Steam At Work

article image
Jack C. Norbeck

Norbeck Research 117 N. Ruch Street Coplay, Pennsylvania

Advance-Rumely 22 HP built in 1920, Type B Erie steam shovel
built in 1915, and restored church. Photo taken at Southeast Old
Threshers Reunion 1996, Denton FarmPark, Denton, North Carolina, by
Jack C. Norbeck, author of Encyclopedia of American Steam

Willard Moore is the biggest reason there is a steam shovel at
Denton FarmPark. He also is the man who operates it.

It is a 1915 Type B Erie shovel made by Ball Engine Company of
Erie, Pennsylvania, which later became the Erie Steam Shovel
Company. The firm was founded in March 1883, by F. H. Ball and W.
H. Nicholson. At that time they formed the Ball Engine Company to
manufacture steam engines. Bucyrus merged with the Erie Steam
Shovel Company in 1927 to form the Bucyrus-Erie Company.

Bucyrus Foundry & Manufacturing Company’s first steam
shovel was built in Bucyrus, Ohio. Dan Parmalee Eells, a Cleveland
banker and industrialist and a group of business men founded the
company on December 28, 1880. In 1893 the company moved to South
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and incorporated under the name of Bucyrus
Steam Shovel and Dredge Company. Then in 1895 it was in
receivership and reorganized in 1896 to become the Bucyrus Company.
The Bucyrus Company became a publicly-owned corporation in 1911 and
at that time acquired the Vulcan Steam Shovel Company. July 20,
1927, Erie merged with Bucyrus and the new company was called
Bucyrus-Erie Company.

Willard Moore went to Brown Loflin and Howard Latham, who own
much of the Denton FarmPark’s restored antique machinery, and
urged them to buy the Erie shovel with a promise Moore would help
restore it and would operate it at the Thresher’s Reunion. They
did, and he did, and he still does.

Moore is a resident of Jamestown, a suburb of High Point in
Guilford County, North Carolina. He operated a construction
business for many years, and later retired as maintenance
supervisor for a manufacturing plant. He has collected and restored
many antique machines, and was instrumental in establishing an
annual antique machinery show conducted by a Lions Club of which he
is a member.

This steam shovel weights 41,000 pounds. Its dipper holds
three-fourths of a cubic yard. It is capable of moving 50 to 60
cubic yards an hour with an average working speed of one to three
dippers a minute, depending on depth of cut. Its boom is 17 feet
long, and works at a height of about 18 feet.

Its cab is eight feet, two inches wide, 12 feet, 10 inches long.
Inside is a boiler with a shell 45 3/16
inches in diameter and 88 inches high. The tubes in it have a
heating surface of 364 square feet. They are fed by a tank which
holds 275 gallons of water.

The boiler’s ordinary working pressure is 125 pounds per
square inch, but it is designed for pressure up to 143 and the
manufacturer stipulated it had been tested up to 213.

Steam from this boiler operated double-reversing engines for
hoisting, swinging and digging. The hoisting engine’s piston is
five and a half inches in diameter and makes a six inch stroke. The
others have diameter of four and a half inches and five inch

The hoisting cable is five-eighths of an inch in diameter and is
made of pliable steel.

It is a self-propelling machine. Steel traction wheels in the
rear are 34 inches in diameter and 16 inches wide. The wheelbase,
or distance between front and rear axles, is 92 inches. Tread width
to the outside of the wheel is 100 inches.

The pile of dirt at their steam shovel demonstration must hold
some kind of world record for being moved the farthest without ever
going anywhere, but that doesn’t bother Willard Moore. He says
he enjoys doing it because people enjoy watching it.

When he isn’t operating the shovel, you’ll probably see
him elsewhere in the park showing off some of the antique machinery
in his collection.

The old Advance-Rumely seen on the cover is owned by Jackie
Johnson from Siler City, North Carolina. This engine was built in
1920 and is 22 HP. At the 1996 Reunion this steam traction engine
was used to demonstrate steam plowing.

In December 1911, Rumely bought out Advance-Thresher Company and
Gaar-Scott & Company. A short time later, Northwest Thresher
Company was acquired. M. Rumely Company set up a selling
organization to market the products of the three above companies.
This selling setup was known as Rumely Products Company. The same
tractor models were continued even after 1915, when financial
difficulties forced M. Rumely Company and the sales agency known as
Rumely Products Company into the hands of a receiver. By
reorganization, the firm known as Advance Rumely Company, came into

Then, in 1924, Advance Rumely bought out Aultman-Taylor Company
and continued in business until 1931. The Allis-Chalmers
Corporation on June 1, 1931, acquired most of the assets of the
Advance Rumely Company.

The old Jackson Hill Church just glimpsed on the cover is a
beautifully designed piece of early 20th century Americana. It was
moved to Denton FarmPark in 1976 and restored.

This structure was completed in 1908, according to records, and
was the third building used by a congregation in the rural Jackson
Hill community of southern Davidson County, North Carolina.

The church was Methodist Protestant, also called Southern
Methodist, and was part of a circuit of churches served by one
minister. This church was founded in a log structure in the late
18th century.

When brought to Denton FarmPark the weathered building had been
unused for 21 years since a consolidation of churches left it

Lumber, paint, shingles, glass, and months of careful
craftsmanship restored it to its appearance of the 1950s.

On Sundays during the Threshers’ Reunion, services are
conducted in the church starting at 9:00 a.m. It is open for
viewing at other times, and often is a place of impromptu gathering
for gospel singing.

The late Reverend Elmer Ritzman, a Methodist minister for 42
years, founder and publisher of Iron Men Album Magazine and Gas
Engine Magazine
would have loved this cover and this

Information for this article came from the Encyclopedia of
Steam Traction Engines, and from Southeast
Old Threshers Reunion, Denton FarmPark, Denton, North Carolina. A
big thank you also to Hank Schoolfield!

Farm Collector Magazine
Farm Collector Magazine
Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment