From A Missouri Farm To The Blue Ridge Mountains

| September/October 1989

  • Baker engine
    Verden Winship and son Dennis on #15082 in 1953.
  • Advance Rumely
    Advance Rumely #15082.
  • # Picture 02

  • # Picture 01
    Illustration taken from the Advance Rumely Catalog.

  • Baker engine
  • Advance Rumely
  • # Picture 02
  • # Picture 01

Rt. 1, Box 459-A Sugar Grove, North Carolina 2867

In 1987 July-August Iron Men Album, I read: 'For Sale: 18 HP Advance Rumely #15082, Art Buckwalter Monroe City, Missouri.' This traction engine was just what I had been wanting to find. I called Art, and we talked about his engine. It was still operable; it had no boiler welds; gearing and cleats were excellent; factory rocker grates and flues were new in the 60's; the smoke box, flue sheet and crown sheet were fine; gear guards were in place; it had a canopy and side tanks; the jacket had been removed. We discussed a photo, and Art agreed to send one.

I dug out the atlas and figured the mileage from Sugar Grove, North Carolina to the place the Advance Rumely was located on brother-in-law Herb Kuntemeyer's farm. Wow! The distance was over 750 miles! I was generating funds for the purchase of a steam-traction engine by selling some gasoline engines, a spark plug collection, old signs, a soda bottle collection, and other collectibles that I had been accumulating over the past twenty-three years. When my ad appeared in the GEM and IMA, several long-time friends from other states called and wanted to know what I was on the trail of. I told them that Traction Engine Fever had bit me big time, and the only cure was to buy one. When steam gets into a person's blood, it stays there. I can trace my steam heritage back nearly two centuries. Scholl ancestors worked on some of the first steam railroads in America. My Grandpa William Scholl worked in the oil fields of southern Ohio where wells were drilled and then pumped with steam engines. Step-great Grandpa Scott Root of Harlem, Ohio was thresherman-sawmill operator, and, during the prime of traction engines, he owned two Aultman Taylors, an Avery, three Bakers, seven Geiser-Peerless, three Huber, and three Russell steam traction engines. All that remained of these engines while I was growing up were the memories. Uncle Chris Keeler from Hilliard, Ohio was a thresherman. He did not own steam, but he did use Huber equipment. Grandpa Bill Mullins of Sunbury, Ohio, was a licensed stationary steam engineer, and he had numerous stories to tell: Grandpa Bill and Great-grandpa Mullins were filling a silo with a traction engine for power. Grandpa was firing the engine and Great-grandpa would holler, 'Bill, how's the water?'

'It's O. K., Dad.'

Later the question came, 'How's the water?' The reply was the same. This went on for a time, and Great-grandpa decided to check the water himself. About that time the safety plug melted out. Things got pretty exciting for both of them with all that steam flying everywhere. Neither of them was hurt, but they learned a good lesson. The water glass had shown one-half full when the safety plug melted. Sediment and rust had plugged the plumbing to the glass, and this caused the false reading. The petcock on the bottom of the glass should always be opened before firing up to see that no blockage exists.

During my childhood years at Hilliard, Ohio, I heard many steam engine stories. My dad told about firing Great-grandpa Root's Baker in the middle 1930's. This engine was sold during WW II and used on a sawmill near Delaware, Ohio. The boiler later ended up in a feed mill at New Albany, Ohio. Dad also told about going to the Huber Reunion and seeing many used steam engines lined up in sheds at the Marion, Ohio plant. The first steam show I can remember Dad taking us to was at Mechanicsburg, Ohio in 1959. This was the early days of Miami Valley Steam Threshers. Dad, my brother, and I wanted to own a traction engine, but we just could not afford it. Then, during the infancy of gasoline-engine collecting, we started our own collection. (See GEM April 1986, page 24 and August GEM 1987, page 20.) My brother and I also worked for the Weber brothers that told us about their dad owning a Baker engine during the 30's.

In 1966, my family and I moved to Blowing Rock, North Carolina. We brought with us our collection of gasoline-engines, Dad's railroad collection and many other antiques. We operated the Frontier Village Museum from 1966 through the 1972 season. Bob Powell, owner of the museum, had a fine collection of steam-traction enginesFrick: 25 single, 16 single and double, 12 single. His mother owned an 18 HP Advance Rumely #15284 formerly owned by Homer Holp, Brookville, Ohio. (See The Farm Album Magazine, Summer 1949, page 9.) Bob taught my brother and me how to maintain and operate steam engines. My favorite of all those engines turned out to be the Advance Rumely. In 1967, Dad, my brother, and I purchased a 20 HP Reeves. The museum closed, after the 1972 season, and the Reeves was sold. Over the next fourteen years, I was not able to purchase Mrs. Powell's engine.

In 1986, Charlie Cutlip and I displayed our Raleigh and Springfield gas engines at the Tuscarawas Valley Show at Dover, Ohio. It didn't take long to realize that steam is king at their show. We had a great time exhibiting our engines and making new friends. One new friend was Tom Woodard. His 18 HP Advance Rumely was very similar to the one I had operated in North Carolina. The more I was around Tom and his engine, the more I found those fond memories of the Frontier Village steam engines flooding my thoughts. Sunday morning Charlie and I attended the worship service in the grandstands. I had never heard an Amish preacher, but I came to the realization that even though Charlie and I are Baptist, Christ's message is the same for all. Sunday evening rolled around, and we were watching Tom and his engine on the sawmill. I stepped up on the rear platform, and the sound of the exhaust, the smell of the steam cylinder oil, and rhythm of the pulsating engine making music with the sawmill really hooked me.

Monday morning we headed for a visit with my Grandma Mullins near Sunbury, Ohio. I also took Charlie to meet a man who had worked on many traction engines and knew Great-grandpa Root. This man is Harry Lake. He is over ninety but still remembers well his part in traction engine history. Tuesday found us at the Tri-State show in Portland, Indiana. With steam on my mind, I had been telling Charlie about a man in Indiana that owned over thirty steam traction engines. After setting up for the show, we headed for Keith Mauzy's place. I had been to Keith's place with my dad in 1968, but I did not get to meet him. The time was early afternoon when we parked our truck, but Keith was not at home. We decided to look around and take some pictures. The iron monsters were parked everywhere. While we were in the back part of the field, someone pulled up to the shop and parked. Charlie and I worked our way back up to the shop. When we walked inside the shop I saw a man working on a bulldozer part. I asked who the proprietor was and he said, 'I reckon it's me.'

He was busy and did not seem to be much for conversation. I kept rattling on about growing up in Ohio, moving to North Carolina, operating and maintaining the Homer Holp engine, being over at Dover, and meeting Tom Woodard. Then I started telling about restoring my 4 HP Peerless (See July-August IMA page one.) #10,343 and all the extra effort to have patterns and castings made to put it back in the original condition, and suddenly Keith quit working and started talking. We talked until Charlie was worn out with hearing all that steam engine talk. Keith has a wealth of information about Advance Rumely engines, all stored away in his head. He encouraged me to try to buy the Holp-Powell engine, and I told him it just was not possible. The sky was getting dark, and I hated to leave, but I wanted to visit my army buddy at Huntington, Indiana. We spent the night at Karla and Gary Funk's and went back to Portland for the show.

During the winter of 1987, I had to make the decisions concerning what to sell out of my collection, to raise funds, hopefully, to purchase a traction engine. I considered several engines Case, Geiser, Russell, Port Huron, Advance and sent for information, or I went to look at them. I called and talked to several people and just kept looking. When the May-June IMA arrived I saw an ad for a 20 HP Advance Rumely for sale in Illinois. My heart was set on an 18; therefore, I just waited. The very next IMA listed what I had been hoping for: an 18 HP Advance Rumely located in Missouri.

