The "Streamliner"Historical information:
Montgomery Wards Supreme Reversible Rotary Model 30
National Sewing Machine Company Model RBR-2W
(Illustration courtesy of The Needlebar.)
Zorba has scanned and made freely available a PDF of the manual (15MB).
This machine was produced from about 1941 until the demise of the National Sewing Machine Company in
1954. Rugged and beautiful, it was a derivation of their Model 40 Rotary, and was produced exclusively
for Montgomery Ward. A strong sewer; it is probably my favorite antique machine, and is a joy to sew with!
Machine as received. Its missing the spool pin, the bobbin winder tire, and the bobbin winder thread
guide. This profile view I find to be rather graceful and equine. I eventually built a base for it!
Friction drive motor rubber wheel is kaput - someone tried masking tape to keep it running!
Top view. This particular example is in very good shape.
End-on view. Looks like an Art Deco "Stream Liner" locomotive, hence the name.
Hinged faceplate, an improvement over the earlier Reversew "Rex" design.
Wheel end with a better view of the taped up motor drive wheel.
Closeup of shuttle and bobbin carrier
As seen "straight on".
This foot pedal is NOT original, in fact I purchased it to use with this machine. Note
the almost new internal condition. Nevertheless, it cost more than the machine! I've seen
this model pedal supplied (in a different color) with the Compac/Portman Sewing Machine.
This model was originally supplied with the same foot pedal as the Reversew "Rex", as pictured here.
The 3rd party foot pedal ("The Electrical Mfg. Co." of Racine, Wis) and a light bulb have been added. Motor turns over. See text.
Original 1948 instruction manual (left), a buttonhole attachment manual (center),
and some kind of generic sewing machine repair manual (right). I don't have the
What I've been able to find out so far:
Photo courtesy of "Randy", of the NSMCO list. These are the first two versions of this model;
two like mine, another (rear) with cast ribbing on the faceplate, instead of the bright add-on.
Randy contributed this close-up of the rearmost machine from the picture above this one.
This was the only example of this type he, or I, had seen until the next picture came to lite.
We thought it may have been a test mule until the below example surfaced. But perhaps
it was a limited run in an attempt to bring the costs down - or to gauge market
reaction to the cast ribbing. The cast ribbing is the only difference between this machine,
and the other pre-1954 examples. Maybe it was created because of a supply problem with the
faceplate brightwork. One can speculate endlessly, but we'll probably never know the facts.
Photo courtesy of "Randall": A second example of a machine with cast ribbing. Apparently his mother
bought it brand new off the sales floor at their local Montgomery Ward store. Not a test mule!
Photo courtesy of "Randy", of the NSMCO list. Extremely rare 1954 (only) version.
Note different brightwork on the faceplate, and a lighter paint color.
Photo courtesy of "Randy", of the NSMCO list. 1954 version, backside. Note horizontal spool pin, decades before they became commonplace.
Photo courtesy of "Randy", of the NSMCO list. Inside 1954 faceplate. Note hard wired light, contrast with below...
Photo courtesy of "Randy", of the NSMCO list. Inside of original design faceplate - note contact board for light, contrast with above.
Photo courtesy of "Randy", of the NSMCO list. Close-up of 1954 model showing added light switch and indicator on stitch length lever.
Photo courtesy of "Randy", of the NSMCO list. Bottom of the '54. Note wiring for light switch. Contrast with next...
Photo courtesy of "Randy", of the NSMCO list. Bottom of pre-1954 models.
Photo courtesy of "Randy", of the NSMCO list. Backside of 1954 model. Note strengthened mounting hole in casting.
Contrast to above. My (earlier) machine lacks the thicker casting around this mounting hole.
This picture courtesy of eBay seller 'larryturtleman'. This machine has the thicker casting around
the above referenced mounting hole, but is otherwise like any other pre-1954 machine. This proves
the casting re-enforcement was made earlier than the 1954 design update; no doubt there were problems
with the thin metal at this location. The color seems closer to the 1954 version as well, but this
could also be due to white balance issues with either or both pictures.
