Riverbed Rumelys

30 HP Rumelys return from a watery grave


| April 2007



TheenginesfoundinJamesRiver.jpg

Above: The engines as found in the James River. The cast-base stationary engine is in front and the engine removed from a tractor is in back.

In Virginia, the historic James River flows east to the Chesapeake Bay from the valley. Daily tidal flow extends up to Richmond going past historic plantations, which date from colonial America. Much of this area is still used for farming and logging.

Just east of Richmond was Meadowville Farm. A large part of this farm, an area roughly half a mile wide by a mile and a half long, created a huge bend in the river. In the early 1900s, the owners decided that this lowland was needed for farming, even though it was caught in the daily tidal water rise.

Their solution was to install two huge pumps to drain the land, powered by 30 HP M. Rumely engines. These engines were mounted on cement piers so they were high enough to miss the tidal rise.

One engine was apparently bought new from the M. Rumely Co., LaPorte, Ind., and stands on its own huge cast base, which has the Rumely name on it. It is currently thought to be the only Rumely engine that has this base. The engine has a 56-by-4-inch flywheel, a 30-by-9-1/2-inch clutch pulley and 10-by-12-inch bore and stroke.

The other engine is the same except that it has no base. It was taken from a Rumely tractor and still has the original radiator, which is in need of much repair.

Engine enthusiast Leo Korb saw the engines some 18 years ago, but did not seriously consider doing anything with them because erosion had placed their cement pillars out in the water, making rescue quite difficult. Late in 2004, he reconsidered their rescue, and this became a real adventure.