Steam Traction Engine Gets Extreme Makeover

Volunteers complete Advance-Rumely Universal steam traction engine restoration


| August 2010



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The restored Advance-Rumely, driven by Tom Willert, making a triumphal return to the Rice County (Minn.) Steam & Gas Engines grounds.

Photo by Cathy Werner

When Vic Wenzel’s 1921 18 hp Advance-Rumely Universal steam engine went in for restoration, it got that and more. A crew of volunteers from the Rice County (Minn.) Steam & Gas Engines club gave it the old iron version of an extreme makeover.

Preserving a Universal

In the early 1900s, Advance-Rumely steam traction engines were considered among the best of their class in the U.S. The 18 hp was at the small end of the Universal line (which was produced from 1915 to 1924), but was a good match for threshing and sawmill use. The side-crank, rear-mounted single-cylinder engine had a 9- by 10-inch bore and stroke, and burned coal, wood or straw.

Vic and his wife, Bernice, bought the Universal at a 1975 auction in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. Vic put the relic to work at shows near his home in Rosemount, Minn., cooking sweet corn and leading parades. Years later, in 2007, Vic and a former employee of his, Don Weed, Dundas, Minn., began discussing restoration of the classic engine.

With extensive experience in steam engines, Don was the right man to guide the restoration effort. “I’ve been around steam engines for 30 years,” Don says. Licensed as a Chief Grade A Engineer, he’s also gotten into ironwork and blacksmithing. “I’ve taken some steam engineering classes over the years,” Don says, “where I’ve learned the kinds of things that you have to do to adhere to today’s standards. But mostly I’ve learned from being around steam engines.”

Restoring a relic