Rumely 36-120 Sets the Bar High

A Rumely expo dazzles with the addition of a Rumely 36-120 steam engine display.

| June 2018

  • Three Rumely 36 hp steam engines at work.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • With a 2-cylinder compound engine and 3-speed power transmission, Travis Wibben’s steam engine tops out at nearly 10 mph.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • This 1920 Rumely Model A belongs to Mike Travis, Corning, Iowa. The truck’s top speed with air tires is 25 mph; on hard rubber, 15 mph. “It originally had air tires,” Mike says, “but when we had new wheels made, we went with hard rubber so we wouldn’t have flats.”
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Heritage Park is known for mammoth prairie tractors like these Flour City giants.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • A handsomely restored 1919 Advance-Rumely Universal owned by the Bellinger family, Waterloo, Iowa.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Owned by George Hoffman, Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, serial no. 6036 was built in April 1912 for export to Canada. Sold out of the Calgary branch house in Alberta, the engine ended up in a sawmill in Prince George, British Columbia, in 1944. Restoration of the engine was completed in 2016.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Owned by the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion, Rollag, this Rumely 36 turned up in a South Dakota rock quarry in 1965. “We were really fortunate that several owners were willing to haul their engines so far,” Jerred says.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Owned by Jerred Ruble, Hanlontown, Iowa, serial no. 6143 came out of the Ponderosa Ranch near Lake Tahoe, Calif. The engine does not appear to have been used on a sawmill but wear on the wheels and gearing suggests a career as a road builder/maintainer.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Owned by Vic and Bernice Wenzel, Rosemont, Minn., serial no. 5742 was built in June 1910. The engine is housed at the Rice County Steam & Gas Engine Club’s showgrounds in Dundas, Minn.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Owned by Ken Eder, Carthage, N.C., serial no. 5675 was built in April 1910. The engine was sold new out of the Calgary branch house and used in Manyberries in southern Alberta, before ending up in a High Prairie, Alberta, sawmill. Ken hauled the engine more than 2,200 miles to get it to Heritage Park.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Owned by Cedar Valley Memories Museum, Osage, Iowa, serial no. 6084 was built in Battle Creek for export to Alberta. Long used at a sawmill in Manitoba, Canada, the engine is awaiting restoration. Known as the Smolik 36, the engine was donated to the museum by Ray and Ed Smolik before their deaths.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • The Rumely display at Heritage Park includes everything from signs to stock certificates to steam engines.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • This Falk engine was part of the Rumely display at Heritage Park. Meinrad Rumely bought engine builder Falk Co. in 1912 and folded the company’s engines into the Rumely offering. The Rumely-Falk was considered a high-end engine in its day.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • Glen Braun and his half-scale Rumely Model G. Glen uses his scale-model Rumely with a half-scale 6-bottom Rumely prairie plow and a scale model sawmill. “We cut 8- to 10-inch logs up to 40 inches long,” he says.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus
  • John Allen’s half-scale 65 hp Case more than pulls its weight in field demonstrations.
    Photo by Leslie C. McManus

Every group that organizes a show feature display is the same: They all want their display to be exceptional. In planning the 25th annual Rumely Products Collectors Expo held at Heritage Park of North Iowa, in September 2017, Show Director Jerred Ruble knew he wanted to focus on Rumely’s steam side, but beyond that, he was spinning his wheels.

“I kept asking, ‘What can we do to set the bar high?’” he recalled later. When Roger Madden, a member of the Heritage Park Rumely Expo Committee, suggested a display of Rumely’s 36-120 hp steam plowing engines, Jerred scoffed. “I thought that was setting it way too high.”

There are, after all, just nine of the giants known to exist. At least three of those are in Canada, and one is in North Carolina. Ready to transport, a Rumely 36 weighs roughly 20 tons; transportation logistics alone boggle the mind.

But the stars fell into perfect alignment for an unprecedented event. “At Heritage Park, we had six of the nine 36’s known to exist,” Jerred says. “As far as I know, this was the first time the majority of the remaining 36’s were in one place. I’d venture to say it will never happen again.”



Powerhouse of its day

Although Rumely was late to the party, releasing its 36 hp steam engine in 1908, it made a huge statement when it arrived. “The 36 Rumely was the big powerhouse of the day,” Jerred says. “It was used mainly for plowing in the western states and Saskatchewan. After that, it was a popular sawmill engine, especially in Canada (indeed, four of the five Rumely 36’s known to exist in American collections were brought into the U.S. from Canada). The mills really liked that double-cylinder steam.”

Describing the 36 Rumely as “an easy steaming engine,” Jerred says the Rumely was so successful that many remained in active use into the 1940s. “To me, the 36 kind of set the bar on plowing,” he says. “I know the Case 110 guys will say different, but the 110 was a single-cylinder engine. To me, the double-cylinder engines performed the best.”



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