The Restoration Chronicles of 721

by Jerred Ruble

Hanlontown, IA


I purchased this engine at Leonard Rynda’s sale in May of2004. The engine’s number is 721, built in 1893. I have been told by a reliable source this is the oldest know Minneapolis engine left, but I have no way to verify this other than someone telling me my claim is incorrect, which I encourage anyone to do.


I received a lead about an engine # 512 thought to still exist. The engine showed up on the steam-tractors web site. After making several calls and one trip I discovered that all that remains of #512 is the cylinder with its name plate. I consider this as a remnant and no contest for my claim that #721 is the oldest surviving Minneapolis steam traction engine.


Here is a picture of the engine (copied from the steam traction site) as it sat for over 50 years at Montgomery, MN.




I will attempt to provide a chronicle of the restoration on this page, updating the page as the restoration process continues. The work is being done at Heritage Park of North Iowa. This year’s mild winter has allowed the work to proceed in the large unheated machinery building. You will notice partial pictures of other units stored in the building.


(Click on Date to see Detail)

Work Completed

December 3 & 4, 2005

Removed smoke box ends

December 11, 2005

Removed piping

December 17 & 18, 2005

Removed rear smoke box and all engine levers

January 4, 2006

Construction of new boiler decision

January 7, 2006

Removed engine

January 14, 2006

Removed traction components

January 15, 2006

Delivered boiler to shop

February 19, 2006

Polishing Brass

May 10, 2007

New Boiler Arrives

November 23, 2008

Installing rear axles

December 7, 2008

Front wheels installed

December 14, 2008

Cleaning/Priming Parts

December 27, 2008

Cleaning/Priming Parts

December 28, 2008

Cleaning/Priming Parts

January 4, 2009

Installing Motor and intermediate gear

January 11, 2009

Installing Front and rear smoke boxes

January 17, 2009

Installing Front Heat Shields

January 24, 2009

Finishing Front Heat shields/Installing Fire Box Door

January 31, 2009

Painting Parts

February 7, 2009

Assembling Motor

February 8, 2009

Assembling Motor

March 7, 2009

Assembling Motor

March 8, 2009

Assembling Motor

March 14, 2009

Assembling Motor

March 21, 2009

Assembling Motor

March 22, 2009

First Trial run

April 18, 2009

Eye Candy

May 10, 2009

First steam

May 17, 2009

Début at Steam School




Work Completed

December 3 & 4, 2005

With the help of Brian Patterson and Eric Bremer, we removed the smoke box ends on both the front and the rear. Had to torch most of the bolts. This allowed a thorough visual inspection of the boiler to be completed. These initial set of photos were taken after the smoke box ends were removed. I plan to do a detailed ultrasonic thickness test this weekend and assess my options further, but based on the visual inspection, I may need to have a replacement boiler constructed. To that end I am currently in the process of making some inquires.

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December 11, 2005

The goal today was to remove all the piping from the engine. I only had about three hours to work on the project. I first took pictures of how all the existing piping was plumbed so I can use it as a pattern when I get to the piping point later in the summer. I know it was not the original pipe, but from factory photos I was pretty confident it was plumbed the way it came from the factory.

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As I removed the pipe, I put all the fittings back together to use as a pattern when I installed the new pipe. I was a little surprised to find that a mouse had found his way to the cross head pump.

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A problem presented itself as I went to remove the bottom valve for the water column. To remove the valve I discovered I will first need to remove the gear guard. That project will need to be left for another day. My three hours was just about up. Other than that problem though, I did manage to remove all of the other piping. As you can see, it required a little heat to remove some of the fittings.

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December 17 & 18, 2005

Brian Patterson decided to come over from Emmetsburg, IA to help out a little over the weekend. We continued with the dismantling. Got the rest of the rear smoke box off, removed the piston for inspection and removed the preheated ends for inspection. As you can see, we disturbed another cozy mouse home in the preheated. I was really surprised to see what good condition the cylinder, piston and rings were in. Front tank will need some help.

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January 4, 2006

Over the Holidays, I made the decision to essentially have a new boiler constructed. Craig’s Restoration Services from Durant, IA was given the contract to do the work. That decision being made, I will now need to remove the engine and traction components from the old boiler and deliver the old boiler to Craig so the boiler work can be started.

January 7, 2006

The goal today was to remove the engine. I wanted to remove the engine intact if possible. This would greatly simplify the reassemble project. Removing the engine would consist of removing 36, ¾” cap screws that held the engine mounting castings to the boiler. I am sure they had not been removed since installation at the factory in 1893. Most of them were rusted in pretty good. We had to use some pretty heavy duty brut force to get them out. We broke only 4 of the cap screws. The rest of them came out but we ruined the threads in about 90% of them. I’ll need to get all new ones mode. I had several friends stop by to help out. My thanks to Dave Hill, Chuck Holland, Wyndham Sellers, Bill Haun and Norman Taylor for their help. It took us right at 8 hours to get the engine off.

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January 14, 2006

The goal today was to remove the traction components and get the boiler removed and loaded on the trailer for transport to Durant, IA. Things went relatively straight forward. The cap screws still came out hard, but we had perfected our procedure for removing them. We had to remove the rear wheels to get access to the rear axle mounting brackets. Thanks to Eric Bremer, Brain Patterson, Wyndham Sellers and Chuck Holland we had all the cap screws out by noon and the boiler loaded on the trailed early in the afternoon. Turned out to be a short day.

