil Pull owned by Glen Orbacker of Newark, New York — taken at the Fairville Steam-up of the N.Y. State Steam Engine Association, May 23, 1965.