The Story of the ‘Old 1928 Rumely Do-All Tractor’

By Staff
1 / 4
Old Rumely Do All when re-purchased July 1986.
2 / 4
1928 Rumely Do All in 1935 in Flandreau, South Dakota. James L. Keenan, then age 24 is on the tractor.
3 / 4
The 1928 tractor in May 1982.
4 / 4
The old Rumely Do All restored in 1986-87, as it looked May 31, 1987. James Keenan, now 76, on the tractor.

1724 No. 91 Street, Omaha, NE 68114

When I was farming near the town of Flandreau in Moody County,
South Dakota in the year of 1934 during the period of ‘draught
and depression’, I drove to Sioux Falls, South Dakota and
purchased a six year old used Rumely Do All tractor with two-row
mounted cultivator. I don not recall the exact cost but it was less
than $500.00.

I used the above tractor on over 200 acres of tillable farmland
through 1934 and 1935 and then quit farming and sold the above
tractor to my neighbor Walter Wiegel in the spring of 1936 for

The ‘old’ Rumely tractor was a 1928 Model convertible
type, either used as a three wheel row crop or a four wheel regular
type tractor. At the time of purchase the color was Allis-Chalmers
orange Waukesha four cylinder engine (model XA26, Serial number
136785) and I find it was manufactured in May 1928.

I moved away from South Dakota in 1936 and forgot about the old
tractor for a number of years, but later when visiting relatives an
old friend in the old hometown of Flandreau about the year of 1942,
I found the old Rumely abandoned in a grove of trees near where I
originally farmed east of Flandreau. The old tractor then belonged
to Rude Wiegel, the town’s most popular blacksmith and
machinist. I tried to buy the old tractor in 1942 and many times
thereafter but was told that Rude had intentions of restoring it
himself after his retirement and it was not for sale at any price.
It seems that Rude was so involved in serving his farm customers
with welding and repair service that time did not allow him to
restore it himself.

At a chance meeting with Rude Wiegel at an old grade school
reunion meeting in July of 1986, I inquired again about buying the
old Rumely and was told that he just may decide to sell it to me! A
few days later I just called on the phone from Omaha, Nebraska and
asked if he would help load the tractor when I came up to get it
and the answer was ‘yes’….I drove from Omaha to Sioux
Falls, South Dakota the next day and paid $800.00 for it-just twice
the price I originally sold it for fifty years earlier. The tractor
had not been used or run for 44 years and was in unusually rough
condition. The cultivator was missing as well as many of the parts
needed to convert it to a row crop tractor. Just to look at the old
tractor would indicate to most anyone that it could never be made
to run again. But having owned it and farmed with it over fifty
years earlier, I was determined that I could restore it to be like
original condition.

Starting from the front-the original Modine Radiator was rusted
out so bad that it could only be used as a pattern to start from
scratch and build a new one.

The hood was all rusted out, too, but had enough left to use as
a pattern to build a new one exactly like the original.

The engine locked up and would not turn over as the manifold had
been removed and that left several open valves exposed to the
elements and moisture. After removing the cylinder head, we found
that it apparently had been left with water in it and freezing had
left a large hole in one cylinder wall. Some of the valves were
rusted beyond any future use. However, the crankshaft and rod and
main bearings were in fair condition and could have been used as
they were if we had not decided to restore it to like-new

The transmission was completely taken apart and we found that
the main crossmember or bridge that retains the pinion shaft was
broken but the broken parts were there and we were able to have it
welded and considered to be good as new. All the transmission
bearings were eventually replaced-a number of them were not
manufactured in the last 15 years and were considered obsolete.
However with much continued searching, we were able to find all but
one bearing needed in our local area, the other bearing was found
as far ,away as San Francisco, California.

We found that because of the one broken cylinder wall we would
have to bore it out and fit it with a sleeve. We decided to have
all four cylinders restored and then complete it with new pistons
to fit.

The tractor was old enough that the crankshaft and rod bearing
were of babbitt rather than the present day replaceable inserts. So
it was determined best to send it to an old gentlemen in the state
of Missouri who specializes in that type of bearing replacement. He
happened to be about eight weeks behind in his work so we had a
slight delay in getting the engine rebuild completed.

There was some concern that we would not be able to find a head
and manifold gasket but after much searching we found one (the only
one)-a complete engine overhaul gasket set right in an Omaha area
Waukesha distributorship.

It was necessary to completely rebuild the universal joints that
allow the drive wheels to be steerable when used as a three wheeled

The brake shoe bands were entirely rusted out and could only be
used as a pattern for replacement. The brake drums, too, were
rusted deep enough that they had to be turned down and thicker
brake lining used.

The magneto, too, was missing but through connections while
attending the Old Thrasher’s Meeting at Mount Pleasant, Iowa,
we found a supplier for old magnetos and he had rebuilt Splitdorff,
the same as used on some of the earlier model tractors.