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January 15, 2006

Today we delivered the boiler to Craig’s Restoration in Durant, IA. Craig Dobbins and Gary Flack gave us a tour of their shop and some of the other work they have in progress. Sounded like my project would be started almost immediately. That sounded really good to me as my goal to have the engine up and running at Heritage Park’s fall show seems closer and closer each day.

Here we are unloading the boiler at Craig’s shop. That is Craig on the JD tractor.

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February 19, 2006

Brian and Eric were over this weekend to help out on the 15 Rumely restoration. We completed what we wanted to accomplish on that project on Saturday, so we decided to work some on 721. Didn’t have a lot of time so we decided to polish some brass. Eric took on that project. As you can see he has most of the brass look’n good.

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May 10, 2007

The new boiler arrived. My IH 806 had a hard time lifting the boiler, but we managed to get it off loaded and safely on the ground. That’s Craig Dobbins and yours truly breathing a sigh of relief.

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November 23, 2008

After over of year of down time, my helpers and I started mounting the fixtures on the new boiler. The boiler is sitting upside down allowing easier mounting of the rear axle assembly and front pedestal. That’s Brain Paterson helping out on this day.

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Collin Hall and Wyndham Sellers showed up to lend a hand as well. Collin is removing the masking tape from the intermediate gear fixture while Wyndham lends a hand to Brain installing the differential shaft.

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With the axle assembly installed, it was time to up right the boiler. This process required numerous small turns with the crane until we had it right side up..

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Once upright we could install the differential gears and the hind wheels. At the end of the day we had the engine resting on its rear wheels again for the first time in 3 years. This was short of our 4 wheel goal, but Brian, Collin and I all felt good with what we had accomplished in a single day.

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December 7, 2008

Brian Patterson, Nick Feltus and Eric Bremer put in a day while I was on a business trip. They painter the top half of the boiler and installed the front wheel. Finally on all fours again.

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December 14, 2008

Next we turned to cleaning and painting the smoke box and motor parts,

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December 27, 2008

I was by myself today. I worked on cleaning and priming the motor and motor parts.

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December 28, 2008

Motor primed and ready to mount on the boiler.

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January 4, 2009

The crew today consisted of Brian Patterson, Eric Bremer and Collin Hall. We first properly positioned the motor and intermediate gear. Marked the holes with a transfer punch then removed everything to drill the holes with my magnetic drill.

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The fixtures were then reposition and threads tapped with the fixtures in position to ensure each cap screw would thread properly into the boiler. At the end of the day we had the intermediate gear as well as the motor installed on the boiler.

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Progress to date.

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January 11, 2009

To we worked on the front and rear smoke boxes. Nick Feltus and I worked on the front.

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Brian Patterson worked on the rear. By the end of the day we day both smoke boxes pretty much done.

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January 17, 2009

Bill Haun and Lucas Munson putting the final touches on the front smoke box door heat shield.

Bryce and Lucas Munson installing the front smoke box side heat shields

Bryce Munson, Lucas Munson and Collin Hall at the end of the day. Front heat shields 90% installed.

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January 24, 2009

Nick Feltas finishing up the front heat shields

Jerred, Nick and Brian assess the fabrication needed to install the fire box door.

Brian drilling holes needed to install the fire box door.

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January 25, 2009

Complete rear smoke box Sunday afternoon



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January 31, 2009

Weather turned warm for a day so we took advantage and painted a few parts.

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February 7, 2009

Decided to work on assembling parts of the engine today. Here the clutch and pinion gear were installed.

Next Bill Haun fit the shoes he had made several months earlier.

Brian and Collin working on installing the governor base.

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February 8, 2009

Assembly continued today with the flywheeh

Just about there.

There, looking more like a steamer everyday.

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March 7, 2009

Lawrence Swanz and Oly Maas took on the job of piping the engine.

There was no room for error in cutting and treading the pipes.. Here they are making the final adjustments.

Brian and Eric worked on putting the front tank together in the meantime.

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March 8, 2009

With the engine plumbed to the dry pipe, Nichols Swanz was able to assemble the stack casting.

Brian and Eric completed the front tank. It really came out nice.

After a long day, Collin and Nichols found a comfortable spot to take a little rest.

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March 14, 2009

Bryce and Lucas Munson came out today to help install the front tank supports.

Collin got after doing some intricate painting.

Painting almost done on the motor.

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March 21, 2009

Doug and Steven Langenbach from Fynnlanson, MN delivered the canopy today. All I could say was beautiful.

Brain and I worked on assembling the motor after we got done admiring Doug and Steven’s workmanship.. Here Brian is install the piston.

Next we work on installing the connecting rod.

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March 22, 2009

Eccentric was next

Then on to timing the motor.

Setting the valve

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Finally connected the pipes at the top of the dome to feed the motor.

Finally we were ready for a test run on air. We plugged all the  boiler feed lines and pumped the boiler up to about 50 lbs of air.


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Trial run on Air


April 18/19, 2009

Time to put a little eye candy on the engine.

Here Collin Hall is installing the whistle.

Bill Haun painting the star on the disc.

Bill doing the lettering on the cylinder

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The final product

Nick Feltus putting the final coat of paint on the front tank.

While the rest of us were putting final touches on the paint, Brian worked on the piping the boiler.

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May 10, 2009

The day finally arrived for first steam.

The crew on hand to witness the event.

From left to right: Monte Topp, Scot Evans, Nick Feltus, Eric Bremer, Eileen Ruble, Jim Evans, Lucas Munson, Brian Patterson, and Bryce Munson

Waiting for steam

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May 17,2009

How it looked at Heritage Park steam School. Needs a little more eye candy such as the tank striping and filly dilly. The engine performed beautifully for the students.



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Moving under Steam