The Best Reverse Gears

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Alvordton, Ohio

We have been enjoying the articles on reverse gears for steam engines by B. B. Brown in a steam hobby magazine, and by Lucian C. Sweet a few years ago in IRON-MEN ALBUM. I have been using radial reverse gears on steam traction engines for 40 years and find them very satisfactory. It is true they have more joints or bearings to keep up, but the superior results offset all other kinds many times over.

Some reverse gears are much better than others, especially for economy and a quick admission and quick release of exhaust steam. The best are of the radial type, all of which are off springs of the Hackworth patent.:

Some of your readers may not agree with me on reverse gears, but it is a fact that no steam traction engine ever won a neconomy test at the Winnipeg, Canada Motor Contest, or any other economy run that I know of, that was not equipped with a radial gear.

I consider the Baker the best reverse gear. Other good reverse gears are the Clay as used on Reeves, Springer on Avery, Grime on Port Huron and Aultman Taylor, and Woolf on Case, Minneapolis, Huber and others. The Butterfield as used on the Nichols & Shepard rear mount is similar to the Baker, as also is Wood Brothers and Keck-Gonnerman.

The A. D. Baker Company claimed their gear had a full port opening when the piston had moved only 3/8' from either dead center on a 10' stroke engine. The Port Huron Grime gives full port opening at nine-sixteenth inch of piston travel. At 90 to 92 per cent of the stroke the exhaust is released quickly for a sharp but gentle exhaust.

In 'Steam Plant Operation' by Woodruff & Lammers, they state that a slow opening slide or piston valve causes wire drawing, and loss of steam and power. The Joy reverse gear had no eccentric and got its valve movement from the connecting rod, and was a good reverse gear for the White steam automobile.

The Stephenson link, the shifting eccentric, and Marsh reverse gears are slow moving and do not have a full port opening until the piston has traveled nearly 3' when the cut-off is 60% on a 10' stroke engine. The exhaust release is also slow resulting in a dragged-out sound.

The Marsh cannot be 'Hooked up' and all I can say for it, it will reverse the engine. Imagine a locomotive that could not be 'Hooked up.'

The double-ported valve was used on steam boats long before some traction engines had it, and it helps out some on their slow moving gears. The Advance engine was a snappy sounding engine, but not as much so as the short boilered Port Huron piston valve job. Both engines had their exhaust nozzles choked down and that small exhaust nozzle made them sound that way. I have seen engines with a 2' main steam pipe and an 1' exhaust pipe.

A few years ago, I owned two 32-100 hp. Port Huron Woolf compound engines, one a traction and the other a portable. The traction had the regular Grime reverse gear, and had a sharp but gentle exhaust. The portable was the plain eccentric slow moving valve and had a dragged out exhaust like engines with the shifting eccentric gear.

In 1933 I was at the A. D. Baker factory at Swanton, Ohio, and saw A. D. Baker's improvement on his valve gear installed on one of their traction engines. This improvement consisted of an over-riding valve for early cut-off, and regular valve for constant release. At their office, they told me that Louis Baker, son of A. D. Baker, was riding at that moment with an engineer on a fast passenger locomotive that was equipped with the new improved valve gear, and was due to go through Swanton in a few minutes.

The New York Central R.R. passed in front of the Baker office, and a number of us were out in front and waved at Louis Baker when their fast train went through. Later on I was told, this improved valve gear was not quite as good as the regular Baker gear when starting a heavy load, but was a whizz for speed and economy on a locomotive.

The Baker Company certainly proved that there is great economy in hooking up the reverse gear, and using a large exhaust nozzle. In fact their new 23-90 uniflow engines were built with a 2' main steam pipe and a 2' exhaust nozzle.

At the Fort Wayne, Indiana Threshers Reunion last year (August, 1957) a 20 hp. Advance-Rumely had all it could do to pull a 6 bottom plow in hard plowing. My 22-65 Case pulled the same plow at the same time, with the reverse lever in the third notch from the corner and did it easy. I am sure my Case could have pulled a 10 bottom plow as easy as the Advance-Rumely pulled the 6 bottom plow. Both engines carried 175 lbs. W. P.