Tuesday, August 15, 2017

1913 Case Traction Engine

Jerome Increase Case got his start as a businessman selling groundhogs. In 1842 at the age of 23 he bought six of them on credit and headed west from his home in New York for what was then the frontier territory of Wisconsin. His business acumen was quickly vindicated as he sold five of them at a tidy profit before he reached his destination at Rochester.

At this point you're probably thinking; " Why would anyone buy an obese rodent with orthodontic issues?" The answer is that these groundhogs were a primitive threshing machine. You can see how primitive by looking at a picture of one. They appear to be little more than a cylinder with spikes protruding from it that's attached to a couple of gears. That aside, they were a quantum leap ahead of beating the grain out with a flail which hadn't changed much since the dawn of agriculture. Jerome used his remaining groundhog to establish a threshing business and began working on an improved machine of his own design.

It wasn’t long before Case moved again, this time to Racine Wisconsin where he rented a small shop and began producing his improved threshing machine.  Since no one enjoyed slinging a flail all Winter, his threshers found an eager market and his business thrived. His early machines were powered by horses. In 1869 Case expanded it’s product line to include steam engines. The first Case steam traction engines followed in 1876.

The traction engine featured in this post is engine number 29478, a 40 horsepower model built in 1913. It is owned by the Berry Family of Saluda, South Carolina and was exhibited at the Richland Creek Antiques Show in 2016. It is one of the 35,838  steam traction engines that Case built before production ended in 1924.

Per the specifications listed in a Case catalog dated 1916 the boiler barrel measures 28 inches in diameter holding 32 tubes 84 ½ “ long and 2” in diameter, with a heating surface of 144 square feet. The firebox dimensions are 34 ¾ “ long by 25 ¼ “ wide with a height of 30” above the grate.

Steam at 150 pounds per square inch is connected by short pipes from the steam dome to the steam chest. Note the sediment on the canopy roof and the steam whistle.

The 40 hp model has a simple cylinder that measures 8 ¼ “ by 10”. Engine speed is regulated by the flyball governor that opens and closes a valve that admits the steam to the chest.

The steam is then directed alternately to each end of the cylinder by the steam valve thereby pushing the cylinder back and forth to transform heat into mechanical energy that is transmitted to the flywheel through the crosshead and connecting rod.

The contractor's fuel bunkers were available by special order for an additional eighty dollars. According to the Case 1916 catalog they would hold about a half day's supply of fuel. The water tank is located beneath the bunkers and the operator's platform. Another add on option was the canopy, priced at fifty dollars.

Encyclopedia of American Steam Traction Engines by Jack Norbeck

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

1928 Model X Rumely

Last November, as events at the Steam Expo drew to a close, the traction engines began to return to their shed on a back lot of the Cumming, Ga. Fairgrounds so I followed them. I spent the next hour or so inspecting and photographing the amazing collection of steam engines that’s assembled there. In the very last berth I found this nicely restored 1928 Rumely Model X. I was intrigued, not just because it’s a nice Oil Pull , but because all the others I’ve seen have been painted in the usual faded Rumely green.

In response to inquiries I made, John Walls, the tractors owner replied that he had purchased the Rumely from a man who lived in Indiana, not far from the site of the Rumely factory in Laporte. “The blue is correct but the red wheels are not, they should be blue as well. The early Rumelys were green but around 1927 or 28 the color changed to blue. Legend has it that Rumely got a better deal on some blue paint and decided to to change the color of their tractors.”

Well, maybe. While doing some research for this post I found that there was more than one version of the story as is so often the case. It seems that It’s generally agreed that 1928 saw a change in color. What that color was depends on who you ask. In his Encyclopedia of American Farm Tractors, C. H. Wendel  writes; “ In this last series Rumely changed to a steel gray enamel after using the dark green paint for years. A former Rumely employee relates that the management simply liked the new gray  color and adopted it as standard.”

Browse some photos of the Model X on line and you will find an array of colors from green to gray to powder blue. Probably the only way to get a definitive answer would be to have access to factory records or maybe analyze the paint from a tractor that was known to be factory original. If you look closely at this photo you can make out what appears to  be a layer of green  and one of gray as well as the blue.  

Rumely established it’s reputation as a manufacturer of big heavy and expensive tractors during the period when the open plains were being developed for agriculture. By the 1920’s farmers were looking for smaller, lighter and more affordable equipment to maintain their farms.  In 1924 Rumely obliged with a new line of lightweight Oil Pulls , the smallest being the Model L, rated at 15 - 25. In 1928 they modified their line of tractors again, primarily by increasing engine speed  to gain a boost in horsepower. The Model L got bumped up by 95 rpm and became the W 20 - 30. The Type M got revved up and became the Type X  25 - 40. It is entirely possible that Rumely management decided to change the color as a way to emphasize the difference that the 1928 lineup offered.

The X model was in production from 1928 to 1930 with only 2400 units built. It was powered by a horizontal two cylinder engine that displaced 604 cubic inches. Three forward speeds were available at 2.3, 2.9 and 3.5 miles per hour.

The lightweight series that included the X tractors proved to be among the last that Rumely produced.  1928 also saw a radical redesign of their product with the introduction of the Rumely Do All  that followed the row crop trend. It was followed in 1930 by the Model 6 A. By this time however Rumely was in serious financial difficulty and it was acquired by Allis-Chalmers in 1931.
So here we are at the end of the post with no definitive answer about the color of the Rumely X.  As always, reader comments are welcome.  Bottom line; It’s a good looking Oil Pull and it’s John’s tractor so he can paint it any color he likes. Even pink if he wanted to. What ???? Did I really say that? Perish the thought!

Information provided by John Walls
Encyclopedia of American Farm Tractors by C.H. Wendel
Manitoba Agricultural Museum http://ag-museum.com