Also note a light switch in an awkward place on the faceplate door - original or added later?
A contributor came forward with this picture of another '54. There may have been as few as 100 of them made that year.
As with the Reversew "Rex", Randy of the NSMCO list proved once again to be a font of knowledge. It is he who has dubbed this model the "Streamliner", which is very apropos. Here follows a lightly edited transcript of several emails I received from him, with my [clarifications in brackets]:
The National built model 30 which I call the "Streamliner" was built exclusively for Montgomery Ward & Co. It has it's roots as far back as 1939 when a patent was supposedly issued for the opening face door. Mechanically, the model 30 is identical to National's model R-40 which was introduced around 1941 and was [in turn] an update of the model "B" Rotary machine. The R-40 featured a newly designed and smoother operating feed dog mechanism, a new style semi internal motor and a combined stitch length/reverse selector. Other parts remained the same as on the model "B" Rotary.
Text continued below pictures...
The "Streamliner" was based on this slightly earlier machine, the NSMCO R40
Pictures provided through the kindness of eBay seller "walkinauction"
Text continued from above...
Today many R-40's and model 30's can be found with inoperable motors, I have heard from several people that they found bad armatures in the motors. I have several with dead motors and also one model B with a dead motor.
Often the fiber contact board for the light on the face door [of the model 30] is either broken, or bent and about to break. A fix for that problem is not easy and on the 1954 restyle of the model 30 it was eliminated and a light switch was mounted on the bed. Opening the face door with the light on is blinding in a semi dark room.
Rewiring to bypass the fiber contact board [as seen on the 1954 model] is not so easy. The wires in the head are solid wires and soldering to the multi strand wires [from the light] requires more heat than usual. Lack of room is a problem and the multi strand wires eventually break from flexing causing an electrical fire inside the head. That has happened to me and oily residue in the head will burn. The result is a terrible mess which can not be completely cleaned up.
I had thought about completely rewiring the light on a model 30 but once I saw what it would take, I gave up. The internal wiring in the head is heavy solid wire and I could not even get it to budge. It is bent to conform and I found no way to remove it. If new flexible wires were somehow fished through the head, I saw no way to keep them from being rubbed by the rotating parts. I won't say it is an impossible job but the obstacles to overcome are many. It appears that the factory wiring was installed before any internal parts were installed.
The 1954 model 30 has flexible vinyl covered wiring for the light installed in the head. When the face door is opened and shut the flexing point is a large area preventing breakage of the multi strands. It is secured at necessary places [in the head] to keep it from rubbing the moving parts.
The R-40 and model 30 use the same bobbin case and bobbins (#R221 -ed) as the model "B" Rotary machines and use the same needle that is longer than a 15X1 - the 20X1. The National made electric long shuttle machines [Such as the Reversew "Rex"] all use a needle that is the same length as a 20X1 but have a different scarf. But a 20X1 works fine in them and all the above can use a 15X1 if it is lowered approx. 1/4 inch.
Three styles of model 30 were made. The early ones either had flat polished or raised painted trim bands on the lower part of the face[plate] doors. The painted bands are narrower, raised much more and have a larger space between them. I have not detected any other differences in [these first two versions] except for the shades of brown paint.
The redesigned 1954 model 30 which is extremely rare featured a redesigned bed casting, arm casting, bobbin winder casting, and face[plate] door casting along with a new Montgomery Ward badge. So the restyle was quite an extensive investment for a machine that was produced for less than one year. The horizontal spool pin on the 1954 model 30 is the same pin used on the others but mounted on it's own style bracket. Spools drop off occasionally.