While at the Old Thrasher’s annual five day meeting, I also
was lucky enough to find (probably the only one in existence) a
like-new original Rumely Do All Tractor Manual. In addition we
found an original tractor promotional four page advertising sheet
(centerfold of a 1928 or 1929 magazine), not of course in original
color but apparently an artists’s conception of the color of
the tractor as promoted in 1928 or 1929. This allowed me to make a
final decision on exactly what color it should be when restored.
After much research and even contact with a lady who had worked in
the Rumely Manufacturing plant when this above tractor was
manufactured, it was determined that the original color was a
so-called pretty blue-gray-others recollect it as a gray-blue and
from an old gentleman that worked in the factory in 1928 who said
it was a dark gray with red hubcaps and red striped wheel, spokes.
We tried to use most of the color tips and believe we have
something very near to the original color. Since there are no
available decals for such an old tractor, my son Tom Keenan (who is
a sign painter by trade) was able from the literature available, to
paint the Rumely Do All name on both the radiator and rear of fuel
tank-an exact duplicate of the original identification.

Another item that was worn out to beyond a usable condition was
the power or input shaft that carries the clutch and clutch hub.
The shaft was built up and then planed down to the original splene
size, the clutch hub was also nearly gone and was repaired by using
a regular 13/8 power takeoff adapter. By
using the female end and fitting it into the clutch plate with a
little machining and tac welding, it turned out as well as a new
one that was not available.

The front wheels and axle that will be used when adapted to a
regular four wheel tractor were in better condition than the rest
of the tractor, however, new king pins were needed and because the
front wheels do not use regular replaceable bearings but were
instead poured babbit sleeves, those, too, had to be replaced with
bronze bushing fitted to the spindle and hub.

Because it is my intention to show this restored tractor at
shows and farm equipment type parades, the old wheel lugs were
removed and new hard rubber was applied to both drive wheels as
well as the single tail wheel. We used new strips of truck tire
recap rubber and bolted it onto the wheels with roundhead bolts
using many of the original holes used for lug mounting.

As stated earlier, all the needed operating controls used when
the Do All is used as a cultivator were not with the old tractor
and had to be made from my memory of fifty years ago and from
pictures available. Using various salvage items and some time, it
was all accomplished and appears to be very near like the original
cultivator version extensions controls.

Since the original Modine Radiator was rusted out so bad that it
could not be used, and because the old Waukesha Engine operates
without a water pump and requires a special radiator with baffel
plates in the top tank to aid in cooling (not available in present
day radiators that would fit other wise), we arranged with a local
Modine Radiator repair shop to build a new radiator-to be an exact
duplicate of the old radiator.

The Waukesha Engine rebuild was farmed out to a local machine
shop for reboring and new cylinder sleeve replacement. It was very
difficult and time consuming to find suitable new pistons that
would match the old ones but in due time we found that old
International Truck pistons were suitable and one new piston was
found in one place and three new were found in another, then of
course, they had to be fitted to the connecting rods by special
wrist pin bushings. With no recent experience, it was time
consuming to get the magneto installed properly with the correct
firing order and timing as necessary without a service manual of
any kind. The carburetor we are using is a Zenith Model A
carburetor and the govenor is the original that was still on the
old engine. After much trial and error and hand cranking, we had
the engine running just nine months after we started on the
restoration project. Having the rest of the transmission and
chassis completed earlier, it was now ready to drive for a road
test. We found however, that any transmission grease available
locally was not heavy enough to be contained in the transmission
and drive gear housings. After additional searching we located a
heavy grease (600-W), the same as used in the differential of the
old Model T Fords. This heavy grease, it appears, will serve quite
well with the type of oil seals used in the drive gear housing some
50 or 60 years ago. Another missing part was the extended or upper
portion of the original two stage air cleaner. However, through
advertising in the Small Engine Magazine we located a party in Iowa
that apparently specializes in building air cleaners for old
tractors and they were able to supply us an exact duplicate of the

After considerable research it appears that the reason for the
variance in original paint color, as suggested by some of the
senior persons that have suggested various different color schemes
as they knew or remembered them, is that color shades varied from
year to year and from batch to batch of paint. Apparently the
company also purchased some Battleship Steel Gray paint left over
from World War I that possibly helps to confirm the fact that one
of my paint advisors (that worked in the factory in 1928) stated
that the color was a dark gray with red spokes and red hubcaps as
she remembered.

We were fortunate enough to find that the Rumely Do All Tractor
Nebraska State Test was number 154 and was taken October 29 through
November 24, 1928. The actual tractor tested was serial number
136821-only 36 numbers from the above mentioned tractor. Some of
the following items are listed in the Nebraska State Test:

On a one hour rated load test at 1400 RPM crankshaft speed. It
tested 19.46 HP using 2.33 gallons of gasoline per hour.

Travel speeds are as follows: at 1400 RPM low gear, 2.625 miles
per hour; in high gear, 3.75 miles per hour; in reverse, 2.875
miles per hour.

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