That background gets us back to Art Buckwalter and his sending me the picture of his engine. The photo arrived, and I could see that Art's engine looked pretty good. The paint was shot, and the rear water tank was missing, but it showed plenty of promise.

After calling Art, I learned more about the engine. His father-in-law, Henry Kuntemeyer, had purchased the 18 HP Advance Rumely from a sawmill site at LaGrange, Missouri. Art helped re-flue it and do some other work after it was moved to Palmyra. When Henry passed away, his daughter, Mary Kuntemeyer Buckwalter, inherited the Advance Rumely. Because of Art's job he was not able to attend the steam shows. They made a decision to sell their engine so that it would not deteriorate. We talked some more, and came to an agreement on the purchase price.

Late in August, on a Saturday morning, Charlie, Gary White, my wife's cousin, and I headed for Palmyra, Missouri. I was so wound up that I could not sleep the night before. My wife and two children were happy that Dad and all that engine talk had left and they could have some peace. I picked up Charlie at Hampton and Gary at Elizabethtown, Tennessee, one hour early. We rolled along great until we hit Paducah, Kentucky, or maybe it hit us. The temperature was well over 105°, and the cab of our truck was almost unbearable without an air conditioner. We toughed it out, but we decided while driving through St. Louis that we could get a motel room and not try to sleep in the camper.

I called Art from the motel at O'Fallon and got the directions to the Kuntemeyer farm. After fourteen hours on the road, I still could not get a good night's sleep. The next day, Gary said I was still wound up tighter than a banjo string. We enjoyed a good Sunday breakfast and devotional about how Christians can leave the door of their lives open for Satan to come in and take away the joy of their salvation.

Back on the road, we traveled through Mark Twain's home town of Hannibal. I thought we would never get to Palmyra! On the north end of town, we saw a traction engine under a shed. It was a Nichols and Shepard, owned by Bob Snow. A short distance out of town, we turned on a gravel road and drove to the Kuntemeyer farm. It is a beautiful place with gentle rising slopes. We parked the truck and camper at the barnyard gate. To our left we could see smoke rising to the sky from the stack of the Advance Rumely that was destined for the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

We met Art and Mary Buckwalter and Mary's brothers, Herb and Howard, and their families. Family and friends had gathered to see the Advance Rumely operating on the Kuntemeyer farm for the last time and to meet its future owner. After taking some pictures, I began to check out what we had come to see. The canopy was weathered, but it would be good for several more seasons. The coal bunker was made from wood, and the rear water tank had been replaced with a wood tool box. On the left was an original side tank. The right tank had been replaced with a 55 gallon drum. The rear deck showed a torch cut where part had been removed for easier firing at the sawmill at La Grange. Art gave me a ride around the barn. A double cylinder Rumely sat in the barnyard; this engine was Howard's. We proceeded down a farm path with a slight grade and returned to the place we started from. Art watched me as I eased the throttle back and put the engine in motion. To be operating a steam traction engine again was quite a thrill. Some fourteen years had passed since I had operated the Powell engine at Frontier Village. One may get a little rusty, but, with steam in his veins, one does not forget how it is done.

We were invited to a delicious meal, quite similar to what I have heard threshermen were served. During the course of the day, we learned that the Advance Rumely was purchased around 1960 at a sawmill site in La Grange, Missouri. The previous owner was a man named Norman Britewell. He had purchased the engine from Wilford Shoemate, also of La Grange around 1954. Wilford's brother-in-law, Virden Winship, said they used the Advance Rumely on the farm sawmill during the middle 40's to 50's. Wilford had purchased the engine from the Williamstown, Missouri area. (I would appreciate any information, pictures of my engine in use, and any leads on owners prior to Wilford Shoemate. Can anyone tell me anything that is part of the history of my engine?)

