Family heirloom Rumely 6A takes a winding path to restoration
In 1933, my father-in-law, Frank Ruddell, bought a new Rumely 6A tractor in Toronto. Frank farmed near Georgetown, Ontario. He was replacing a Rumely 2-cylinder tractor, a 20-30W. A deal was soon made and Frank undertook to drive the new tractor home, a distance of about 40 miles. It took all day. The spades and front rims would be applied at home on the farm.
Frank had 100 acres at home and rented land around the country. He did a lot of custom work as well, about 100 days a year, threshing all day and plowing all night. The 6A gave good service and never had a major breakdown. When it was time to replace it, Frank chose a Minneapolis-Moline Model G. In 1942, the Rumely was shipped by rail to Iron Bridge, Ontario. Frank never saw the tractor again.
Years later, I thought it would be good to have my father-in-law’s tractor. Auctioneers know where everything is in the country, so at the next auctioneers convention I asked the local auctioneer, Vern Bailey, if he knew anything about the Rumely. He said he’d look. At the convention the following year, he said he’d located the tractor at Bruce Mines, a town located on the north shore of Lake Huron west of Thessalon.
The next year when we headed west to see some shows, we went to Bruce Mines and sure enough: On a rock pile behind a building was the Rumely 6A. It was a sad looking sight and we should have walked away, but seeing as it was Grandpa’s tractor we had to take it home and try. We found the man in charge and bought the tractor for $1. That would turn out to be the most expensive dollar I ever spent.
When we got the tractor loaded we went to a nearby sawmill where the Rumely had been used for years after my father-in-law sold it. I said to the proprietor, Earl Brock, “Now when that tractor came up here it would have had two sets of wheels: a rubber set on it and steel set with it.” He said, “You’re right.” I asked what happened to the other set of wheels. He said they were out under a tree. “If you want them,” he said, “go get them.” We found the wheels all right, but there were only three: two rears and one front. What happened to the other front wheel? He couldn’t remember.
Earl later remembered what happened to the missing wheel. They’d had a horse that would jump the fence. If they tied the horse to the wheel he would drag it all over the farm, but he couldn’t jump the fence with it. “So wherever we untied the horse off the wheel the last time,” he said, “that is where the wheel is.”
When we got the tractor stripped down, we discovered that the engine had been taken apart because the oil pump did not work. Repairs were apparently abandoned at that point. I took the engine to my friend, Bill Watson, who did most of my work at the time; he said he needed another camshaft. I had located another parts tractor in Ada, Minn., and it had a good camshaft. So he made one out of two. He spent a lot of time and energy fixing that engine, and we thought we had a good one.
By fall 1994 we were not yet ready to put the engine in the tractor. It would take another year to dismantle, clean and sandblast the pieces and get it back together and ready for the engine. Instead of putting the rubber wheels back on, we took the lugs off the steel wheels, sandblasted, painted and bolted on cut-down tractor tires to the rear wheels. But we only had one front steel wheel, so we found another hub, got a piece of steel rolled, found some flat iron and made a wheel. It looks good. You would be hard pressed to tell which one we made.
We bought a parts tractor from Bill Krumweide, Voltaire, N.D., and were bringing that tractor home when we had automotive trouble. When we finally returned for the tractor, we stopped to have breakfast in a local restaurant. A man at the next table looked out the window and said, “I know where there is a tractor like that.”
In less than an hour we were headed west again to Ada, Minn. We wound up at the farm of Robert Williams. He wasn’t home but we looked at the tractor and realized it had a good camshaft and several other parts. We phoned him from home in Milton, Ontario, and bought the tractor. That meant we had three tractors to make two out off, a good parts supply.
We eventually got the first tractor into the shop and removed the engine from the Rumely 6A and took it to Bill Watson to make the necessary repairs. We took the rest of the tractor to another shed: We weren’t going to fix the back end if the engine was too far gone.
Bill Watson was a good guy and I had faith in what he was doing. He had the block bored and sleeved and put it all back together again, and it was ready to go, we thought.
We had some other projects in the shop at the time and stashed the engine in the old barn for a year or more. Eventually we got the rest of the tractor into the shop and began dismantling it. We soon found out the gears in the transmission were shot. So we dismantled the tractor from Ada and got good gears there.
We had two sets of wheels: a steel set and a rubber set. Because one rubber rim was in bad shape, we decided to use the steel set. During the Rumely’s sawmill years, workers there viewed spokes on the wheels as raw material. Every time they needed a piece of flat iron to fix something, they cut out a spoke. So we had nine spokes to weld back into the rear wheels. We cut the bolts that held the lugs and had the wheels sandblasted, primed and painted. Then we put on cut-down rubber tires.
When my father-in-law had the tractor, he ran it on gravel roads, which shook the wheels quite loose. He took the tractor to Gordon Brigden, Hornby, Ontario, for repair. Welding was not then what it is today, so Gordon re-rivited the wheels back into shape as best he could and added four extra spokes to each back wheel for good measure. I left them there as they make a great conversation piece. The rear fenders were beyond repair. We used the set from the Krumweide tractor.
By spring 2006 we had the tractor back together and one coat of paint on it. In the fall I sent it to Alan McBay’s garage. Alan set the timing, made adjustments, added water and a belt, and away it went – but a full stream of water flowed out the exhaust pipe. It seemed to run well but there was way too much water running out.
Close examination revealed several hairline cracks in the block. We took the engine back to the machine shop, where they stitched up the cracks and thought it would be good. We took it home and tried it again, but the problem was not solved. We began to realize the whole block had been frozen and cracked inside. No use spending more time and money on that engine. An Internet search yielded a new 6MZA Waukesha engine in Philadelphia.
We took both the new and cracked engines to Hamilton to make one out of two. We thought we were all done buying. Two weeks later the machine shop man called to say the old oil pump wouldn’t fit the new block. Fortunately, our Philadelphia source had an oil pump: Two weeks later we were back in business and installed the engine readily (we were getting good at that by now).
When we got it all fixed up it ran good, but not excellent. However, we took it to two shows in the fall and had some fun with it. Professional sign painter Rollie Guertin did the striping and put decals on. It sure looks good now. To make it run better we installed a new carburetor (also from Philadelphia). It sure runs good now.
It’s been a long process, but because it was Grandpa’s tractor it all seems worthwhile. In February 2010, the Rumely 6A was at the Toronto International Farm Show as part of the antique display there. In June 2010 it was shown at the Historical Shows Association in Paris, Ontario, and in September at the Steam Era 50th anniversary show in Milton, Ontario, where it won the best-restored tractor award.
It’s not the end but the journey that makes the story. FC
For more information: Sherwood Hume, (905) 878-4878.