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Traction Engines and Threshing Machines

146 Reimer Lane, Whitefish, MT 59937 (e-mail:, chimes in with his response to the on-going Reeves debate.

'Well, Richard, now it is my turn to make further comments on the pictures' I submitted to the November/December 2001 Iron Men Album, to which Mr. Reeves (Lyle Hoffmaster) responded to in the January/February 2002 issue. Lyle was hoping to get me stirred up enough to write a letter, so here goes!

Lyle, I will admit that I am probably one of the poorest Advance authorities going. I called that 30 HP Advance (Yaeger Photo #3, page 15, November/December 2001) pulling away with the thresher a 25 HP. I should check out other people's pictures when I copy them, as I think that is where I got the '25' HP. If I had only checked my own Advance catalog, I would have known that the company never built a 25 HP engine. Thanks for being on your toes, Lyle, since I feel sheepish about that one.

Yaeger Photo #1: A 25HP reeves cross-compound pulling a combined harvester in Montana's Judith Basin . This engine had been previously identified as a 32 HP cross-compound

Since Tommy Lee and Chady let the cat out of the bag that you cut your teeth on Case engines, I would be the last person to doubt your expertise on the little center-crank Case (Yaeger #1, page 15, November/December 2001) being a 'trunk-compound' rather than the tandem-compound that I referred to it as. My friend Tom Stebritz refers to it as a trunk-compound also, so I would never argue that point with either of you. I guess 1 just hadn't lived long enough to hear that term used.

'I would question your thinking that the Case center crank in my picture was a 10 or 12 HP,' however. Those front wheels appear to be only about three or four inches wide, and the smoke stack doesn't appear to be more than eight inches in diameter. It almost appears as though it would fit into the back of my pickup. I will stick with my 8 HP analysis, as the only thing smaller is the little simple 6 HP Case engine, and this obviously isn't a simple engine.

'Now, as to your analysis of the 25 HP Reeves double-simple pulling a steam lift plow (Yaeger Photo #2, page 15, November/December 2001),' I am going to take Mr. Reeves to task on that one. Lyle, 1 agree with your comment, 'I doubt if more than 10 percent of Reeves double engines were used for plowing - most were cross-compound,' wholeheartedly. But, since you left me 10 percent to work with, I will show you where you are dead wrong, my friend. First of all, when I read your letter I thought you might have been correct, but you forced me to spend an evening going through my two copies of Reeves & Company parts books. And I thank you for causing me to do that - 1 was getting rusty!

'Lyle, I realize that the illusion you saw as the trapezoid actuation levers of the late-style rotating intercepting valves is a strong reason for misleading yourself. I have the benefit of bringing that same image up on my computer, full screen size. That reveals things that your magnifying glass could never accomplish.'

'Let me start this discussion by stating that on the 25 HP model Reeves engines,' 12-inch wide front wheels are standard, which was the figure you used in your scaling. The 25 HP model Reeves engines were also available with the optional 16-inch wide front wheels that were standard on the 32 HP model Reeves engines. Since this one has the optional 16-inch width front wheels, that threw your scaling off by 25 percent.

For further perspective in your scaling, the rear wheel extension rims for the 25 (and all of the 32) HP models are 12-inches in width. Reeves 25 HP engines had 36-inch tall side water tanks, as this one has, and they always set below the midway belt line of the boiler barrel. Now, the 32 HP engines used a 42-inch tall side water tank. The 42-inch tanks always come up to the midway point of the boiler barrel.

This engine (and all 25 HP double-simple engines) has the same boiler barrel diameter as was used on the 32 HP and 40 HP Reeves engines, when comparing C.I.S. type engines (the Canadian Special type engine's boiler barrel diameter is about four inches larger). Please check that scale using 16-inch width front wheels and you will prove it to yourself.

