Building The Model Reeves

Nichols and Shepard engine

Nichols and Shepard outfit in 1895.Courtesy of R. Benjamin Hayes, Route 3, Homes, Michigan 49245

?R. Benjamin Hayes

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At Pion-Era in 1961, just after I had completed my first model steam engine and threshing machine in 1' scale, I met Wally Vann of Winnipeg. Wally, who was one of the finest model builders that ever lived, was a prince of a fellow and he just loved to talk models whenever he had the chance. We spent hours discussing model building. We talked over the pros and cons of various scales; the importance of drawings; pattern making; boiler building; in fact just about everything we could think about model steam engines. Wally had built a big CASE 80 and 40' Case thresher in 3' scale, so he convinced me that the 3' scale engine fires, handles and sounds as close to the full size engine as any model could. He also pointed out, that, although the 3' scale engine acts big, it has the advantage of being comparatively easy to store as well as to transport to various shows. After talking to Wally, my mind was made up. My next engine would be built to 3' scale.

Once I had decided to build a 3' scale model the big questions was a three inch scale what??? There are dozens of beautiful engines, any one of which would make a wonderful model. Since there were several model CASE 65's built or being built, I decided to try something different. Many ideas were considered - an AMERICAN ABEL 'Cock-O'-The-North' 26 hp; an AVERY 20 hp return flue; a CASE 80. But the GARR-SCOTT 25 HP double rear mounted looked best. I soon found that the detailed information necessary to build this model was difficult to obtain locally, so I decided to advertise. Ads placed in the various steam magazines got a lot of sympathetic interest but little else. One reply came from Syd Matthews in Toronto. Syd was more interested in REEVES than GARR Scott, but because he knew the area where we lived at the time, he thought he'd write anyway. The result of our correspondence was that I finally decided to build a REEVES 32 hp cross-compound engine.

The first step in building any model is to obtain a set of drawings. Since there were none in existence, I started by scaling down the big 1912 REEVES 32 c.c. owned by the Western Development Museum in Saskatoon. This engine, #6819, is what REEVES called their 'Canadian Special' or 'Alberta' model. These Canadian Special REEVES engines were much heavier in some ways than the 'American' design of the same horsepower rating. Canadian Special boilers all had butt-strap longitudinal seams, possibly because the boiler laws of the Provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan were generally more stringent than those elsewhere. The rear axle, gearing and rear engine saddle were mounted on extended wing sheets at the rear of the boiler. In the U.S. design these were mounted on brackets which bolted directly into the boiler back head. The rear wheels had flat spokes riveted into steel rims instead of round spokes cast into the hub and rims as in the U.S. models. In most Canadian models, the drive gears were fully enclosed in sheet metal covers to keep out grit and dirt. Because of these covers, the master or bull gears drove the rear wheels at the hubs instead of at the rims as was common practice on so many engines. This was the reason for the heavy flat spokes in the rear wheels that method of driving them put extra strain on them. There were several minor differences, but the Canadian Special REEVES was basically the same as the U.S. design in all its major dimensions.

The drawings, which had begun in 1962, involved miles of traveling as well as reams of correspondence to obtain measurements, pictures and detailed data from the original. Several hundred hours were spent at the drawing board reducing each part to one quarter scale (3' = 1'). During this time, I had visions of assembling the engine only to discover the crankshaft would make less than a full turn because I had goofed on some detail somewhere, and the crossheads didn't have enough travel in the tunnels or that the crankshaft counterweights wouldn't clear the rear saddle. This meant careful cross checking of every part in relationship to the others to make certain that everything was going to work. When finished in 1965, the drawing set was made up of 13 sheets, each 24' x 36'.

Once the drawings were completed, actual construction of the model began with the collecting of materials. Some of the parts were gleaned from the local junk yard. For example, the differential uses spider and axle gears from a defunct Austin; the bull gears and pinions are from an old pump jack which had machine cut gear teeth. Careful selection of the proper 'junk' meant that these items were very close to scale size when modified to suit the model. Obviously, not everything could come from the junk yard, so many parts were specially made. This included castings. To make the castings, I first made a set of wood patterns, along with the necessary core boxes. Fortunately, Norwood Foundry in Edmonton proved to be more than a little sympathetic toward this project and offered much appreciated advice regarding the pattern making. They also did the actual pouring of the scores of iron castings used in this model. Their workmanship was excellent and the castins flawless.

