Rubens Maskinhistoriska Samlingar
By Tore Blum
The enthusiastic trio at Rubens, in front of their pair of Fowler steam plowers. The trio is father Ruben Blom with both his sons Tage (left) and Tore (right).
RUBENS Maskinhistoriska Samlingar (Rubens Historical Machinery Collection) is the name of Sweden's most comprehensive collection of steam and internal combustion engines. It has been assembled by the owner, Mr. Ruben Blom and his two sons over a 20 year period of intensive research and preservation. The collection covers a period roughly from 1860 to 1940.
Initially, it was Ruben Blom's deep feelings of respect for the old generation's workmanship and ideals, together with his fascination for mechanical machinery that started it all.
It was steam engines which first fascinated him, in his youngest years. In 1964 he bought his first portable steam engine and others soon followed so that by 1969 his collection consisted of seven portables together with some stationary engines and about 20 internal combustion engines.
The next ten years were something of an explosion, as the collection reached the level of 25 portables in 1973, 55 by 1978, with two traction engines as well. By now, some more have been added and the collection consists of 60 portables, 4 tractions and some stationary engines all told, about 100!
The oil engine collection expanded during the same time, also to about 100 engines. In addition there are some old tractors and road making vehicles, as well as other working machinery.
During this time, the general interest in Sweden was nila fact which made it possible to work this mission out in such a time frame and on such a scale. Interest has since been raised, and it is now quite popular to collect and preserve old engines (most commonly with internal combustion engines, more rarely steam tractions and portables, since the I-C engines are more available).
The Rubens collection of portable steam engines is unique in that it consists of more than 40 engines of the same maker, Munktells Mekaniska Werkstad Eskilstuna Sweden. The reason is that Munktells was so prominent in the home market, and more than eighty percent of the remaining portable engines are of their production. We know Munktells today as a part of Volvo-BM (the 'M' stands for Munktells).
The oldest of the portables is a German built engine, by a firm named P. A. Vennset, Berlin. It is built in the 1850-60 fashion, with a box bed bolted to the boiler. It was on wooden wheels, but these have regrettably rotted away.
Next to the oldest is a Munktells portable of the 1868 construction made in 1874, which is one of the last engines with a Watt type governor.
Altogether no fewer than 13 engines are from pre-1900, and there are 10 makers represented, from Norway, Germany, England and the U.S.A. The American representative is a Farquhar 'Ajax' type portable about 40 effectual HP, #9403, with date of manufacture unknown. The collector would be most interested to hear from any reader who might have any information about these engines or the maker.
Another unique portable is the huge Marshall duplex of 25NHP, weighing close to 15 tons. In contrast we should mention the small portable of 2 NHP which gives an effectual output of 7 HP. This little engine was made by Munktells to satisfy more limited demands.
The other two tractions are a pair of Fowlers ploughing engines, of the famous cable system. This sole pair in Sweden, are really impressive and weigh about 20 tons each.
Stationary engines from industries or small factories are to be found in different constructions singles, duplex or as compound engines, either in vertical or horizontal shapes.
One of the largest is a Bellis & Morcum compound engine connected to a 184Kwa ASEA generator. The German built engine is quite unusual, with drop inlet valves, and fitted with a flywheel measuring over three meters in diameter.
Marine related engines are mostly preserved from tugboats, and built as compounds of about 70 HP. One of them is a triple expansion engine measured about 500 HP.
The collection of old oil engines is less international, as most of the engines are by Swedish makers. The Swedish production of internal combustion engines started early and was carried out by more than a hundred different makers. Most of these makers were small and served a local market, but fifteen or so could be considered nationally known, with significant output.
Two of the Munktells traction engines are quite alike, except for difference in size. They were built in 1914 and 1915 and are Munktell's final type of traction engine, in the SK class. SK engines are built in the traditional way for portables with cylinder block on top of the firebox. The transmission from crankshaft in front is by way of a chain, over a woodblock clutch, in the flywheel.
The largest of these has been completely overhauled and rebuilt, to like new condition. It is steamed over the tourist season and has been a large success.
Rubens has over 35 different makes, some of which are very unusual. (Some because they are very early engines or just rare ones). Engines from abroad include several McCormicks, a Waterloo Boy, and an International Harvester, type K (#7940).
One very rare engine is the alcohol engine made in the late 1890's, one of the very first two-stroke hot bulb engines made by the famous firm Avance in Stockholm in about 1903.
Hotbulbs are the most common type of ingition system used for engines burning paraffin or crude oils. These most reliable engines are still used in some sawmills and can compete with electricity in some cases. Most of the engines so far are horizontal engines rates about 35 HP, but the typical paraffin/crude engine will be recalled as a vertical type, often suitable for transport if a pair of wheels was added to its timber frame.
Also some vehicles with old type engines have been saved from an uncertain fate. These are primarily types of machinery which the ordinary car or truck collectors never cared for. There is Munktells first type of grader, from 1923, equipped with a 2 cylinder crude engine, and Munktells first type of oil roller from 1916, powered by a single cylinder crude engine of 20-24 HP.
Another rare pice of equipment is the self-propelled stone crusher made by Carl Kelble in Backnang, Germany. The engine in that vehicle is a horizontal four stroke paraffin burner, located in a box behind the driver who is sitting at the very front. Belt drive to gearbox, and finally by chain to each rear wheel. The crusher is fitted at the rear and the macaddam was just falling down on the road on which it was working, slowly moving forward.
A limited collection of farm tractors consist of the common types from Case, Deering, Munktells, Fordson etc. There is also a single cylinder Lanz Bulldog and Field Marshall. Rare is a 1928 Austin, which presumably was made in France. A very limited number of Austin's were imported to Sweden, during 1927-28. Machinery intended to do work, which was powered by engines is also well represented in the collection: portable stone crushers, threshing machines, shingle machines, etc. They are intended to be belted and be shown at work for visitors in the future, together with the restored engines. IMA