That evening Herb's son, Wayne, took us to Hannibal for supper and to visit a Mark Twain display. We pulled electricity for the camper from the barn and got a good night's rest. Bright and early the next morning, I rolled out of my bunk and headed for the engine with tool box in hand. After draining the boiler, I pulled several hand hole plates. Everything looked to be in good shape. At the bottom of the boiler shell and in the mud ring, was an accumulation of oily sludge. This was caused by oil having been added to the water at the end of summer and drained slowly. An oil film was deposited on all inside parts of the boiler. I knew this could be removed after getting the engine home. The firebox showed no signs of abuse or neglect. Rocker grates were still operable, missing only the piece that ties the side bars together in the front. Two of the 1' firebox flues had been plugged, and the other two appeared to be original. One axle oil hole cover was missing, but everything else was in place. Even the tools Mr. Kuntemeyer had used to adjust packings, etc., were in the homemade toolbox.

The governor was worn, and the cross shaft bearings were shot, but it could be repaired. The engine showed signs of a lot of use, but it was in good shape. I was confident that this was about as good an original engine as I could ever hope to own. After taking a shower, (when I get around any kind of machinery, the oil and grease just seem to jump out all over me, but I thoroughly enjoy getting dirty, so my wife says) we enjoyed a fine country breakfast with Herb, Mary and Wayne.

When Art arrived, we discussed transporting the Advance Rumely to North Carolina. We contacted Potterfield trucking of Monroe City, Missouri and made arrangements to have the engine delivered to Tweetsie R.R. Show Grounds. (This is the location of the Carolina Flywheeler's Show called the 'Autumn Leaves Crank-Up.')

After leaving the Kuntemeyer farm, Charlie, Gary, and I drove to Mt. Pleasant and visited the museum. We then went on to the Tri-State Portland, Indiana Show.

We were glad to get back home on Sunday. The trip was one we will never forget.

We operated our engine during the 1987 and 1988 Crank-Ups. Brown Brothers Construction provided transportation to and from the show. Complete restoration will take several more years. To date, the following have been repaired: throttle valve, governors, lubricator, pop-off valve. I have installed new plumbing from the steam dome to governor, and built a coal bunker to original dimensions from 12 gauge steel walls and ' plate bottom, and new tool box above bunker. I purchased an Advance Rumely steam gauge from Tom Woodward and had it calibrated at Tweetsie Railroad. I removed 1' side firebox flues and had new ones installed by Link Iron Works. I replaced the seat with one given to me by a long time friend, Quentin Hargus. I removed the old safety plug and replaced it with a new one. I removed the side tank and drum and replaced them with two new drums. I will install two original tanks when I find another one to go with the one I have. I removed the ash pan hangers and complete grate system. I had a pattern made for the two pieces that hold the rocker grate sides together. I had those pieces cast and put it all back together again with part new hangers and some repaired. The new ash pan bottom is 3/16' and has three pieces of angle iron installed on the bottom to keep it from bowing. This summer I plan to build a shop so that I can do a complete restoration. There are 23 known 18 HP Advance Rumelys in existence.

Our 18 HP Advance Rumely is 9 x 10 Universal #15082. This was the first 18 HP built by Advance Rumely in 1920. The following information is taken from original #25 Repair Parts List for Universal Steam Engines, owned by Keith Mauzy.

The following number of Advance Rumely Universal Steam Traction engines were built:


Bore & Stroke

# Built


9x10 & 8 x 10 16 HP



9x10 (1 compound 7 & 10 x9) 18 HP



9 x 11 9x10 (1 comp 9 &12x10) 20 HP



9x11 22HP



10x12 (comp 9 & 13x12) 25 HP


I owe a special thanks to my entire family, including my wife, Judy, our daughter, Kristi, and our son, Jody. They encourage me with my hobby, and that makes it very enjoyable. We live in a land of special blessings from God, America, home of the free!


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