The Story of the 'Old 1928 Rumely Do-All Tractor'

Old Rumely

Old Rumely Do All when re-purchased July 1986.

Content Tools

1724 No. 91 Street, Omaha, NE 68114

When I was farming near the town of Flandreau in Moody County, South Dakota in the year of 1934 during the period of 'draught and depression', I drove to Sioux Falls, South Dakota and purchased a six year old used Rumely Do All tractor with two-row mounted cultivator. I don not recall the exact cost but it was less than $500.00.

I used the above tractor on over 200 acres of tillable farmland through 1934 and 1935 and then quit farming and sold the above tractor to my neighbor Walter Wiegel in the spring of 1936 for $400.00.

The 'old' Rumely tractor was a 1928 Model convertible type, either used as a three wheel row crop or a four wheel regular type tractor. At the time of purchase the color was Allis-Chalmers orange Waukesha four cylinder engine (model XA26, Serial number 136785) and I find it was manufactured in May 1928.

I moved away from South Dakota in 1936 and forgot about the old tractor for a number of years, but later when visiting relatives an old friend in the old hometown of Flandreau about the year of 1942, I found the old Rumely abandoned in a grove of trees near where I originally farmed east of Flandreau. The old tractor then belonged to Rude Wiegel, the town's most popular blacksmith and machinist. I tried to buy the old tractor in 1942 and many times thereafter but was told that Rude had intentions of restoring it himself after his retirement and it was not for sale at any price. It seems that Rude was so involved in serving his farm customers with welding and repair service that time did not allow him to restore it himself.

At a chance meeting with Rude Wiegel at an old grade school reunion meeting in July of 1986, I inquired again about buying the old Rumely and was told that he just may decide to sell it to me! A few days later I just called on the phone from Omaha, Nebraska and asked if he would help load the tractor when I came up to get it and the answer was 'yes'....I drove from Omaha to Sioux Falls, South Dakota the next day and paid $800.00 for it-just twice the price I originally sold it for fifty years earlier. The tractor had not been used or run for 44 years and was in unusually rough condition. The cultivator was missing as well as many of the parts needed to convert it to a row crop tractor. Just to look at the old tractor would indicate to most anyone that it could never be made to run again. But having owned it and farmed with it over fifty years earlier, I was determined that I could restore it to be like original condition.

Starting from the front-the original Modine Radiator was rusted out so bad that it could only be used as a pattern to start from scratch and build a new one.

The hood was all rusted out, too, but had enough left to use as a pattern to build a new one exactly like the original.

The engine locked up and would not turn over as the manifold had been removed and that left several open valves exposed to the elements and moisture. After removing the cylinder head, we found that it apparently had been left with water in it and freezing had left a large hole in one cylinder wall. Some of the valves were rusted beyond any future use. However, the crankshaft and rod and main bearings were in fair condition and could have been used as they were if we had not decided to restore it to like-new condition.

The transmission was completely taken apart and we found that the main crossmember or bridge that retains the pinion shaft was broken but the broken parts were there and we were able to have it welded and considered to be good as new. All the transmission bearings were eventually replaced-a number of them were not manufactured in the last 15 years and were considered obsolete. However with much continued searching, we were able to find all but one bearing needed in our local area, the other bearing was found as far ,away as San Francisco, California.

We found that because of the one broken cylinder wall we would have to bore it out and fit it with a sleeve. We decided to have all four cylinders restored and then complete it with new pistons to fit.

The tractor was old enough that the crankshaft and rod bearing were of babbitt rather than the present day replaceable inserts. So it was determined best to send it to an old gentlemen in the state of Missouri who specializes in that type of bearing replacement. He happened to be about eight weeks behind in his work so we had a slight delay in getting the engine rebuild completed.

There was some concern that we would not be able to find a head and manifold gasket but after much searching we found one (the only one)-a complete engine overhaul gasket set right in an Omaha area Waukesha distributorship.

It was necessary to completely rebuild the universal joints that allow the drive wheels to be steerable when used as a three wheeled tractor.

The brake shoe bands were entirely rusted out and could only be used as a pattern for replacement. The brake drums, too, were rusted deep enough that they had to be turned down and thicker brake lining used.

The magneto, too, was missing but through connections while attending the Old Thrasher's Meeting at Mount Pleasant, Iowa, we found a supplier for old magnetos and he had rebuilt Splitdorff, the same as used on some of the earlier model tractors.

While at the Old Thrasher's annual five day meeting, I also was lucky enough to find (probably the only one in existence) a like-new original Rumely Do All Tractor Manual. In addition we found an original tractor promotional four page advertising sheet (centerfold of a 1928 or 1929 magazine), not of course in original color but apparently an artists's conception of the color of the tractor as promoted in 1928 or 1929. This allowed me to make a final decision on exactly what color it should be when restored. After much research and even contact with a lady who had worked in the Rumely Manufacturing plant when this above tractor was manufactured, it was determined that the original color was a so-called pretty blue-gray-others recollect it as a gray-blue and from an old gentleman that worked in the factory in 1928 who said it was a dark gray with red hubcaps and red striped wheel, spokes. We tried to use most of the color tips and believe we have something very near to the original color. Since there are no available decals for such an old tractor, my son Tom Keenan (who is a sign painter by trade) was able from the literature available, to paint the Rumely Do All name on both the radiator and rear of fuel tank-an exact duplicate of the original identification.

Another item that was worn out to beyond a usable condition was the power or input shaft that carries the clutch and clutch hub. The shaft was built up and then planed down to the original splene size, the clutch hub was also nearly gone and was repaired by using a regular 13/8 power takeoff adapter. By using the female end and fitting it into the clutch plate with a little machining and tac welding, it turned out as well as a new one that was not available.

The front wheels and axle that will be used when adapted to a regular four wheel tractor were in better condition than the rest of the tractor, however, new king pins were needed and because the front wheels do not use regular replaceable bearings but were instead poured babbit sleeves, those, too, had to be replaced with bronze bushing fitted to the spindle and hub.

Because it is my intention to show this restored tractor at shows and farm equipment type parades, the old wheel lugs were removed and new hard rubber was applied to both drive wheels as well as the single tail wheel. We used new strips of truck tire recap rubber and bolted it onto the wheels with roundhead bolts using many of the original holes used for lug mounting.

As stated earlier, all the needed operating controls used when the Do All is used as a cultivator were not with the old tractor and had to be made from my memory of fifty years ago and from pictures available. Using various salvage items and some time, it was all accomplished and appears to be very near like the original cultivator version extensions controls.

Since the original Modine Radiator was rusted out so bad that it could not be used, and because the old Waukesha Engine operates without a water pump and requires a special radiator with baffel plates in the top tank to aid in cooling (not available in present day radiators that would fit other wise), we arranged with a local Modine Radiator repair shop to build a new radiator-to be an exact duplicate of the old radiator.

The Waukesha Engine rebuild was farmed out to a local machine shop for reboring and new cylinder sleeve replacement. It was very difficult and time consuming to find suitable new pistons that would match the old ones but in due time we found that old International Truck pistons were suitable and one new piston was found in one place and three new were found in another, then of course, they had to be fitted to the connecting rods by special wrist pin bushings. With no recent experience, it was time consuming to get the magneto installed properly with the correct firing order and timing as necessary without a service manual of any kind. The carburetor we are using is a Zenith Model A carburetor and the govenor is the original that was still on the old engine. After much trial and error and hand cranking, we had the engine running just nine months after we started on the restoration project. Having the rest of the transmission and chassis completed earlier, it was now ready to drive for a road test. We found however, that any transmission grease available locally was not heavy enough to be contained in the transmission and drive gear housings. After additional searching we located a heavy grease (600-W), the same as used in the differential of the old Model T Fords. This heavy grease, it appears, will serve quite well with the type of oil seals used in the drive gear housing some 50 or 60 years ago. Another missing part was the extended or upper portion of the original two stage air cleaner. However, through advertising in the Small Engine Magazine we located a party in Iowa that apparently specializes in building air cleaners for old tractors and they were able to supply us an exact duplicate of the original.

After considerable research it appears that the reason for the variance in original paint color, as suggested by some of the senior persons that have suggested various different color schemes as they knew or remembered them, is that color shades varied from year to year and from batch to batch of paint. Apparently the company also purchased some Battleship Steel Gray paint left over from World War I that possibly helps to confirm the fact that one of my paint advisors (that worked in the factory in 1928) stated that the color was a dark gray with red spokes and red hubcaps as she remembered.

We were fortunate enough to find that the Rumely Do All Tractor Nebraska State Test was number 154 and was taken October 29 through November 24, 1928. The actual tractor tested was serial number 136821-only 36 numbers from the above mentioned tractor. Some of the following items are listed in the Nebraska State Test:

On a one hour rated load test at 1400 RPM crankshaft speed. It tested 19.46 HP using 2.33 gallons of gasoline per hour.

Travel speeds are as follows: at 1400 RPM low gear, 2.625 miles per hour; in high gear, 3.75 miles per hour; in reverse, 2.875 miles per hour.