Farm Collector

The Bellinger Brothers’ 18 HP Advance-Rumely

In the spring of 1994, I was walking in Randy Schwerin’s cow barn when he asked me if I would be interested in an Advance-Rumely steam engine. Given my predictable response, he began to tell me more. It seems our friend Richard Vagts had decided to sell his 18 horse Advance Rumely. Randy had first chance at it and declined, so we were up next. Richard didn’t want to advertise it until he had asked us if we were interested, because he liked the way we took care of our engines and it would also stay in the state.

A couple of weeks later, we all loaded up and went to visit Richard at his home in Eldorado. We were out in the shed behind his home where he kept his pride and joy. He even had a hole cut in the roof with a stove pipe that ran down to the smoke stack so he could fire up in the shed. We talked for a while and proceeded to climb all over it. I was familiar with the engine but had never given it an inspection as if to buy it. I do remember my son Tyler, who was five at the time, climbing all over the top of the engine like he knew what he was looking for. He must have liked what he saw; as I was talking to Richard about how much he was asking for a price. Tyler yelled down, ‘Just buy it, Dad, you know you’ve got a $100 bill in your pocket.’ We all got a good laugh but, Richard thought he should have a little more than that!

My brother Tony and I decided we would buy the engine together. I had just bought my 16 Advance and a new house in the last three months, and another steam engine right away wasn’t exactly in the cards. Then Richard decided he would like to show the engine one more year and enjoy it around his place for awhile. This worked out great for us, as Tony had also just bought a new home. We told him to enjoy it as long as he wanted and we would be ready whenever he was.

The following spring he gave me a call and said he was ready; he thought it was time. I told him we would come for it in a few weeks and if he ever had a need to run the engine he always knew where it would be.

When we went for the engine it was an exciting day for us, as all engine owners can relate to, but we could also sense the other side of the coin with Richard. He is a good man who had owned and loved this engine for 21 years.

Richard gave us a water wagon and a Baker fan, as he thought they should stay with the engine. This was a very pleasant surprise and much appreciated! He also took the time to give me the history of the engine as follows.

It was built in 1919 and shipped in 1920 by rail to Washington, Iowa. It had been purchased by a farmer who used it to thresh until 1935. For the next 10 years the engine sat idle. Then in 1945 it was purchased by a greenhouse owner and used to heat the greenhouse. In 1960, it was sold to Clarence Johnson, Wyoming, Illinois, and used as a hobby engine. Clarence stored the engine at Mt. Pleasant and showed it there until 1974, when Richard bought it. In 1977, he threshed 22 acres of oats, and threshed smaller amounts each year until finally quitting in 1994.

We got it and immediately took it to Antique Acres, our home show. We ran it ‘as is’ the first two years except for having the smoke box replaced. Someone had fixed it several years ago by putting a new smoke box around the old one. This was not to our liking, of course, so we had John Schrock cut the whole thing off and do it right.

In the summer of 1998, we made a commitment to give the engine a first class face lift. The engine physically and mechanically was very good, but it was in need of new tanks and bunker and a good paint job. We took the old water tanks off, as they were not right. Also, this engine never had a canopy originally. Someone had done a nice job fabricating one, but we wanted to get as close to an original appearance as possible, so over the next several months we took off the wheels and sandblasted them. We power washed, scraped, and degreased until we were sick of it. We made new tanks and had brackets cast so we could have saddle tanks on the side to match our 20 horse Advance-Rumely. We primed it, gave it several coats of paint, and had it striped and lettered, topped off by a hand painted Advance-Rumely logo on the back of the tank, which really looks great.

We are very proud of our finished product and hope many of you can stop by our show at Antique Acres in Cedar Falls, Iowa, to see it yourselves. Although we have it all prettied up, we don’t plan on not using it. We thresh, plow, saw, pull the sled, and anything else we can think of to enjoy it.

  • Published on Mar 1, 1999
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