The heart of any steam engine is the boiler. The model REEVES boiler is all ASME code approved steel, all seams arc welded. The seamless shell is 10' in diameter, and contains 29 tubes, 3/4' O.D. x 24' long. These tubes, together with a 12' x 13' x 8' firebox, give the boiler more than 12 square feet of heating surface. 106 Staybolts support the crown sheet and heads. Much of the work and all of the welding on this boiler was done by my good friend, Fred Freschette of Red Deer, Alberta. Without Dred's help I'm sure that this boiler would have turned out to be a rather sorry effort. As it was, the initial test made in June of 1970 at 300 psi was a complety success. Since the working pressure was to be somewhere near 125 psi, we felt that this test pressure would be adequate. Steaming this boiler later on, I learned that with its relatively large firebox and ample heating surface it would fire easily on coal or wood and never give any signs of priming or 'perking.

The wheels were built of steel and riveted or welded together. The front wheels finished to 12' dia by 4' face. Each had 28 spokes welded in. The rear wheels are 20' diameter, and 6' wide, plus 3' wide extension rims. The 3/4 x 1/4 flat iron spokes are riveted to the hubs and rims. All four wheels have bronze bushings. Once the wheels were finished and installed on the boiler along with the cast iron smoke stack, things began to look a bit like an engine. After the smoke door and ring were bolted on, along with 'Cole's' 5/16 model fittings, water glass and injector, a 1' 200 pound steam gauge was attached, as was the ' kunkle # 1 pop valve, and 3/16' blower line. A fire was built in the firebox late one evening, even though all that could be done was boil water and blow the whistle. In spite of using wood so wet that water actually ran out of the draft door, it steamed quickly and easily, coming up to popping off pressure in a very few minutes.

Seeing the little boiler steam and hearing that whistle blow provided the incentive to get at machining those castings. Many of them were quite small, so there was no trouble in handling these in my 12' Atlas lathe. The cylinders are pretty big, both have a 3 stroke, and bores of 2' and 3' So I had the cylinders bored by a friend who operates a big machine shop nearby. However, I tackled the crosshead tunnels and the flywheel myself. These castings were pretty big, but with light cuts and a lot of patience I managed to finish them up on the 12' Atlas. The flywheel is 11' in diameter with a 2 3/4' face, and is bored for the 1' crankshaft. The crankshaft is built up of SPS steel, machined all over, and ground to finish. Once all the parts were fully machined, the engine was assembled in my basement workshop and finally mounted on the boiler and wheels.

The biggest headache was getting the intercepting valve so it wouldn't leak. This is a small valve which allows the engine to be run either as a double-simple engine for starting up or for heavy power at slow speeds; or as a cross-compound, which is normal operation. Simple as the valve was, it still required hours of hand lapping to get it to seal properly in all positions. Likely, the second most difficult part ot build was the governor. I was most worried about getting the governor to 'govern' the way it should. However, a bit of careful calculating produced a spring to act against the flyballs to maintain the proper speed.

Finally, one evening in August of 1972 the time had come to test it. Once again, we fired up. The first time I opened the throttle there was the gentle hiss of wet steam from the cylinder cocks and the little Reeves was off, running sluggishly while everything warmed up. In a minute or two the engine seemed to run more smoothly, so with some apprehension the intercepting valve was changed over to cross-compound motion. Fears quickly vanished as the flywheel picked up slightly and ran more smoothly than before. When the throttle was opened wide, the engine revved up to governed speed, then settled into a smooth rhythmic motion that gently rocked the whole engine back and forth. Moments to remember!

As in all new machines, there were some bugs. Some extra work was required on the valve gear because the Clay gear used on the REEVES was finicky at the best and this one wouldn't let the engine run in reverse properly. It ran fine forward, but wouldn't back up. Also, the gear ratio was not quite what I wanted, as the engine wanted to 'walk' up to fast on the road. A smaller crankshaft pinion and larger differential gear corrected this. Other than that, the little REEVES is a model that gives my wife and I smiles a foot wide.

It steams easily, never priming under any load and has ample power to pull anything within reason. With only 60 pounds of steam it will pull any load it has traction for. Our chief engineer, 9 year old son Randy, has pulled nearly a dozen kids of assorted sizes in coaster wagons, with 25 pounds of steam. And many of the kids dragging their feet! Several people told me that in a compound model this size the low pressure cylinder does little work, because the high pressure cylinder does almost all of the work. Yet this little REEVES seems to pull as well with the low pressure cylinder as with the high pressure. Under heavy loads the little engine has a sharp, but soft exhaust, due, I suppose to its very low exhaust pressure. (about 15 pounds) The 5/16' model injector is fast and reliable, and with the addition of an independent steam pump, water feed will not be a problem. The canopy, of wood and canvas, lifts off easily to allow free access to the engine parts for maintenance and adjustments.

Now all that remains is something for the engine to do. My next project is a Rumely Ideal Thresher. A big one 40' x 64' - all wood. But that's another story.