Engine Notes: Dispute, Clarification, and Confirmation

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In the middle years of the 20th century, Joe Rynda purchased this Huber tractor and then drove it 30 miles to get home. The tractor subsequently spent a number of decades mired in the ground before it was auctioned off in 2004.
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The engine in the top half of this illustration was built by Empire Agricultural Works in Cobleskill, N.Y. It was misidentified as an Empire engine built by Hagerstown Steam Engine & Machine Co., Hagerstown, Md. The bottom half of the illustration shows the real Hagerstown Empire engine.

A few miscellaneous engine notes:

The question of what Aultman Star engines were built has inspired more than a little discussion in these pages over the past year. We’re not sure what the final record will show, but Thomas Stebritz of Algona, IA has a few more thoughts, after which we’ll consider the subject closed until further documentation comes along.

Regular contributor Mike Rohrer of Smithsburg, MD noticed we had inadvertently bungled the identity of John Spalding’s November/December 2004 mystery engine.  Fortunately, we have fellows like Mike to help sort things out for us.

 Finally, we have obtained confirmation of Doug Langenbach’s story about the late Joe Rynda and his 30 HP Huber.

Aultman Star Engines Dispute

I must write in and answer to Alan New’s latest fantasy about the under-mounted Star pushing some kind of a header thresher. New takes us down many paths with no results at all and finally gives up and says he doesn’t believe any of it.

Looking at the top-mounted cylinder and engine frame there is no doubt these are of C. Aultman design. The American Abell counterparts were clumsy and oversized, especially the cross-compound Cock ‘O The North Line. New keeps asking himself questions about what he is looking at. What I see I have no trouble understanding.

As far as the distance between the back of the thresher and the front of the steamer, I cannot make an argument about that because there is none. As far as New’s description of what the right side of the engine looked like, I asked the experts to give a description of the engine, apparently impossible because of the lack of experts.

A look at any catalog cut of any Star engine will reveal the spokes in the drivers are round with a crowfoot on the rim, the spokes are shaped down to the hubs and squared off to fit slots on the hubs. Another thing, we find some special-made drivers, the outside rims tapered back inside and the very visible extra bracing that are tapered back out to the extreme width of the over-width drivers.

The connection of the American Abell and the Advance Threshers Co. is from information I passed along and came from the obituaries written by the late Marcus Leonard about Advance, Gaar-Scott, M. Rumely Co., Northwest Thresher Co., Aultman & Taylor and other smaller companies that Dr. Edward Rumely bought and ruined. Advance-Rumely Co. was the one to buy out the Aultman & Taylor Co. in 1924 to junk it. Dr. Rumely was gone, but the meanness was carried over from his earlier shenanigans.

It was nice to see the 16 HP Russell, no. 17085, up and running from “Steam Engine Joe” Rynda’s collection. Joe had grand plans about his collection — if he only could have lived to be 100. The Russell was one of several Joe bought from Bruce McCourtney of Nebraska. McCourtney had been a collector longer than Joe. Father Time caught up with him, too. —Thomas Stebritz

Mystery Engine Mistaken Identification

I have to point out a mistaken identification of John Spalding’s November/December 2004 mystery engine. In your next issue, Roger Meyer said the engine was an Empire portable engine built by the Hagerstown Steam Engine & Machine Co. in Hagerstown, MD. It is not an Empire portable engine built by Hagerstown Steam Engine & Machine Co. It is a portable built by the Empire Agricultural Works of Cobleskill, N.Y.

I’ve provided an illustration to show the difference. The engine in the top half is the Empire Agricultural engine shown in the November/December 2004 issue (It is also in Jack Norback’s Encyclopedia of American Steam Traction Engines). The engine in the bottom half is from a Hagerstown Steam Engine & Machine Co. catalog in my collection. As you can see they are very different. To start with, the engine itself is on opposing sides, and the wheels, front smokebox, and steam dome are different, as you can see.

The Hagerstown Steam Engine & Machine Co. in Hagerstown, Md., was a full line company that started in the 1860s building grain drills. It was sold to the Foltz Mfg. Co. around the turn of the century.

There is very little equipment left from the Hagerstown Steam Engine & Machine Co. I know of only two portable engines and two threshers. The name Empire was the company’s trade name, much like automobiles have. When the Hagerstown Steam Engine & Machine Co. stopped operations, the only line of the company that was sold was in late 1870s. The Geiser Mfg. Co. in Waynesboro, Pa., bought the rights to their clover huller and that was it. I hope that this is of help. — Mike Rohrer

“Steam Engine Joe” Rynda Story Confirmed

Readers will recall our January/February 2005 article on the ex-Rynda 30 HP Huber tractor purchased by Doug Langenbach of Isanti, MN at the Rynda auction in May 2004.

In the article, Doug mentioned a story he’d heard that Rynda drove the Huber 30 miles home after its purchase, but he didn’t know if that story was true.

Well, Doug has since received a letter from James Malz of Andover, Ohio, and James was able to confirm the story. James met Rynda at a National Threshers show in the 1950s, where Rynda related to James how he drove the Huber through Montgomery, MN at 3 a.m. after a 31-mile trip.

It’s amazing that some 50 years later we still get the opportunity to document little-known — but important — facts about these old engines and their owners.

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