Threshing with the Old Rumely

Innovative OilPull long a workhorse on the farm


| December 2005



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In the early 1920s, promotional materials for the Rumely OilPull were wide-eyed with wonder at the machine's technology. "They said Rumelys were made of the finest materials and the featured the finest machining available at the time," recalls Hubert K. Porter, Atlantic, Iowa. "They also said they didn't know how long the Rumely would last, because they had been building them since 1913 and hadn't had trouble with any of them yet." It was a tone that suggested the machines might last for decades.

Advancing technology, however, fast made the Rumely obsolete. In 1921, Hubert's grandfather and uncles (John Tibken Sr., John Tibken Jr. and William Tibken) traded an old steam engine for their Rumely 20-40. Just 27 years later, as combines gained increasing acceptance in the post-war years, the cherished Rumely was sold for scrap.

Hubert cut his mechanical teeth on the family Rumely. "I was always tinkering and mechanical minded, so the old Rumely was kind of my pride and joy as a kid," he says. "I used to sit on it and admire it. Finally, I did get to run it some when I was a little older. I was pretty proud of that."

He recalls the Rumely's mechanical innovations, impressive in their day. "It had three carburetors: One for gas to start, one for kerosene and one for water." The kerosene and water carburetors were made without floats and needle valves. The pumps continuously pumped water and kerosene. The levels in the bowls for each were maintained by overflow pipes, which drained back into the tanks.

A one-gallon tank of gas on the left fender was used to start the engine. "You had to pump the gas up to the carburetor by hand and fill the left carburetor that was used to start the Rumely," he says. "The other two tanks, the water and the kerosene, had mechanical pumps down off the end of the camshaft. One pump would pump water and the other kerosene up to the carburetor. It had something new or different, I guess. The kerosene pump would pump kerosene up around the right exhaust pipe through a heat exchanger. The kerosene that went to the carburetor was hot. Hot kerosene is just about as volatile as gasoline. I guess that was one of the reasons the Rumely ran so good and lasted so long."

The Rumely had a drip oiling system. "It had a pump that sat high above the engine. And it had a lever that ran to the camshaft." The system dripped fresh oil into pipes running to every bearing and cylinder. Advance Rumely Co. literature stated that the OilPull was an engine that would have fresh oil all the time and never need an oil change. "After it ran a thresher for an hour or two, there was always a puddle of oil under the engine," Hubert recalls. "A little bit of oil dripped out of the crankcase all the time it was running. When the Rumely came out, I think it had an oil plug in it. You were supposed to take the plug out and drain it every day or two, but Uncle John and Uncle Bill had the plug unscrewed and just let it run on the ground."