Rumely 36-120 Sets the Bar High

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

| June 2018

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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