Since the 1954 model 30 has so many differences the tooling for those had to have been in the planning several years prior. National never made so many changes in a machine without introducing it as a totally new model. Since Montgomery Ward was National's largest customer - National was obligated to satisfy them. All the other National models looked quite old fashioned and Montgomery Ward wanted to keep up with the competition. National never really made running updates on machines which I am sure was not completely acceptable to Montgomery Ward. No one knew National would close it's doors and end production in 1954 and lots of money was spent for the coming 1954 model 30 restyle.
The Free Sewing Machine Company was National's second largest customer and Free closed it's factory in late 1953. Opened up for a couple months in 1954 and assembled machines from parts on hand and then closed for good.
So losing Free as a main customer and smaller National customers losing sales to more modern imported machines and the same thing happening at Montgomery Ward - was too much of a sales drop to remain profitable so National closed up for good in 1954. Many internet sites state that National and Free merged but that is false. Free continued on by importing machines till being purchased by Janome 1960. Lots of false info on the internet about that too.
National made a stab at importing zig zag machines from Europe in the final three years but never sold very many. National even sold a few of those to Free [Such as the "Compac/Portman" sometimes seen with National or Free badges]. But after National was gone Free imported those themselves from Europe.
The final series of the model 30 was National's last new model. How many were sold is not known but finding one is almost impossible. I was lucky to spot mine on eBay and purchase. I have never seen another. [Since Randy wrote this, I found another '54 for sale on the 'net - and sent the link to an astonished Randy! -ed]
End of Randy's section.
The "Streamliner" is a cast iron machine, and very heavy although the nifty hinged faceplate is cast aluminum. The model designation National cast onto the bottom of the machine, "RBR-2W", stood for "Rotary Bobbin Reversew" - although I'm clueless about the "2W" - "W" for (Montgomery) "Ward"?
But wait! What's this? The so-called "Exclusive for Montgomery Ward" badged as a "New Home"!
This is another 1954 model - wired for a portable case (see "Case Vs. Table Wiring", below).
Photo courtesy of a really nice eBay seller who wishes to stay anonymous.
Pure speculation follows: There are plenty of National built machines with various badges from the Free Sewing Machine Company as they were National's second largest customer (after Montgomery Ward). So how come this "Streamliner" to be badged by/for Free instead of MW? Randy speculates, and I agree (it makes total sense), that Montgomery Ward's switch to machines built by Japan's Happy SM Co in 1954 left the collapsing National SM Co with some now orphaned Streamliners. As the Free SM Co had ceased manufacturing its own machines in the previous year, they would have been glad to help National "off" the orphaned machines. Randy notes that the above '54 has a serial number exactly 444 newer than his '54.
Regarding the collapse of National, Randy further contributes:
There is a lot on the internet that claims that National and Free merged. Both were sinking ships but with National losing the Montgomery Ward contract - National was by far the weakest and had the most antiquated line of machines. Free's rotary machines were superior to the National rotaries and more modern - having been just restyled. So the assets of National were simply liquidated. But, along with Free purchasing a lot of the machines - Free also purchased the rights to the name National. It was not worth much as few people knew of it other than as a company that was going out of business. Along with the name - came the right to use "National Sewing Machine Company" - which was only natural.
So then sometime in the [second half of the] 1950s or maybe even very early 1960s, [Free] imported some Japanese machines and put the National name on them along with National Sewing Machine Company; Rockford, Illinois USA; and JAPAN.
So there is where the tale comes from that National and Free Merged. It was a purchase and Free was not interested in the company itself. The very limited use of the National name by Free showed it was not viable or profitable. And there was no dealer network to sell them.
Randy called my attention to this machine on eBay. The seller, "northolt" was kind enough to grant picture permission! In common with the various "SeamstresS" badged Reversew "Rex" models, this one was also found in Canada - but without the goofy capitalization. Whatever - this one is in absolutely stunning condition, it and its cabinet look brand new!
Not a Streamliner, what's this doing here?
