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Revived Kerosene Annie heads to Rollag for the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion

A team of tractor restorers working in Harwood, North Dakota, brought the 1909 Kerosene Annie back to life, just in time to appear at the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion in Rollag, Minnesota.

A man with a gray beard, dressed in blue with a blue hat, operates an odd-looking kerosene-powered tractor. It has small rear wheels and a huge radiator in the front.
Kerosene Annie, operated here by Rob Bearden, the curator of the JUMP tractor museum, will be the centerpiece of a Rumely exhibit at the 2022 Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion. Photo taken Aug. 19, 2022.
Evan Girtz / Agweek
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HARWOOD, N.D. — Before diesel became the fuel of choice for farm equipment, manufacturers experimented with other sources to fuel internal combustion engines.

According to the Boise, Idaho, JUMP tractor museum , gasoline in 1910 was 25 cents, compared to 5 cents for kerosene. Inventors at the Rumely Co., based in LaPorte, Indiana, started work a couple years prior to that to find a way to fuel a tractor with inexpensive kerosene.

The type "B" Oil Pull was the first Rumely to come off the line. The tractor came to be known as "Kerosene Annie," and the company made 935 of them. Only 23 — or 2.46% — have survived, according to JUMP.

This particular survivor, a 1909 prototype, was used for only a year, and then sat behind the Indiana factor until collector Oscar Cooke of Billings, Montana, found and restored it. Cooke, who died in 1995, ran what was once called Oscar's Dreamland , a collection of historic buildings and equipment. During a 1998 auction at Oscar's Dreamland, J.R. Simplot purchased 110 machines, including Kerosene Annie, which sold for $89,000.

The J.R. Simplot Foundation started the JUMP center, which stands for Jack's Urban Meeting Place, in memory of Simplot, who was called Jack and died in 2008. JUMP is now Kerosene Annie's permanent home, under curator Rob Bearden.

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An old-fashioned tractor sits in a shop. The tractor says "Kerosene Annie" on the side.
The 1909 prototype Kerosene Annie sits in a shop in Harwood, North Dakota, where tractor experts have brought it back to life in time to travel to Rollag, Minnesota, for the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion. Photo taken Aug. 19, 2022.
Contributed / Chloe Reichel, Butler Machinery

But Annie has made a special trip to the Midwest to be the centerpiece of an exhibit of Rumely equipment on display at the annual Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion in Rollag, Minnesota, over Labor Day weekend. The exhibit will include Rumely Oil Pull tractors, steam and machinery, including Gaar-Scott, Aultman Taylor, Advance, Falk and Olds engines.

"The whole tractor is actually brand new," Bearden said of Kerosene Annie. "There's very little time on it. All the gears are all new, all the inside of the engine is pretty much new."

However, Annie hadn't run in decades.

Enter Luke Steinberger.

A Butler flag, yellow and black in color, sits in front of a trailer which is carrying a large, old-fashioned tractor.
Butler Machinery was among the sponsors that helped bring Kerosene Annie to the Midwest for the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion.
Contributed / Chloe Reichel, Butler Machinery<br/><br/>

"So, my great grandparents farmed with Rumelys in western North Dakota," Steinberger said.

Steinberger serves on the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion Rumely Committee. His lifetime love of Rumleys prompted him to work to bring an exhibit to Rollag. It's taken years of planning, but with the help of sponsors and a team of historic tractor rebuilders, Kerosene Annie will be running at the annual event.

Butler Machinery sponsored Kerosene Annie's trip from Boise to Steinberger's shop in Harwood. And then the work began to bring Annie back to life.

"It's not something that you just turn a key and start," Bearden said. "Everything has to be oiled, everything has to be primed."

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A man with a gray beard and a black cap sits on the back of an old fashioned tractor.
Rob Bearden is the curator of the JUMP tractor museum in Boise, Idaho, which includes Kerosene Annie, a kerosene-powered tractor that will be on display at the 2022 Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion in Rollag, Minnesota. Photo taken Aug. 19, 2022.
Evan Girtz / Agweek

The team working at Steinberger's shop quickly got her running again.

"Within nine days, we had 300 hours of man labor into it," Steinberger said.

"Once we got it running, the first fire — boy it was pretty exciting to hear this thing run for the first time," Bearden said.

Kerosene Annie will be moved from Harwood to Rollag in time for the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion, Sept. 2-5.

"We plan on plowing with it. We're going to run a pump with it, do some threshing with it, and might even take the Steam Queen for a ride in it," Bearden said.

Rollag is an annual event displaying agriculture history, but Steinberger said the event needs to bring things no one has seen before.

"We need to bring new things that they haven't seen just to keep things fresh, too," he said. "And there would be nothing greater than Kerosene Annie to do that, something to be seen and touched and felt and heard and actually used."

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