STEAM ENGINE JOE RYNDA

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Gust Horrmann's photo of Rynda was probably taken in 1968.
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Rynda and his 10 HP Eureka on the occasion of his 75th birthday in 1967.
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''Steam Engine Joe'' Rynda in 1951 with the Luscombe Silveraire he used for spotting steam engines.
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The January/February 1955 cover of IMA featured Rynda piloting his 10 HP Eureka.
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Rynda (right) in 1952 with his 18 HP Wood Bros, engine.
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Rynda (right) in 1955 with his ''new'' Avery.
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This photo of Rynda's 10 HP Eureka and agitator was published in 1955, but taken in 1953.
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Rynda's chain-drive Minnesota Giant.
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Rynda in 1965 with his circa-1892 C. Aultman 16 HP Phoenix.
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Rynda in 1961 or 1962 with his return-flue Case.

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.

RYNDA AUCTION

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:

FARM ALBUM

Summer 1948: A photograph of ‘Steam Engine
Joe’ standing beside a Gopher threshing machine manufactured in
New Prague, Minn. Approximately 300 were built between 1920 and
1925. In 1922, Rynda was president of the company.

Fall 1948: Vic Wintermantel of Bellevue, Pa.,
mentioned he knew of only three examples of a 1910 Port Huron watch
fob, and one of them belonged to ‘Steam Engine Joe.’ The
issue included a snapshot of Rynda standing beside his 1896 16 HP
Huber, serial no. 3867.

Winter 1948: Columnist Gilmar Johnson reminded
readers to attend Rynda’s ‘Thresh Bee’ in October.

Spring 1949: Frank Stebritz submitted a photo
of Rynda running his 1896 Huber at his threshing bee on Oct. 10,
1948. The issue announced that a reunion was slated for May 14,
1949, at the Arthur S. Young Co. of Kinzers, Pa.; that the
‘Great Blaker Reunion’ was scheduled for June 25 in
Alvordton, Ohio; and that Rynda was planning his meet for Oct
9.

Fall 1949: Editor Ritzman described Rynda’s
bee as ‘a gala event.’

Spring 1950: Stebritz submitted a photo of
Rynda’s 14 HP Minnesota return-flue engine that ran during
Rynda’s ‘Field Day’ in October 1949.

Fall 1950: Another of Stebritz’s photos
appeared, this one showing ‘Steam Engine Joe’ on the
platform of his Minnesota engine. On the same page was
Stebritz’s snapshot of Rynda’s 16 HP C. Aultman
‘Phoenix’ with Rynda on board.

Iron-Men Album

January/February 1951: Rynda was listed as
president of the Pioneer Historical Association of Montgomery,
Minn. The article said the Association’s 10th annual bee was
held Oct. 8, 1950, at the Rynda farm. The weather had been cloudy
and cold with rain threatening. Rynda’s Huber ran the agitator.
A short motion picture was made. Approximately 4,500 people
attended the event, which exhibited stack threshing. The road was
blocked for a mile.

September/October 1951: Two photos of the Rynda
bee were published: one of women cutting the bands to feed the
Agitator, the other of a crowd gathered around the Rynda Huber set
between two conical stacks of grain.

November/December 1951: A snapshot of Rynda
beside his Luscombe Silvaire airplane, serial no. 5071, appeared.
The caption stated that Rynda flew in search of steam engines.
Rynda’s hobbies included aviation, stamp collecting,
photography and also autograph collecting.

March/April 1953: A classic photograph taken at
the Rynda reunion was published. Standing in front of an 18 HP Wood
Bros, steam engine, serial no. 675, were Dan S. Zehr of the
Pontiac, Ill., reunion; Rynda; company founder F.J. Wood; and
Helen, F.J.’s wife. Another picture captured a portion of the
immense crowd at the 1952 Rynda reunion.

January/February 1954: Rynda told of working
hard to repair his second Eureka. In his history of the Aultman
& Taylor Co. (serialized in Iron-Men Album and
SteamTraction), Dr. Lorin Bixler wrote that
during 1931 and 1932, Rynda fell ill, ‘forcing him to live on
milk and crackers.’ Uncertain about his future, Rynda asked the
Ford Museum to archive his rare wooden-wheeled, 10 HP
sunflower-gear Aultman & Taylor ‘Eureka’ steamer. The
agreement included the provision that should the Ford Museum close
or move its collections to another country, the Eureka would be
returned to Rynda’s descendants. Before the engine was hauled
to Dearborn, Leonard, Rynda’s son, cut his name on the
crosshead slides with a center punch. In early summer 1951, Rynda
found another Eureka, which he had to chop out of a tree that had
grown up around it. The engine turned out to be identical to the
one he had donated to the Ford Museum.

Rynda wrote: ‘Tonight had put on the differential gear all
alone and it weighs about 500 pounds. But I built a tram out of
boards and rolled it into the rear axle.’ Rynda said the
differential was new with the bevel pinion never used. It had not
been installed on the engine when the rig was purchased. The gear
had lain beneath a woodpile for over 30 years.

On July 4, Rynda attached the inclined shaft and the bevel gear
drive. The next day, he and Leonard flew to Watertown, S.D. They
had to divert to the south ‘to dodge the lightning and
rain’ of a storm to the north. Another storm to the south was
even more threatening. ‘We were certainly sick coming
back,’ Rynda wrote. They felt ill because the owner of an old
Case engine, serial no. 1782, had stripped it for cast iron. Rynda
described the engine: ‘It is a firebox direct-flue boiler with
crown sheet supported by ‘T’ irons. Steam dome on side of
boiler so that cylinder, which was in the rear, could be mounted on
a feed water heater. Boiler likely wrought iron as it looked like
new. Gearing in drivers not worn or even rusty. So we had a sad
trip back …’

July/August 1954: T.H. Smith, founding editor
of Engineers & Engines, supplied the cover photo of
Rynda and his Eureka.