Randy eventually purchased another example, and told me that it has no bobbin winder in the normal sense. Instead, there is a lever that shims the (usual friction drive) motor away from the handwheel, and bobbins are placed onto the end of the motor shaft for winding! This also means the machine has no clutch or "stop motion knob".
He says: My parts book shows it as model R54. It was an obvious attempt by National to try to compete with the Japanese 15 clones by offering a lower priced cam drive rotary machine. Simplifying the bobbin winder and painting the face plate saved a few dollars. And to get away from the Antique Shop look, the head was restyled to appear more modern. But the machine failed to sell in any quantity as it seems to be quite rare now.
The Seamstress R54 is as far as I know, the only National made rotary to have "Reversew" on it. The other Rotary models will say "Reversible" on the instruction manual cover. National had in the past reserved Reversew for long shuttle machines.
More about my particular adventures with my machine to follow. It was immediately apparent that it takes the same bobbin winder tire (#2460) as the Reversew "Rex". Like on that machine, the #2460 bobbin winder tire is NOT original specification, but it works fine. The original bobbin winder tire on these models was a beveled rubber affair, very similar to the motor drive wheel.
Borrowed the "Christmas Tree" style bulb from my White 690.
It does fit, albeit barely; and sticks out below.
#643 - same type as I'm using in the "Rex".
Fits better, but not perfect. Doesn't stick out below.
Here is what is being recommended for this machine, the Feit Electric # BP15T4C/2, available at Home Depot.
Shown here next to the original style bulb, no-longer made.
Unlike the "Rex", the 15 watt Christmas lamp style does fit in the "Streamliner", albeit barely. As can be seen from the pictures, it is too long. It is also significantly larger in diameter also - which is why it won't work at all in the "Rex". In the Streamliner, this increased diameter causes the bulb to touch the inside of the machine end before the face plate/door is fully closed - there's some spring action there. Not a good solution - it feels like the bulb could shatter at any time.
The #643 doesn't protrude below the face plate, but it too seems to touch the inside of the machine end - but only barely and I cannot detect any spring action. A better solution.
Consult the Bulb Study on the Resources page for more information about lite bulbs for this machine, including an LED version!
The motor would turn over, but was slow to gain speed, and quick to stop. Obviously, there was gunk in the bearings. More wisdom from Randy:
End of machine with wheel and motor drive "pulley" removed.
Note newly installed #2460 bobbin winder tire, and bobbin winder thread guide.
Rotor removed from motor housing. Brushes can be seen in the rear.
Note that the brushes must be removed prior to re-assembly.
Front bell housing with its bearing - and some gunk. Commutator is also showing some dirt.
I have run across motors like you have in the model 30. Most will spin free after a month of soaking in sewing machine oil. You can speed up the process with a couple drops of real high quality penetrating oil. No bearings - just brass bushings but they get gummed up and slow motor rotation. I have used a hair dryer on each shaft bushing - heating up real good - then one drop of oil and run the motor for 5 minutes driving the machine unthreaded. I am sure you know not to over oil the bushings as that will cause more problems.
However, I chose to disassemble the motor to inspect it. The rear bearing and shaft were in excellent condition, and clean. The brushes were also in great shape. However, the front bearing and shaft were a different story. Built up gunk and scoring on the shaft told the story of clogged oil passages, and insufficient oil reaching the bearing. I used steel wool to remove the gunk, used a paperclip to clean out the oil passage, and checked the felt wick in the bearing. While I was at it, I also used very fine sandpaper to very lightly burnish the commutator. I oiled everything, re-assembled, and ran the motor for about 5 minutes full blast with zero load. It now spools up rapidly and spools down slowly and sounds much better than before!
This friction drive design is not as good as that employed on the Reversew "Rex" (et al). That machine used a spring loaded motor on a pivot - ensuring always correct pressure between the drive wheel (sometimes erroneously referred to as a "pulley") and the hand wheel. As a side benefit, it also would allow use of an un-tapered drive wheel, although both the "Rex" and the "Streamliner" came with tapered drive wheels as standard (Note: Some National-built friction drive machines with spring loaded motors were supplied with a different, "double sided" drive wheel. (including some Rexes)).
