The Complete Story of Reeves No. 8091

Reeves engine

Reeves No. 8091, 8'' x 14'' bore and stroke. Same boiler as 40 hp. cross compound.

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Neighbor and employee of the Pickett family as told to J. W. Chandler

(Lon Pickett owner, 1924 new)

Lon Pickett was an eccentric bachelor who owned many engines. His favorites were Keck, Baker and Rumely. He had known Advance-Rumely to have built at least one 35 hp. plowing engine in the fall of 1922. However, he was unsuccessful in persuading them to build an identical engine for him. Keck-Gonnerman had a new 28 or 30 hp. on hand; but it was too light for Mr. Pickett's taste.

After contacting all builders of large engines and availability of supply, he decided on a Reeves already built. It did not suit him exactly, so it was reshipped to Indianapolis (Sinker-Davis Works) and the following alterations were made:

The eccentrics were moved inside and a radial or Baker type reverse motion was installed. The crankshaft was cut on the left side and an eccentric water pump was mounted where the left hand flywheel could have been used.

This engine was so heavy, we had 4 inch thick by 12 inch wide planks carried on water tanks for crossing culverts and bridges. You just couldn't get around without them and even then we had trouble.

One evening in 1924, Mr. Pickett started home with the rig after a disagreement with his customers over the havoc wrought by the No. 8091. He crossed the Cloverleaf Division of the Nickel Plate Railroad near his home. He got a little crosswise of the track and it finally took a Huber 20 hp. and a Baker 30 hp. and all night to get her off the track. I do not recall what it cost Mr. Pickett for track repair and delay of trains. That big Reeves engine cost a pretty penny for him not to get any real returns from it.

That was the only threshing it ever did to my knowledge. 1 had heard a large operator named Ortman, whose family still runs a large well drilling outlay, had gotten this engine from the estate. You know, that outfit stood in the shed just east of Greentown for about ten years.

Now this Reeves engine had some special things on it. Lon didn't like a Reeves anyway, but some of his objections were overcome in this particular engine. He had said it (the No. 8091) was the last big D.C. simple built by Emerson Brantingham. Lonnie had bought several engines and experience taught him the bolted brackets on boilers were not sound design. He had a 30 hp. 'Canadian type' Baker which taught him part of this lesson. The No. 8091 had two individual center crank engines. He said this was sound design, and wing sheeted throughout. The intermediate gear was mounted similar to a Rumely and you wondered if Rumely built it or was copied.

You know, Lon used to go west and follow the wheat harvest, and when finished he would sell the rig at the end of the run. I guess he intended to do that with the No. 8091, but of course his health failed and he died in 1932.

NOTE: by James W. Chandler, 54 Taylor Street, Frankfort, Indiana. The Saga of Reeves No. 8091 should be settled with this note. The writer first saw her standing in a shed beside a 44' x 68' Gaar-Scott separator in 1932. A friend of the family had told us of the engine being for sale, and he made arrangements for us with the 'executor' for us to see it. The No. 8091 was about the biggest thing I ever saw. It was decided not to buy it because of its great weight over 26 tons.

In the spring of 1938, Ed Ortman (whom 1 knew) acquired her and threshed with her a day or two. He had a large Advance-Rumely d.c. and it was rather roadworthy for its size. I passed the Ortman place and there stood the No. 8091 with a full head of steam and no place to go. The tile ditches and culverts would not support her, so they ran her home.

That fall, Patty Voohees, a large sawmill and gravel operator, got hold of her. She stripped gravel pits at Galveston, 7 miles northwest of Kokomo, for a year. The heavy valves were too much for the reverse motion, which was proven to be a Keck-Gonnerman.

The mechanism laid under a bunk-house at Makomis Brothers until after World War II. In 1939, the Makomis family used her in a sawmill, and there, she was stripped of her spacious platform and coal bunker. She also had another innovation. Her cylinders were removed and equipped with the new pistons 8' and her cylinders rebored from 8' to 8'. This made her 8' x 14' bore and stroke respectively. The Sinker-Davis tags were on her at the time of the fire. She was equipped with a Gentry reverse gear similar to a Baker or Butter-field and Baker type piston valves were applied.

The No. 8091 spent another year with the Makomis boys and then was sold to Huffman of Walton, Indiana. To trace her path is like unto the battle of the Bismarck (German Gunship, World War II.) She started 12 miles east of Kokomo, Indiana, to 3 miles west of Kokomo, then 5 miles south of Galveston, then 7 miles northwest of Walton, Indiana, 12 miles from Kokomo. (Never far from Kokomo.) Her travels were less than 50 miles. She showed absolutely no wear. This is one of the few Reeves I ever saw with both Canadian Crown and ASME badge plate above fire door.

This boiler was identical to the 40 hp. Compound except the smoke box was shorter.

No way, am I intending to belittle anyone or hand out guarded insults with this comment. But, when we first ran this picture of the No. 8091 back in the fifties, we had at least one letter from every grain producing state in the union and a couple from Canada. Each and everyone had seen the No. 8091 in or near his area.

We had at least two phone calls from Illinois, which we went to see. There was a 25 hp. very much like the No. 8091, whose number was 8129. This led us to believe there were other units of the same type as No. 8091. The Big Reeves, as rebuilt, was the most powerful engine I ever saw. There is no doubt that a similarity exists between the Reeves No. 8091 and a 18 hp. Keck Gonnerman in appearance, engines only. But, the remarkable difference is the size and style of casting, and the clutch.

The Reeves was two center crank engines of almost identical design. The Keck-Gonnerman was the same as two single cylinder engines, one right hand, the other left hand. The cross head guides were the open end type, while the Reeves was the closed design. The cylinders were EB design.

The Reeves had about twice the distance between piston centers as the Keck crank throws. That was why her cylinders were so wide apart. I do not know who made the patterns for either the Keck or Reeves engine beds. I had asked Mr. Matthews or Reeves Historical Society, with no luck. They well may have been made by the same person or company. In any event, it is a shame the Reeves No. 8091 was not sold in an area where she could roam at will.

This material has been examined by Mr. Gene Pickett, next surviving relative of Lon Pickett and he adds that, 'the big Gaar-Scott separator was burned and junked when no buyer was found for it.'

Mr. Morris Rush, only known living operator of No. 8091, concurs both the above accounts. Affidavits obtained by self-addressed, stamped envelope, plus fees.

The late LeRoy Faucette, factory representative for Keck-Gonnerman, had told me on occasions that the engines of Reeves No. 8091 was not a Keck-Gonnerman which he gave me his reasons for this belief would take more space than we have here.