January/February 1955: A photo was published of
four perfectly shaped grain stacks on the farm where the 13th
annual Rynda bee was to be held. The same issue presented a
snapshot of Rynda’s Eureka pulling the agitator thresher
between two stacks of oats. Ritzman commented, ‘We like this
picture.’

November/December 1955: A photograph taken on
Jan. 12, 1955, revealed Rynda’s new ‘baby,’ a 16 HP
return-flue Avery, serial no. 309, built in the 1890s.

May/June 1956: Rynda corrected two errors in
the writing of a fellow contributor. He mentioned that he had in
his backyard the engines to prove his points.

March/April 1960: A photo showcased Rynda with
a 20 HP compound Russell he had recently purchased. The caption
stated he had always wanted one.

November/December 1960: A photo showed
Rynda’s chain-drive 1896 Minnesota Giant, serial no. 4133, in
the belt.

March/April 1962: Rynda submitted a photo and a
letter. The photo showed him standing beside his 12 HP 1890
return-flue straw-burner Case, serial no. 4348. Rynda said he could
have purchased the Case in 1952, but he misunderstood a letter its
owner wrote to him. Rynda thought the owner was referring to a 16
HP Case at Pontiac, Ill. Fortunately, Rynda had a second
opportunity to buy the engine. Rynda also mentioned his 10 HP
direct-flue Case, serial no. 5103, built April 5, 1892.

March/April 1963: Rynda provided a photo of
stack threshing in October 1945 on his brother William’s farm.
The engine was a 22 HP Minneapolis with a 36-by-62-inch Minneapolis
thresher.

May/June 1963: Rynda submitted an account and
two photos documenting a 20-mile trip made with a Baker steam
engine in 1962. The Baker was a 21-75 HP Uniflow, serial no. 17676,
built in 1926. Rynda pulled the same agitator he had employed from
his beginning in the hobby. It rained, and the train became stuck
in the mud. Once, the engine sank so deeply the mud touched the
firebox.

March/April 1964: A photo of Rynda’s 16 HP
Phoenix was published. The caption stated that the serial number
plate was missing.

January/February 1965: Fred W. Schmidt of St.
Paul, Minn., supplied a photo of Rynda’s agitator taken in 1956
at Rynda’s bee.

March/April 1965: Stebritz provided two more
pictures: Rynda’s Phoenix and the agitator with a 14 HP
Minneapolis, serial no. 721, at Rynda’s bee in 1957.

September/October 1965: Rynda’s own
photograph of the Phoenix was shown. His caption said the engine
had a link motion and two speeds. The boiler was a water-front,
return-flue straw-burner. The engine was built around 1892. ‘My
daddy let me pull the throttle on one just like it when I was eight
years old,’ Rynda said. He mentioned he had recently purchased
a 19 HP Keck-Gonnerman, serial no. 1750. By the autumn of 1965,
Rynda had collected 44 traction engines and seven stationary
engines.

March/April 1966: A heart-warming photograph of
a snow-covered Eureka engine with ‘Steam Engine Joe’
holding a birthday cake having 73 candles.

November/December 1967: A sequel to the
birthday photo appeared, this time with less snow but with 75
candles. Rynda’s accompanying letter described his Phoenix:
‘My folks had one just like it and bought it new in 1894 or
1895.’ Rynda said he owned a watch inscribed to a Mr. Hageber
‘for selling the most threshing rigs in 1890.’ Rynda
credited Hageber’s knowledge of the German language with
helping to convince immigrants to purchase his machines.

May/June 1967: Ritzman’s column reported
that Rynda owned a 25 HP Northwest ‘high wheel’ heavy-gear
plow engine, serial no. 5904, built around 1908. Rynda wanted to
hear from readers who might have a similar machine.

July/August 1968: A photo featured Grand
Marshall Rynda on his Eureka engine leading a festival parade.

January/February 1969: Gust Horrmann of
Hutchinson, Minn., provided a photo of his friend of 30 years,
‘Steam Engine Joe,’ on the platform of one of his
engines.

Rynda on the deck of his 12 HP Nichols & Shepard at the last
of his bees in 1969. A pioneer of the modern threshing reunions,
Rynda amassed a formidable steam engine collection in his lifetime.
He died in 1971.

July/August 1970: A snapshot of Rynda on the
deck of his 12 HP Nichols & Shepard (with Leonard standing
nearby) was shown. The last of Rynda’s bees occurred that year.
‘Steam Engine Joe,’ age 79, died on Wednesday, Feb. 17,
1971. His obituary appeared in the May/June 1971 issue.

January/February 1972: A photo of the Eureka
engine that Rynda had donated to the Ford Museum was shown. Readers
mentioned touring ‘Steam Engine Joe’s’ collection, now
under Leonard’s supervision.

November/December 1989: A remarkable two-page
panoramic photo of Rynda’s even-more remarkable collection was
published.

July/August 2000: Blake Malkamaki provided a
1981 photo of Leonard helping Mark Hissa of Middlefield, Ohio,
cover the smokestack on Rynda’s 20 HP top-mounted Avery, serial
no. 8269. Malkamaki’s picture recalled an era dominated by
collectors like the legendary ‘Steam Engine Joe.’

Steam historian and author Robert T. Rhode may be
reached at 990 W. Lower Springboro Road, Springboro, OH 45066;
case65@earthlink.net

The auction bill for Rynda’s collection appears on
page 24.

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