New, un-tapered drive wheel (left); an old, dry freebie (right), and the one that came with the machine (bottom).
Un-tapered drive wheel mounted in reverse on motor with hand wheel removed allows me to...
Use the machine as a crude lathe. Too crude, see text.
Original, but turned down, drive wheel in place.
This photo shows replaced spool pin, new spool felt, and refurbished drive wheel.
The problem with this design ("Streamliner") is the pressure between drive and hand wheels is solely dependent upon the fore/aft positioning of the tapered, rubber drive wheel on the motor shaft. Too loose and it slips, too tight and the bearings are subject to premature wear and/or the motor can't turn the machine. The only conformity between the two is the rubber itself - no motor pivot to allow for imperfections of the system! The drive wheel must also occasionally be re-adjusted to account for wear. Unlike most of the rest of this machine, this drive setup was NOT one of National's better ideas; although I must confess the half-embedded motor looks cool.
With all that said, Randy notes that the spring force on the "Rex" is too high, by careful shimming some of the force off the drive wheel, the machine runs much faster. This indicates to me that there is significant side loading of the motor bearing from the spring on that machine.
The Streamliner manual states that this adjustment must be tested by holding the hand wheel and observing the motor running and the drive wheel slipping - thus preventing a too tight adjustment. I'll add that this test should only be done briefly as it will otherwise wear a groove in the drive wheel! Very "fiddly".
Friction drive was never a particularly good design, although period sales literature touted that the friction drive wheel would last "50 years" instead of a "rapidly stretching" belt - which seems true enough!
My idea of converting an easy to obtain un-tapered drive wheel by using the motor shaft with a fine file as a lathe almost worked. However, I was not able to hold the file in one place. The result was a nicely tapered, but somewhat lopsided drive wheel! There is still plenty of rubber left on that particular wheel to enable me to do it right on a real lathe. In the meantime, the original drive wheel was lightly subjected to similar treatment to remove a wear groove from it. The fully oiled machine then turned over under its own power for the first time. It worked fine, albeit a bit noisily, there was even enough pressure to actually sew. However, I was able to eventually purchase an NOS tapered wheel which is MUCH quieter when running.
Note that set screws that are too long (such as seen in the top picture, above) will also lock the machine. Ask me how I know this...
I recently received an email from "Leon" who contributes:
The beveled drive wheel on the model 30 can be repaired by replacing the rubber on the hub with a cone washer from Ace Hardware. The one I used is labeled #9. Ace has a lot of replacement washers and one could likely find replacements for the flat wheel friction drives as well. 59 cents plus tax.
Although I have not personally verified this, it makes total sense - although the flat drive wheels he references are: 1) more readily available than the tapered type, and 2) can be replaced by the tapered type if need be. I would also speculate that the Ace #9 is on the soft side - which should make for a quieter running machine!
He also states that "Marvel Mystery Oil" makes an excellent restorative for crinkle finished machines. As above, I haven't yet tried this, but it would probably work better than the WD-40 I employed for that purpose on the old Kenmore.
Badges and Bases
Case Vs. Table Wiring
It seems that most - certainly many - were supplied in sewing tables, such as this handsome example.
Knee operated controls were all the rage in those days! These two photos courtesy of The Tulip Patch Blog.
Similar to the Reversew "Rex" and other National built Sewing machines, the "Streamliner"
was also available as a portable in this beautiful wooden base. Photo courtesy The Last Goddess.
Here is one in a seemingly rare bentwood case, probably early production.
Note different "MW" Montgomery Ward badge on this one.
This photo courtesy of a nice eBay seller who wishes to remain anonymous.
A closeup of the appliqué badge graciously sent by the above machine's new owner.