'I knew when I read your letter that you thought this engine was a 25 HP cross-compound, and that you were mistaken, because the 25 HP cross-compound engines have that same long, skinny, smaller diameter boiler barrel that your 20 HP Reeves has.'

The boiler barrel diameter of the 20 HP double-simple, and the 25 HP cross-compound, is approximately six inches smaller in diameter than the 25 HP double-simple. However, my first reaction to your letter was, 'Maybe this was a 32 HP cross-compound in Yaeger #2?' But, ALL 32 HP engines, whether cross-compound or double-simple, had a heavy, inverted, CI-shaped cast iron bracket over the crankshaft bolted to the main bearing area. Neither of the 25 HP type engines have this, ruling this engine out as a 32 HP size.

'This engine also has the larger smokestack of the 25 HP double-simple, all 32 HP and 40 HP sizes.' Slightly visible in the image, when enlarged on my computer screen, is the small size high-pressure cylinder head. A low-pressure, or left, cross-compound cylinder head would be nearly twice the diameter of the double-simple's. The valve cover on the clutch (left) side is visible, and is a short type of valve cover as used on the double simple engines. The valve cover is a flat type with the 'R & Co.' logo cast on it. The cross-compound engine's low-pressure side had a much taller valve cover than did their double-simple counterparts. The first cross-compound in Haston St. Clair's book, Historical Stories About Reeves Engines, with the later-style 'waffle' type valve cover is a 32 HP Reeves s/n 5068, now owned by my good friend Lyle Parker in Sandy, Utah.

If you will notice, Lyle, (Mr. Reeves) this engine in Yaeger #2 is a pre-s/n 5000 engine. Serial number 5000 is when Reeves changed from this type of square front axle with lightweight front wheel hubs to the round front axle with heavy-duty hubs.

Lyle, you stated that you 'went back several times to again look at that picture ... and discovered a positive, telltale feature.' You stated you saw the parallel levers that shift the intercepting valve, 'that these parallel double levers were used on compound engines only.' I agree that the parallel-type levers that you spoke of were only used on compound engines. However, these 'levers' you are seeing are the rocker arm, the tumble arm, the eccentric rod and the lower portion of the eccentric arm. There's only one problem with your theory, Lyle, and that is the fact that the later type of rotating parallel intercepting valve actuating arms that you 'saw' in my picture were NOT available until the advent of the Reeves Canadian Special engines, which Reeves started producing at s/n 5628. Since the engine in Yaeger #2 is a pre-s/n 5000 number, and IF it had been a cross-compound engine, it would still have the earlier D-style intercepting valve, actuated by the rack and pinion and operated by pushing on a foot pedal under the steering wheel on the fireman's platform. This early type of intercepting valve did not use the 'parallel levers' you refer to and thought you saw.

The exhaust pipes on comparable horsepower Reeves double-simple engines are smaller in diameter than the single exhaust pipe on Reeves cross-compound engines. This engine has the small exhaust pipe. And Lyle, if you look with your magnifying glass mid-way between the plow marker bracket (actually, this is the belt guide, being used to hold the plow marker) on the smoke box door ring and the smokestack, you will see a very tiny, telltale piece of the right side exhaust pipe on that 25 HP double-simple engine.

I would like to include a picture (see Yaeger Photo #1), which you had sent to the Iron Men Album several years ago, that shows what you thought my Yaeger #2 engine was. This 25 HP cross-compound engine was shown in the Judith Basin pulling a combined harvester. At that time, you identified this engine as a 32 HP cross-compound engine. But, this is in fact a Reeves 25 HP cross-compound. I wanted you to notice the long, skinny boiler barrel and the 36-inch tall side water tank mounted below the centerline of the boiler barrel. However, this engine has a huskier appearance due to the optional 16-inch width front wheels.

'I am also sending another picture (see Yaeger Photo #2) of a different 25 HP double-simple Reeves engine.' It is from an old American Thresherman and is shown on the belt. The engine is slightly closer and turned a little more to the left side, but it is an identical engine to the November/December IMA Yaeger #2. This one also has a homemade box between the smokestack and the steam dome for lubrication and tools, similar to the one Yaeger #2 had.

'Try to remember, Lyle, I grew up in the Judith Basin where most of the big Reeves engines I was associated with were the 32 HP size.' I was 13 years old before I ever saw a Reeves smaller than a 32 HP, except for dad's 20 HP High wheeler. Unfortunately, I was too young to get to see the seven Reeves engines of the 40 HP size that once operated in Montana's Judith Basin.

Lyle, I have not forgotten the beautiful maroon cap you sent me with the gold 'R & Co.' logo on the front. It is nearly identical to your Reeves cap, except that your cap is even more beautiful with the gold 'scrambled eggs' on the bill. Even with two Reeves miss-identifications, you are still Mr. Reeves in my book, and still my friend. I just didn't want the egg on my face.

Quarter Scale Allchin

Jim Hoffman, 1374 Orchard Park Rd., West Seneca, NY 14224, sends in some great photos of his quarter scale Allchin 'Royal Chester' steam traction engine belted to a working scale saw rig he's outfitted. Jim says he ran the outfit all day at last year's Western Mew York Gas & Steam Engine Show, held just outside of Alexander, N.Y., and at the Pioneer Steam & Gas Engine Show near Saegertown, Pa. Jim says that by the end of the day he had a pile of saw dust under the mill that came up to the blade.

Thoughts on Medina

James W. Russell, 125 E. 600 Ave., Oblong, IL 62449, writes:

'I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all the best as the new editor of our beloved Iron-Men Album. I thank you for keeping the same format, and I urge you to stay the course and draw from the rich heritage of IMA.' I hope you will reprint articles once in a while from the early issues. They were written by men who lived in the heyday of steam.

'I think Mr. Yaeger's letter about the Medina, Ohio, tragedy was excellent (see the January/February 2002 IMA, page 4).' It put into words my feelings about the incident, my feelings afterwards, why it happened and the reports that were given afterwards. I believe many other people share the same feelings.

'I hate to see the state of Ohio take a bad rap for this tragedy. Some of the best and most knowledgeable steam people live in Ohio and operate some of the best engines in the nation. I am a life-long resident of Illinois, a state that requires hobby boiler inspections, and I have always complied. However, just because a state requires boiler inspections, that still does not ensure that they will be operated safely.'

Hoffmaster Responds: Reeves/Trunk-Compounds

Just as we were getting ready to send this issue of IMA to the printer, Lyle 'Reeves' Hoffmaster, 1845 Marion Rd., Bucyrus, OH 44820, wrote in on the Reeves traction engine identification issue:

'I must get this letter off if I wish this to appear in the March/April issue of Iron-Men Album.' First off, I wish to apologize to readers and to Gary Yaeger, as I do believe the engine in Yaeger Photo #2 on page 15 of the November/December 2001 issue is a 25 HP double-simple. I found a picture of our 25 HP cross-compound taken head on, and it's pretty clear as the pedestal is longer and the boiler is smaller in diameter.

'In the January/February 2002 issue on page 2, in describing the trunk-compound, I say the trunk is twice the stroke - no!' It is the stroke plus the center section width plus some clearance. I am hoping someone will send in a picture or cross section of a trunk-compound - a picture is worth 2,000 of my words.

'I am enclosing a right and left view of a 16 HP trunk-compound Case that was at Mt. Pleasant for at least one show in the late 1950s.'

Ray Ernst owned it at the time, and shortly thereafter disposed of it to one of the Canadian agricultural museums. Note the length of the cylinder in the right hand view. Also, note the length of the valve cover in the left hand view. Let us Case critics never say Case didn't know how to make a steam engine!'

If you have a photo or a comment for Soot in the Flues, please send it along to Iron-Men Album, 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609-1265, or e-mail: