Last Rites for Rynda

Steam Engine Joe's Collection is Auctioned as a Large Crowd Turns out to Remember a Pioneer

75 HP Case

This 75 HP Case never made it out of the trees. Despite that, it sold for $10,500.

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The Rynda auction crowd was quite numerous, which made it difficult for the auctioneers taking bids in the red-and-white building just noticeable at the back of the crowd.

The legendary collection of 'Steam Engine Joe' Rynda and his son, Leonard, was auctioned May 7-8, 2004, in Montgomery, Minn. Countless farm implements, trucks, cars, tractors and spare parts were sold, but the majority of the auction's packed crowd came to see and bid on Joe's steam engine collection. Most of Joe's steam engines were sold on Saturday, with bidding beginning at 10:30 a.m. and ending about 2 p.m. The wind was blowing hard that day, but it didn't stop many collectors of steam and old iron from taking away some rare and unique steam engines as well as paying their respects to a steam pioneer.

A big 30 HP Huber steam traction engine stands alone among the trees at the Rynda estate. This Huber sold for $14,000 during the auction.

Joe's 'bone yard' has held many old steam engines and other curiosities for years, and dozens of these artifacts were found peeking out of every corner of his yard - some having sat there for at least 40 years. To ready some of the old iron for auction, all the machinery and steam engines were pulled out of the ground except two: a Case buried in the trees and a Rumely buried in the mud almost to the rear hubs. Everything was sold where it sat, and people gathered around the bone yard for the auction in any place they could to get a view of the proceedings.

A panoramic picture showing some of the engines that were auctioned at the Rynda estate. No less than 15 can be counted in this picture alone

Bidding was haphazard. The 65 HP Case went way too cheap, but two 80 HP Cases sold for a good price. One of the shockers was the Nichols & Shepard 20 HP that sold for $26,000. Two guys must have wanted it bad and battled it out in a bidding war. A real slap in the face was the running Gaar-Scott that the auctioneers wanted $24,500 for. A private party ended up buying it for $30,000.

Many of the steam engines were showing their age from the 40 years they sat in Joe's yard. Random steam engine parts laid strewn about in areas of the property with little hope of making it back onto the engine they were once a part of. Most of these engines by now were missing their smoke box doors as well as the whistle, relief valves and injectors. Thieves had taken many of the pieces - and even shortly before the auction people were still stealing grates, pumps, etc. It was really sad to see such majestic equipment spoiled by the hands of greedy and dishonest collectors.

From left: Nick Olson, John Schrock and Dennis Powers got a good look at some of the steam engine parts laying around the Rynda estate.

The great majority of people attending did choose to bid on the engines they wanted, however. 'Caveat emptor' was definitely the word of the day as everyone knew these old engines had sat outside for so long, and I didn't see a lot of ultra sounding going on. Most people were buying on a hope and a prayer that the boiler was in good shape, and not much more.

Several foreign languages could be heard among the crowd, and according to the auctioneers a couple of engines were going to Portugal and one to Ireland.

Joe's Minneapolis Threshing Machine Co. blueprints were divided up - the steam engine blueprint went for $10,500; gas tractor blueprint for $7,500; and the threshing machine blueprint for $2,500.

Many old-timers who knew Joe from his extensive service and duty in the steam engine hobby were on hand to witness the auction. An old fellow standing by the big Colean steam engine told a story that he must have ran that engine on a sawmill in the 1930s. According to him, Joe fired it up one morning, had 135 pounds of pressure on the boiler to drive up the belt, and a tube blew. He had bucked the engine out, and that was it.

Overall, the engine part of the sale went well. Lots of people showed up to honor this steam pioneer and bid on his legendary engines, plus plenty of people were on hand to visit with before and after the sale. It was a memorable experience, and while some equipment remains, the legendary collection of 'Steam Engine Joe' Rynda is no more.

Contact steam enthusiast Joe C. Steinhagen at: 11980 Kluver Addition Road S.E., Alexandria, MN 56308.