Soot in the Flues

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It's hard to believe, while we're still in the throes of heat and drought here on the east coast, that we're really working on the November/December issue. But, that's the reality of the publishing business, where we have to work ahead in order to get this beloved magazine out to you when you expect it to arrive! It's gratifying to know you look forward to hearing from us, and from all your friends who've written articles and comment, every other month.

If you've been thinking of sending something in yourself, now's the time to do it. Maybe a report on the shows you participated in this season, showing off that newly restored piece of old iron. Or a bit of interesting history about a particular company that you've learned a lot about.

Or, looking ahead for future articles, don't forget to jot down notes and take 'before' pictures before you tear into your winter restoration projects your fellow readers love to hear about these efforts from start to finish (plus it makes you look like an ace restorer when folks can see the dismal state you started from and the gleaming finished product!).

You don't have to be the great American author in order to write a story you don't even have to be the great American typist! Of course it's nice for us when we get typed stories, but really all we ask is that you try to write neatly so that we can read your handwriting. Don't worry about spelling and grammar if they aren't your strong suits we'll clean things up for you.

This is your magazine; you make it what it is. Let's hear from you!

And now, to those we have heard from this month.

We start off the column this time with this very interesting letter from BRIAN MANNING, 72 Castleglen Way N.E., Calgary, Alberta, Canada T3J 1T3.

'In response to Mr. Melvin Pierce's query (in the May/June 1999 issue when he asked what had happened to the Reeves Historical Society), I submit the following: I acquired, at an auction sale, a box of books that had belonged to Mr. Arlo Jurney of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Upon investigation when I got home, I found the box contained some 35 pieces, ranging from fireman's and engineer's handbooks, to owners and operators manuals for the Reeves steam engines, threshing machines, kerosene and gas tractors, and numerous other pieces of sales literature for equipment. A virtual mother-lode of information!

'Of special interest was a plain brown leather-bound book with 'Reeves' in gold lettering on the front cover, bound with an elastic band. I carefully opened the book and found an envelope taped to the inside cover with 'From scrapbook of Mr. H. Murphy, who worked with Paul Reeves in the Drafting Room' printed on it. Inside the envelope were eight black and white pictures featuring different photos of Reeves steam engines hooked up to a gang plow which had a steam asset lift.

'Also taped to the inside cover was a parcel post card addressed from a Mr. Howard A. Healy of 17305 Westbrook, Detroit, Michigan 48219, dated 1982. After carefully reading the 90 pages, the book consisted of a biography of Harry C. Clay, the mechanical genius and designer for Reeves, written by himself and containing letters of correspondence from Mr. Healy. At the back of the book there is a copy of a letter outlining the 'Aims and Objects of the Reeves Historical Society of America (United States and Canada)' written by C. Syd Matthews, including his own biography. The address given for the head office was Suite 714, 137 Wellington Street West, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Telephone number was 363-7421, dated May 1, 1968. I tried the number but it, of course, was no longer in service. I hope this information is of some help to you in your search for the missing documents. I have tried for approximately three months looking for this information but found nothing substantial. Happy Hunting!'

And, this from BRUCE WALTER, 3772 Midway Beach Road, Muscatine, Iowa 52761: 'Last year my friend, Larry Nelson of Muscatine, Iowa, became the proud owner of a 30 HP Colean double. This engine is 1908 vintage with serial number 436, original equipment, including a plow deck and a head tank. The previous owner was a Vernon Tilton of Lima, Ohio. He had acquired the engine sometime around 1978 or 1979 from a sawmill somewhere in northern Indiana or Ohio. The original owners are said to have been two brothers in Nebraska.

'When we first fired the Colean it was apparent something was not quite right with her setup, as starting and climbing a hill at Larry's place was very sluggish, or finally, the engine would not start on a steeper grade. We checked into the valve setting and found that the outside lap appeared grossly imbalanced on both sides of the engine. The boiler being hot, a rough change was made and the engine seemed to run with better power at slow speed on the grade.

'The next day, it was decided that the valves should be set properly and with a nice morning and a cool boiler, off came the steam chest covers. A tram was fashioned, marks made on the crossheads and flywheel. After working for a long time, we could not get a reasonably close setting between running the gear over and running under. Small discrepancies were found in the motion of the valve gear, but then it was found that the valves had been welded up and machined off on both sides of the engine, only on the crank end of the valves. This buildup was determined to be 5/32 of an inch. The cylinder ports are 5/8 x 7 inches crank and head-end, and the exhaust port 1 x 7 inches. The ports seem to be square and true. The actual widths of the valve face in decimals of an inch are: 1.230 head-end2.248 exhaust1.342 crank-end and the overall width of the valve is 453/64 inches (4.820).

'My question then is, why do this modification to the valves only on the crank-end? If economy of water and fuel were your goal, would not a buildup of both ends of the valve make more sense? With the valve set square, this causes later admission and early cutoff on the end of the cylinder with less area (rod) and with angularity included, less power than the head end of the cylinder. One would think this would cause rough running of the engine. If you set the valve, shifted toward the head end, exhaust lap starts to radically change and compression is greatly increased. Have the valves inadvertently been placed on the wrong sides of the engine, the head-end being the end of the cylinder to reduce power in order to make for smoother running? If I have missed the boat completely, feel free to comment, I can take it.

'Anyone with suggestions, please feel free to write me at the above address in Muscatine, or phone (319) 381-4901, or e-mail You could also write Larry Nelson, 3567 Highway 22, Muscatine, IA 52761. 'Thank you for your help.'

DR. ROBERT T. RHODE, 4745 Glenway Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio 45238-4537 (e-mail, website, writes, 'In a group of photographs from the O. S. Kelly Company in Springfield, Ohio, were three images depicting a steam truck. Would any readers having information about this truck share their knowledge by sending a letter to Soot In The Flues or contacting me? I'd like to learn more about this unusual vehicle. Thanks!

'I'm also sending along a photograph I took of Mark Corson at the 1999 Rushville, Indiana, show. He's always taking pictures, but seldom has a picture taken of him. I hope it's a nice surprise for him to see himself in the magazine. My photo shows Mark standing beside his new toy, a crate saw, which he and his father recently purchased.'

Dr. Rhode is one of our frequent contributors we're always glad to hear from him! Look for his story, 'Threshing Equipment at American World's Fairs,' elsewhere in this issue.

And speak of the devil, as they say, here's something from that very same MARK CORSON, 9374 Roosevelt Street, Crown Point, Indiana 46307, who has sent some of those pictures we've all come to enjoy.

'From the Will County Thresher-men's Association July 1999 show is Robert T. Rhode's 65 HP Case pulling one of the threshers, with John Haley as engineer.'

Seems photographic turn about is fair play!

Mark Corson as a photographer captures Robert Rhode's 65 HP Case at work during the Will County Threshermen's Association show.

'From the same show I've included a picture of Matt Runty with Dennis Christiansen's Advance-Rumely pulling the sawmill, and a shot of Mark Offerman as he stands on his Nichols & Shepard, belted up to the sawmill and waiting.

'Scenes from the Antique Steam and Gas Engine Club show in Boonville picture Little Joe Graziana filling an order of cradle handles and wagon tongues, and some fellows tossing bundles under a clear July sky.'

Mark's got a real eye for what makes a great show picture, and we thank him for sharing with us. That's one of his shots on this month's cover, too. Nice work, Mark!

THOMAS M. LEMOINE, 1813 Bayou Road, Port Barre, Louisiana 70577, says, 'I'm looking for steam launch engines and boilers for them.

''The engine is for use on a 20 foot boat, and all I can find are gas engines. Don't want gas I want steam launch engines with 2' x 3' full size, and machine and castings drawings. Need blower with vent and water take in, and with fire box drawings.

'If you have drawings, or know where I can get a steam launch engine, please contact by mail, as soon as possible. Thank you.'

Well, Mr. Lemoine, you may be in luck, because one of us here at the office is the co-owner (by marriage, of course) of a beautiful steam launch built not so many years ago but designed to turn-of-the-century standards. (Look for a story soon on the Great International Steamboat Flotilla of 1999 we had a great time!) I'll have the hubby make up a list of launch engine contacts and send them along. In the meantime, if you readers know of good sources, write to Mr. Lemoine.

Oh, how 1 do go on when it comes to the subject of my husband's mechanical skill! To all you fell as out there it's probably old hat, but for many of us ladies the things you can create are really marvels and I'll bet there are a lot of gals out there who, though they might not let you know it, are bursting with pride in your projects.

A dazzling smile shows that Tasha Nelson of Belmond, Iowa, was pleased to run the Belmond Area Arts Council's 75 HP Russell engine last year. Photo sent by Dave Nelson, 1141 Page Avenue, Belmond, Iowa 50421.

Okay, enough with the sappy, sentimental stuff; back to business. Those of you who will spend the winter helping to organize engine shows should be on the lookout for a packet of information about including your event in the 2000 edition of Stemgas Publishing's Steam & Gas Engine Show Directory. There are a number of imitators springing up out there, so make sure you know who you're sending your listings and ads back to. Not that we don't want you to promote your show in every possible way; we just don't want you to miss getting into the directory you really want to be in!

Have a heartwarming Thanksgiving among friends and family, and enjoy the Christmas season. We'll see you next year!

Steamcerely, Gail