The Legendary Steam Engine Joe Rynda's Collection is Slated for the Auction Block: Paging Through the Past for a Glimpse of His Passion for Steam

| May/June 2004

This panoramic shot was stitched together form three separate images by Leo Foley and published in Iron-Men Album in the May-June 1989 issue. The caption referred to the site as simply a 'large steam graveyard', suggesting neither Foley nor the editors at IMA realized they were looking at 'Steam Engine Joe'. Rynda at one time owned over 50 steam engines.

In the January/February 1970 issue of the Iron-Men Album magazine, John Hays of St. Paul, Minn., reported that 'Steam Engine Joe' Rynda had attended a show in western Minnesota where no one had heard of him. Now, you would have to search carefully through the ranks of the agricultural steam community to find a person who doesn't recognize Rynda's name. After all, he sponsored one of the earliest threshing bees in North America, and at great personal expense amassed one of the most amazing collections of agricultural steam engines anywhere.


The pending auction of items from legendary 'Steam Engine Joe's' collection is the next chapter in a history stretching back to the fifth issue of the Farm Album (FA), the predecessor to the Iron-Men Album magazine (IMA) and Steam Traction. In the winter 1947 issue of the FA, founding editor Elmer Ritzman introduced the New Ulm, Minn., resident and superintendent of the municipal light plant as Mr. Joseph T. Rynda, 'a progressive man.' Ritzman then quoted the New Ulm Daily Journal from Aug. 18, 1947: 'A large part of the 2,000 people who saw Joe Rynda's old-time threshing bee in the Johnson field Saturday afternoon got straw in their hair, as the wind was blowing at a good rate.'

The thresher, a Case agitator with a webstacker, serial no. 8920, was built in 1886. Alex Reinhart, who was tending to feed duties, was quoted as saying he was 'born in the shade of a threshing machine.' Eight women in period Czech costume cut the bands of oat bundles and fed them into the thresher. The May 25, 1947, St. Paul Pioneer Press said that although Rynda received offers to buy his steam engines, he vehemently declined to sell any of them. In the September/October 1994 issue of IMA, Stanley O. Byerly wrote, 'If he has a sale, it should be some sale, as he has about everything you can imagine.' In May 2004, that auction will take place.

'Steam Engine Joe' was a key player in the formative years of steam reunions, and articles by or about Rynda appeared in 48 issues of FA and IMA. The following list represents a loosely based biography of Rynda, listing his presence in print through four decades: