5231 Wasena Avenue Baltimore, Maryland 21225-3119
I always took great interest in the threshing runs of the first half of this century, and not just the machines, but in the way of life in rural America. Growing up in Washington County, Pennsylvania, I was lucky to get a part-time job working on a sawmill owned by Robert Livingstone. The mill was a 00 Frick. After school and on Saturdays I worked for Bob. He worked for one of the area steel mills and cut wood on the side. Sometimes I wonder if the sawmill did more to relieve stress than earn extra income for me. The big plus working for Bob was the Frick traction engine he kept in a shed by the sawmill. In September we would give the steam engine a good going over for the Hookstown Show and the Canfield, Ohio, Fair. When working on the engine, he would tell of the threshing rig that came to the farm he grew up on. At the Hookstown Show he would run a shingle mill with the Frick engine.
After the show one year, he took his engine to the Gillis farm in Beallsville, Pennsylvania, where we threshed their wheat. I could see why older people talk of the excitement they had as kids when the threshers came to do the threshing in their area. As a teenager in the 1970s with advanced airplanes, trucks and construction equipment, the sight, sound, and smell of the engine and thresher in the fall operation had me spellbound.
After I graduated from school I joined the Army and moved away from home in body but not in spirit. After my discharge, I ended up finding a job in Baltimore, Maryland, and marrying a girl from back home. Working and starting a family took most of my time for several years. I still went to shows when I could, especially the National Pike Steam and Gas Show at Brownsville, Pennsylvania. Bob Livingstone, the Gillis family and the Weaver family started the show on land donated by Bob Livingstone.
I bought a few gas engines and several tractors of row crop design. I would always end up leaving my engines sit when at the National Pike Show to help with the threshing and baling.
A little over two years ago, the Reynolds Museum of Alberta, Canada, had an ad in one of the hobby magazines and was selling many steam and gas tractors. The prices were in my range, so I called and talked to them. I was like a kid in a candy store trying to decide what tractor to buy. I always liked steam and still do, but I wasn't sure I had the money or knowledge to do a major boiler reconstruction. So, I narrowed it down to an Oil Pull and an Avery tractor. The museum sent pictures of both tractors to me and a description of their condition. The Rumely Oil Pull really caught my eye.
So, now I had to convince my wife what a great deal and investment the Oil Pull was. Luckily, she enjoys going to shows also, and she and my sister run the french-fry stand at the National Pike Show. She thought it would be a nice show piece and fun for the family. A deal was made with the museum and the Rumely was shipped 2,000 miles to its new home in Pennsylvania. When it arrived, I was in my glory! Looking at the Rumely, I saw it all restored and running around the National Pike grounds. My wife stayed closer to reality and saw a six-ton hunk of rust and broken parts.
My engine was Rumely Oil Pull #9497, a 16-30 Model H. The Model H was built from 1918-1924, with a total production of 13,074. At first I thought mine was a 1918, but after some research I found it to be a 1924. There are a total of 286 of these engines now registered.
I live in a townhouse in a Baltimore suburb, so the Rumely was delivered to my sister's home in rural Pennsylvania. That fall, when I got a chance to go home, I started taking the Rumely apart. The Western Canadian weather must be kind to iron. The tractor had a coat of surface rust with no pitting, so parts came off easily. By the end of October the weather was too cold to work on the tractor, so I covered it up for the winter. With the work I did, I came down to my wife's reality this is going to be a major job.
The Madison Kipp automatic oiler was frozen up, the magneto was off one of the lightweight Oil Pulls so it ran backwards, the governor's babbitt bearing was shot, the carburetor had a lot of cracks, the cylinder's oil jacket (the Oil Pulls use oil for cooling instead of water) had two long cracks down it, the valves were worn, and the fuel pumps were badly worn. The tractor did some hard pulling in its day. The bull gears were worn to the point where you had to be careful you didn't cut yourself on them.
The governor was sent to a machine shop to have new bronze bearings put in, in place of the worn babbitt. Eller's Engine Shop of Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania, reworked the head with new valve guides and springs. Bud Stambaugh of York, Pennsylvania, rebuilt the magneto, carburetor, and fuel pumps. He also gave me a lot of advice along the way. Allen Etzler of Frederick, Maryland, gave the Madison-Kipp oiler his best shot but had to declare it dead.
Paul Stoltzfus of New Holland, Pennsylvania, found a good set of bull gears, an oiler, and foot brake assembly for my Rumely. He also had several parts cast for me at the King Foundry. Mike Miller of Somerset, Pennsylvania, is in the process of making the air cleaner and tanks for me. The valve guides and rods were badly worn, so Chuck Smith made new guides and Ron Westfall made new rods.
The help I received from these men was great. A lot of work was done at no cost or at a very good rate. The best part of buying the Rumely was the friends I made. I have restored other tractors in the past, but never ran into a group as nice, helpful and honest as the Rumely guys. Hopefully, I can help them some way in the future.
Spring arrived and it was back to work. The tractor was totally torn down except for the main engine. The crank and rods seemed to be tight and in good shape so I left them alone. It seemed every part was off at some time or other in the past, and the original bolts must have been broken or lost. If the new bolt they used was too long, they would add washers in some places. Some bolts had washers an inch thick. If the bolts were really too long, a piece of pipe was cut and used as a spacer. I still can't see the reason for this.
In some corners of the tractor, the wheat chaff and grease made a brick-like mixture that had to be chiseled out. Being the engine was torn apart, I didn't want to sandblast and take a chance of ruining the few good parts I had, so I wire-wheeled the frame and engine, then sanded them with sand paper. This took a long time but worked well. The paint I used was Mack Truck standard green. The wooden roof on the cab was built by my stepfather, Bill Stimmel. It looked very close to the original.
The tractor was looking better with each trip home. A week before the National Pike Show, some members helped me put the rear drive wheels back on. Most of the engine parts weren't back from the shops yet, but we figured it looked good enough to show. At the show, the members who had seen what I had started with gave me a lot of compliments on how good it looked and how far I had come. The spectators, on the other hand, were more impressed with the decals. Jack Maple does a good job making Rumely decals. But I had to laugh at the time and effort in the painting and woodwork that wasn't even noticed.
Being the first Rumely Oil Pull to visit this part of the country in over 50 years, the comments that made me feel the best were by people who worked with the threshers of Washington County in the '30s. It seemed a lot of Oil Pulls were used in this part of the country, and seemed to make these men happy to see one of the old tractors again. With the show over, the Rumely was put away for another winter.
Last spring and summer were spent working on my Oil Pull, so that fall I spent my spare time going to shows and doing things with my family. Over the. winter, parts started coming back from the shops and some more were put in the shops for work. Spring came around and work on the Rumely started again. The engine came apart again so new gaskets and packing could be put in. The rebuilt parts were put in place.
The August show came and we got the Rumely to start. It had some problems but I was able to run it at the show. The governor needed work and one cylinder started with poor compression, but seeing the old Rumely come back to life made all the past work seem worthwhile and gave me encouragement to finish the job. Hopefully, the governor and cylinder will be fixed for the coming show.
In closing I, again, want to thank all the people who helped bring a piece of history back to life. I would like to add to the list: Richard Filby, my brother-in-law, who had to work around Rumely parts to work on his 1939 Chevy street rod, and Morris Binns, who put sheeting on the cab roof to protect the wood. I'm sad to say that Morris passed away this past December. He took a special interest in the Rumely and gave me a lot of local history of the Oil Pulls that worked the local farms.