Bigger is Better:


Merle Morse's Rumely Oil Pull, built to about 1/3 scale.

Content Tools

For something like 10 years, Merle Morse was perfectly happy building model engines. Then he discovered that bigger was better.

'I'm a metal shop instructor, and I like to build things,' he says. 'I'd been building models, but then one day somebody offered me a Stover; it really just fell into my lap.'

The 1920 3 hp Stover Model K came with an uncommon option: it was dual fuel, and throttle governed. It was meant to be started on gas and run on kerosene, but Merle now runs it solely on gas.

'Most were not dual fuel, and were probably hit-and-miss engines,' he says. Merle speculates that the throttling governor design provided a more steady power for a particular application, such as running a generator, for instance.

'But I have no idea what this one was used for,' he says. 'I think it was originally used in a mine in Arizona.'

The Stover wears two plates: one from the manufacturer in Freeport, Ill., and one from the vendor: 'Krakauer, Zora & Moye, successors agents, El Paso, Texas and Chihuahua, Mexico.' It gleams now, but didn't when Merle first got hold of it.

'It was solid rust,' he says, 'but mostly complete. It was not in as bad a shape as a lot of engines are, but I had to rebuild every piece.

'The paint job was probably as hard as anything on the restoration,' he says. 'This is just my opinion, but I think engines should look nice and shiny. I do try to duplicate the original colors.'

A later project was a 1919 3 hp Fairbanks Morse, also dual fuel, throttle governed. The two engines are similar in many ways, but the Fairbanks is lighter than the Stover, Merle says, and the Stover's flywheel, cylinder and hopper are all bigger.

'The Stover is a very, very smooth running engine because of the large flywheel,' he says, 'but the Fairbanks Morse probably puts out more horsepower.'

Merle opted to remove the Fairbank's subbase, building the gas tank down into the cart, which gives the engine a more low-slung appearance. (The Stover's fuel tank is also beneath the engine.)

The Stover and Fairbanks were good challenges, but Merle had another project in mind: a scale model Rumely Oil Pull.

'It's roughly 1/3 scale,' he says. 'I built it from a picture in a (Charles) Wendel book. I built it just big enough so I could sit on it.'

The project took the better part of a year, he says. The first engine he used was a single cylinder and proved inadequate.

'Plan B was to build an engine to fit the tractor,' he says. 'Most Rumelys are two cylinder, so I built a two cylinder engine.'

With four forward speeds and a single reverse, the Rumely is driven by two v-belts and a friction clutch. The four-speed was a definite improvement over the single speed, Merle says.

'It's been a multi-stage process,' he says. 'I had to rebuild it two or three times, and repainted it several years ago. I widened the wheels in the last year, and put on different cleats.'

It's a definite crowd pleaser.

'It's a toy; it has no useful function,' he says, 'but people on the line really like it. We have a four-wheel trailer made of oak that we've used to haul four people. Now that the kids are gone, we have a two-wheel trailer like a sulky, with one seat for my wife.'

For more information: Merle Morse, 6805 Neil Street, Riverside, CA 92504; (909) 687-7445. Email:

Website: steamngas.html