The Very Rough Rumsey

By Staff
1 / 6
#2: The many missing parts.
2 / 6
#3: Shows the brass water pump added for increased circulation. The flat belt has been removed for better visibility.
3 / 6
#1: Me contemplating the mess I got into.
4 / 6
5 / 6
#4 & #5: Different views showing the ignition and throttle control side of the engine.
6 / 6
#6: Full view of the Rumsey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gas Engine Magazine
Gas Engine Magazine
Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines