STEAM PLOWING 45 YEARS AGO

Reeves Engine

Courtesy of A. M. King, R. D. 1, Dillsburg, Pennsylvania.

A. M. King

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Spokane Washington

I did my first plowing with a 35 hp. Double Nichols & Shepard engine. In 1908 at Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, I pulled a 12 bottom Cockshutt plow along with discs and harrows and I wish to say that as a plow engine this one was a real lemon. It was areal good steamer and had plenty of power but the gears were never made for plowing. About every ten days we would have to put in new defferential opinions of a clutch spider or some other gear or part that was not built to stand the heavy work of plowing.

Highway work before the days of trucks. Erie steam shovel at work near New Cumberland, Pa., 1923.

My second plow engine was a 32 hp. double simple Reeves and this engine was a honey. Although not as easy on coal and water as the 32 cross compound, the Reeves was really built for plowing and hauling. It was equipped with ample water tanks and coal bunkers and had no unnecessary spur gear to get out of line. During my 22 years as a traction engineer I operated 5 different Reeves engines and every one of them were great on the draw bar, all were good steamers and very economical to operate. I say without prejudice that the Reeves topped the field for plowing. In those years in Canada I saw many engines perform in the fields when we would visit other plowing outfits and here are some of the different makes and faults I would find with them. Take the Case 110 hp. Simple: boiler too small, steam dome too small and low. This caused the big Case to prime easily and if the water was very bad you would have to drain and wash the boiler 3 or 4 times each week. It did not have large enough water tanks to carry it the 2 mile round that was necessary when plowing a 640 acre field like we had up there. I owned one of these 110 Case outfits so I know what I am talking about, but this 110 and the 25-75 and 28-80 that I operated in 1914 and later were all good steamers and easy on fuel.

In 1915, 16 and 19, I did over 2,000 acres of stubble plowing with a 28-80 Canadian Special Case engine and I pulled 10 plows and harrow with it. In my book of engines this was the best steam engine turned out by the Case Company. I operated this engine in the falls of 1915, 16, 19, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26 and 27 and my salary was $10.00 a day. The average run was 32 days of threshing.

To get away from plow engines I will thresh awhile and for this I am going to pick as my favorite threshing engine a 30 hp. single simple Advance and a Rumley 40x64 Ideal separator equipped with Ruth self-feeder and Hart grain weigher. This is the simplest steam engine and the smoothest running separator ever built. In knocking around the Dakotas in my 22 seasons, I had occasions to belt up to a 44x72 Avery; a 40x63 Reeves; a 40x64 N & S; a 40x62 Minneapolis; a 40x60 Case. I have also pitched grain bundles into an Aultman-Taylor, Gaar Scott, Buffalo Pitts, Advance and the Russell but none of these machines compared to the Rumley Ideal.

I hope you will print this article when you have space in the ALBUM as I like to hear others spout off about their 'pets' and 'peeves'. I've got my pressure down now so will bank the fire and call it a day for this time.

Find check for two dollars for renewal of ALBUM. Certainly do not want to miss any of the copies. Am sending you a few snapshots of some old time steam machinery. I operated thresher engines when a young man but operated large steam shovels for a number of years. When steam dissappeared I quit operating but still love to see and hear one running. Your ALBUM is a wonderful paper and brings back old memories. Keep up the good work.

A. M. KING R. D. 1, Dillsburg, Pa.