Contrast with above. This is the seemingly most common MW badge.
Yet another badge version. Picture from kind permission of eBay seller "68olds442"
Reprise of a previous photo. Similar to the above except in color, this is the 1954 badge.
I purchased a "double" wiring block from thayerrags.com along with several other items to restore this machine. I had had the idea of converting it to the portable case wiring as this machine was no longer in its original sewing table. This way the foot pedal cord would plug in topside without having to route wiring out from the underside of the machine. I had even thought to retain the existing under-bed pigtail if possible. It turns out that I had over thought this and gone to WAAAY too much trouble. I took the cover off the wiring block:
Reprise of an above photo - this time look at the wiring block where the cord plugs in.
Most of the machines I've seen pictures of are like this with a pigtail below the machine
for the knee controller to plug into. This is the sewing table wiring configuration.
Reprise of another above photo - this shows the portable case wiring configuration with
the pedal plugging into the main wiring block. This is identical to my Reversew "Rex".
If I had known (or bothered to look), all I would have had to have done was to punch out the blank side that was covering the topside pedal socket! It was otherwise ready to go! The hole size appears to be 5/8" in diameter. This shows a huge amount of forward thinking by National's engineers that wouldn't be permitted by today's bean counters. I didn't need to buy the wiring block at all (although the cost was minimal), just carefully drill a pilot hole and punch the wiring block cover with a 5/8" chassis punch!
And found that the machine was already wired that way!
All I had to do was replace the wiring block cover!
Both power cord and pedal cord plugged in with fully operational pigtail below!
Inside and outside views of the original wiring block cover.
For more information about the "Chicago" connectors as used here, see this portion of the Reversew Rex page (scroll down to see/read the info on these connectors).
For more information on how this machine is wired, see the Sewing Machine Wiring section on the Resources page.
Sews at last!
The base I built is finally done!
Wind up a bobbin...
Sew a quick test stitch on some scrap fabric.
Close-up of stitching. I just stitched randomly as a test...
A closeup of the rather unusual thread path. The thread wraps clockwise
360 degrees around the tensioner. Unusual "fitting" at top too. Plus,
everything in the thread path is slotted - including the takeup arm.
Unusual and ground breaking for a machine designed in the late 1930s!
How NOT to thread. Note the crossover at the takeup arm.
Takeup arm threading is right to left on this machine!
However, I was actually able to briefly sew with it threaded
in this configuration, but who knows for how long?
Grabbed some junk thread and some scrap fabric. Sews like a champ, forwards and reverse. The sub-optimal friction drive is both noisy, and vibration inducing, so it isn't as smooth a sewing experience as my Singer 99K, or even my White 690; but it isn't bad (smother than the Reversew "Rex") and it sews strong! It might just be the "strongest" sewer I have (time will tell) - there is a LOT of heavy, reciprocating iron in this one.
I even left the needle in it that it came with. I normally replace any needles in old sewing machines when I get them, but this one looked OK, and was a 20x1 - which is virtually impossible to get anymore. It worked fine - but I eventually managed to break it, so the old "3/16ths inch lower mounting of a standard 15x1 needle" trick was employed with excellent results!
Not being able to see the takeup arm is a bit of a challenge for someone not used to this machine. Its easy enough though, to correlate takeup arm position with needlebar position once their relationship has been observed (takeup arm reaches TDC (Top Dead Center) just a little bit after the needlebar has passed its TDC.).
Ancient 20x1 Needle (Left) and modern 15x1. Identical, except for the length.
1948 guarantee certificate. Try to find anything with as good a guarantee these days!
Late 1948 newspaper ad. $146.95 was a LOT of money!
Here's the old girl in action, sewing a valance.
Very smooth and quiet!
Closet cum sewing recess before...
Later project using the same thread! Sewing Velcro onto a skirt.
Here a rather bad YouTube video, but I repeat myself!
(Machine now runs quieter thanx to a new rubber drive wheel):