I know that some people seek out silver, platinum, gold and diamonds. But I pursue cast iron. For example, I collect toy tractors, hit-and-miss engines, hog oilers, implement seats and cream separator bases.
Unfortunately for my wife (but not for me!) I had about 35 horse-drawn wagon reach plates fall into my lap. Made of cast iron, a reach plate sits between the front and rear parts of a wagon to adjust the wheelbase. The reach is what sits between the reach plate. It’s basically an oversized 2-by-4.
In the old days, wagon manufacturers made multiple boxes for their wagons. It was not unusual for a farmer who bought a new wagon to buy two or more different boxes for the wagon frame. International Harvester round reach plates are used on a rotating or oscillating reach to drive across rough roads with less worry about the reach (which is the weakest part of the wagon) breaking or twisting.
A bonus on an engine deal
My interest in reach plates started, I think, more than a year ago, when Mike King (who has way more cast iron than I do) worked on swapping an engine. “You give me that engine, I’ll give you this one.” Several months later, we did the trade. After I dropped off his engine and unloaded it, and was starting to drive away, Mike yelled, “Hey, stop!”
Then he started to load these cast iron things in the back of my truck. They had been sitting on a pallet for so long that the pallet had rotted into the ground. Some had worked themselves well into the dirt. When we were loading them, I asked, “what are these?” He answered “wagon reach plates.” I think that I kinda-sorta-maybe-but-not-really knew what they were for.
Logging trucks have reaches. I asked why he was giving these to me. He said he had bought some seats from Dean Vendro, a guy he used to work with, and Dean threw these in on the condition that he do something with them or give them to someone who would.
Making room for a new addition
I unfortunately became addicted to the reach plates. I managed to find another seven or eight of them. After many hours cleaning and painting them, I knew I was going to take them to some shows. Having never seen any of these before, I had no idea how I was going to get them to a show without damaging them.
A friend suggested I get some moving blankets, cut them up and sew them into “purses.” Over the course of several hours, using a sewing machine, she helped me make bags. I finished sewing the rest myself, making a bag for each and every one of them. Sewing is above my pay grade.
As far as restoration goes, the only thing I did was to wire brush the paint, rust and grunge off of them. Then I’d prime and paint them. I had an assortment of artist paint brushes to paint detail in various colors.
To transport the reach plates to a show, I plan to put them into milk crates that I have in stock from now-defunct dairies. Then my wife and I made a sign (again, way above my pay grade) because it could get somewhat tedious to explain what they are 30 or 40 times. I will take them to the shows this year. If no one “oohs” and “ahs” over them, I’ll be really bummed out.
I really have to thank my wife Carolesue for putting up with me. Thanks to Mike King for giving them to me (even as Carolesue is cursing him for causing me to bring more cast iron in the house). Thanks to Sam Moore (come on, you’ve read some of his articles in this magazine). Many thanks to David Sneed from www.wheelsthatwonthewest.blogspot.com, who knows more about wagons than I know about everything. And thanks to friends who took pictures for me and helped me create storage bags. FC
For more information: Brian Edwards lives in Burien, Washington. Email him at email@example.com.