My Mail Order Rumely

By Staff
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The first run of the newly restored 16-30 Model H. The smoke is due to a bad scar on one of the cylinders (now being fixed). I'm at left in the Oil Pull shirt, Barry Gillis next to me, and his brother Lee Gillis at right.
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Arriving at the National Pike Grounds, Brownsville, Pa., after a 2,000+ mile trip.
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The first inspection. That's me hiding at left, with my wife Lynda and my brother-in-law Rick Filby helping me look over my new project.
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Showing Oil Pull governor at top of crankcase. Note worn pinion gears this tractor did some pulling in its day!
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My son, Dylan, painting on the 16-30 wheels.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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