Mr. Monarch

By Staff
article image
Bruce Zumwalt poses next to his prized restoration project: a 1926 Monarch crawler tractor that was manufactured in Peoria. He brought the Monarch back from the Buckley (Michigan) Old Engine Show in August 1995.

News Editor 1492 East Walnut Street Watseka, Illinois 60970

Reprinted with permission from Iroquois County (Illinois)
Times-Republic, where it originally appeared in the January 5, 1996

Frequently a young boy never forgets this love affair with a
tractor. And so it is with Bruce Zumwalt of Sheldon.

His fondness for a powerful and sturdy machine known as the
Monarch crawler can be traced to the Great Depression years of
1928-30, when he recalls, ‘I was just a little boy’ and he
rode with Alvin Batt, who was then the Concord Township road
commissioner, as Batt used the Monarch to grade roads and shape
water-drain off ditches between Sheldon and Iroquois.

‘A lot of kids develop a love for certain types of
machinery, and for me, the Monarch was it,’ said Zumwalt.

So you can imagine his reaction when he first attended the
Buckley (Mich.) Old Engine Show on the third weekend of August in
1989 and discovered a Monarch tractor there.

‘This was the first year I had attended this show and I
could hardly believe my eyes,’ he said. ‘I had my camper
there, so I stayed for the full four or five days of the show and
asked people at the information booth if they could gather any
historical details concerning this Monarch crawler.’

Zumwalt subsequently learned that this tractor had sat at
Buckley in ‘junk row’ for more than 20 years after it had
been deposited there by its former owner, Albert Abacht of
Grayling, Michigan.

Located in the same junk row was a collection of other aging
surplus farm machinery; threshers, drills, planters, corn shellers
and other tractors.

The Monarch, covered by a tarp, had gone largely ignored since
the early 1970s, and in 1993, Leonard Clouse founder of the Buckley
show visited with Zumwalt at the show and told him, ‘If you
want to restore this tractor, take it home and may be when you have
it fixed up, you’ll want to bring it back and put it in our

Zumwalt said Clouse ‘is 83 years old and looks better than
most people at 60. He is truly a piece of living history. He and
his wife have a 1903 Reo car that he drove in the parade at Buckley
in 1994 when they were king and queen of the show.’

Zumwalt noted that Clouse has a lot of rare machinery, including
a hand-fed small threshing machine made by Case, a hand-fed
stone-crushing machine used to make stone for roads, and a 1910
tricycle Bull tractor that drives from its one large rear

Michigan farmer/trucker Ora Davis mounted the Monarch on a
flatbed trailer and hauled it eight hours south to Sheldon last

So thus this Monarch tractor has been rescued from a junk heap
and brought home not only to someone who loves it but back to
Illinois, where it was originally manufactured.

The Monarch Tractor Company was started in Watertown, Wisconsin,
in 1918, and after a brief move to Chicago, it relocated to
Springfield in 1924. Monarchs were manufactured there until 1928,
when the company was purchased by Allis-Chalmers.

Zumwalt’s Monarch was manufactured in Springfield in 1926;
it is officially known as the Monarch 50 crawler, signifying its
50-drawbar horsepower.

Zumwalt’s Monarch is relatively scarce, because only about
120 of these 50-horsepower crawlers were made. His Monarch is gray
in color, which also demonstrates its manufacture before the
Allis-Chalmers buyout.

After that purchase, Allis-Chalmers crawlers were done in the
popular Persian orange of other Allis-Chalmers tractors and
featured that company’s own engine.

‘My Monarch has the Stearns engine, which was an engine
adaptable to many vehicles, including tugboats, trucks, tractors,
cars, and stationary engines,’ said Zumwalt. ‘This was a
large and very reliable engine. It was manufactured in Ludington,
Michigan, by Stearns Engine Company.’

Zumwalt said he and one of his sons, John, will begin
restoration work on the Monarch this season. And almost
miraculously, despite spending more than two decades on a junk row,
it has no serious rust problem.

‘This is because the air in northern Michigan has a very low
humidity,’ he explained. ‘Machinery there doesn’t rust
out like it might here in Iroquois County.’

He added that the Monarch is also largely free of dents, which
can be another time-consuming headache for antique tractor

For Bruce and John Zumwalt, work on the Monarch will be one more
step in their restoration hobby: they are now completing work on an
International Harvester Model F-30.

‘Our main work on the Monarch will involve the engine and
the clutch,’ said Bruce. ‘I have already taken the spark
plugs out and squirted the engine with Kano oil, which I hope will
loosen things up.’

After letting the oil work on the engine parts, ‘we will
pull the heads in our shop, then remove the gaskets, springs and
all contents of the heads. We’ll check the condition of all the
valves, because the old valves may not be worth grinding and we may
have to get new valves.’

If new valves are needed, he’ll contact a supplier he knows
in Washington state. Contacting such long-distance suppliers is
nothing unusual for restoration buffs: Zumwalt once phoned seven
states while seeking parts for one of his tractor restoration

‘I hope I don’t have to make too many parts for this
Monarch myself, because this is very time-consuming,’ he

All properly working parts of the Monarch’s engine and
clutch will be cleaned and reinstalled.

‘We’ll want to be sure there are no cracks in the
head,’ Zumwalt pointed out. ‘It may have to be magnifluxed
to reveal any cracks and if we discover any, we’ll send the
head to Chapman Cylinder Head Company in Chapman for the necessary

He said the Monarch’s pistons will require a close
examination, ‘and it may need all new gaskets, and we may need
to make them ourselves.

‘We need to be sure all the pistons are working freely, and
we may need to take off the connecting rods and hammer down into
them and oil them to get them free,’ Zumwalt noted. ‘As for
the clutch, it should be easy to get at. It may be stuck, in which
case we’ll need a special oil to loosen it up.’

The pins, rollers, brakes and tracks on the Monarch are all in
good working condition, he reported.

‘When I got the Monarch, one of the arm rests was bent, but
it is now being repaired and painted at Ollie’s Machine Shop in
Sheldon,’ he added.

Operators of the Buckley Old Engine Show refer to Zumwalt as
‘Mr. Monarch.’ When he completes this restoration project,
the nickname may stick.

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