Steam At Work


Jack C. Norbeck

Content Tools

Norbeck Research 117 N. Ruch Street Coplay, Pennsylvania 18037-1712

Advance-Rumely 22 HP built in 1920, Type B Erie steam shovel built in 1915, and restored church. Photo taken at Southeast Old Threshers Reunion 1996, Denton FarmPark, Denton, North Carolina, by Jack C. Norbeck, author of Encyclopedia of American Steam TractionEngines.

Willard Moore is the biggest reason there is a steam shovel at Denton FarmPark. He also is the man who operates it.

It is a 1915 Type B Erie shovel made by Ball Engine Company of Erie, Pennsylvania, which later became the Erie Steam Shovel Company. The firm was founded in March 1883, by F. H. Ball and W. H. Nicholson. At that time they formed the Ball Engine Company to manufacture steam engines. Bucyrus merged with the Erie Steam Shovel Company in 1927 to form the Bucyrus-Erie Company.

Bucyrus Foundry & Manufacturing Company's first steam shovel was built in Bucyrus, Ohio. Dan Parmalee Eells, a Cleveland banker and industrialist and a group of business men founded the company on December 28, 1880. In 1893 the company moved to South Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and incorporated under the name of Bucyrus Steam Shovel and Dredge Company. Then in 1895 it was in receivership and reorganized in 1896 to become the Bucyrus Company. The Bucyrus Company became a publicly-owned corporation in 1911 and at that time acquired the Vulcan Steam Shovel Company. July 20, 1927, Erie merged with Bucyrus and the new company was called Bucyrus-Erie Company.

Willard Moore went to Brown Loflin and Howard Latham, who own much of the Denton FarmPark's restored antique machinery, and urged them to buy the Erie shovel with a promise Moore would help restore it and would operate it at the Thresher's Reunion. They did, and he did, and he still does.

Moore is a resident of Jamestown, a suburb of High Point in Guilford County, North Carolina. He operated a construction business for many years, and later retired as maintenance supervisor for a manufacturing plant. He has collected and restored many antique machines, and was instrumental in establishing an annual antique machinery show conducted by a Lions Club of which he is a member.

This steam shovel weights 41,000 pounds. Its dipper holds three-fourths of a cubic yard. It is capable of moving 50 to 60 cubic yards an hour with an average working speed of one to three dippers a minute, depending on depth of cut. Its boom is 17 feet long, and works at a height of about 18 feet.

Its cab is eight feet, two inches wide, 12 feet, 10 inches long. Inside is a boiler with a shell 45 3/16 inches in diameter and 88 inches high. The tubes in it have a heating surface of 364 square feet. They are fed by a tank which holds 275 gallons of water.

The boiler's ordinary working pressure is 125 pounds per square inch, but it is designed for pressure up to 143 and the manufacturer stipulated it had been tested up to 213.

Steam from this boiler operated double-reversing engines for hoisting, swinging and digging. The hoisting engine's piston is five and a half inches in diameter and makes a six inch stroke. The others have diameter of four and a half inches and five inch stroke.

The hoisting cable is five-eighths of an inch in diameter and is made of pliable steel.

It is a self-propelling machine. Steel traction wheels in the rear are 34 inches in diameter and 16 inches wide. The wheelbase, or distance between front and rear axles, is 92 inches. Tread width to the outside of the wheel is 100 inches.

The pile of dirt at their steam shovel demonstration must hold some kind of world record for being moved the farthest without ever going anywhere, but that doesn't bother Willard Moore. He says he enjoys doing it because people enjoy watching it.

When he isn't operating the shovel, you'll probably see him elsewhere in the park showing off some of the antique machinery in his collection.

The old Advance-Rumely seen on the cover is owned by Jackie Johnson from Siler City, North Carolina. This engine was built in 1920 and is 22 HP. At the 1996 Reunion this steam traction engine was used to demonstrate steam plowing.

In December 1911, Rumely bought out Advance-Thresher Company and Gaar-Scott & Company. A short time later, Northwest Thresher Company was acquired. M. Rumely Company set up a selling organization to market the products of the three above companies. This selling setup was known as Rumely Products Company. The same tractor models were continued even after 1915, when financial difficulties forced M. Rumely Company and the sales agency known as Rumely Products Company into the hands of a receiver. By reorganization, the firm known as Advance Rumely Company, came into being.

Then, in 1924, Advance Rumely bought out Aultman-Taylor Company and continued in business until 1931. The Allis-Chalmers Corporation on June 1, 1931, acquired most of the assets of the Advance Rumely Company.

The old Jackson Hill Church just glimpsed on the cover is a beautifully designed piece of early 20th century Americana. It was moved to Denton FarmPark in 1976 and restored.

This structure was completed in 1908, according to records, and was the third building used by a congregation in the rural Jackson Hill community of southern Davidson County, North Carolina.

The church was Methodist Protestant, also called Southern Methodist, and was part of a circuit of churches served by one minister. This church was founded in a log structure in the late 18th century.

When brought to Denton FarmPark the weathered building had been unused for 21 years since a consolidation of churches left it abandoned.

Lumber, paint, shingles, glass, and months of careful craftsmanship restored it to its appearance of the 1950s.

On Sundays during the Threshers' Reunion, services are conducted in the church starting at 9:00 a.m. It is open for viewing at other times, and often is a place of impromptu gathering for gospel singing.

The late Reverend Elmer Ritzman, a Methodist minister for 42 years, founder and publisher of Iron Men Album Magazine and Gas Engine Magazine would have loved this cover and this church.

Information for this article came from the Encyclopedia of AmericaSteam Traction Engines, and from Southeast Old Threshers Reunion, Denton FarmPark, Denton, North Carolina. A big thank you also to Hank Schoolfield!