Farm Collector

Building The Model Reeves

At Pion-Era in 1961, just after I had completed my first model
steam engine and threshing machine in 1′ scale, I met Wally
Vann of Winnipeg. Wally, who was one of the finest model builders
that ever lived, was a prince of a fellow and he just loved to talk
models whenever he had the chance. We spent hours discussing model
building. We talked over the pros and cons of various scales; the
importance of drawings; pattern making; boiler building; in fact
just about everything we could think about model steam engines.
Wally had built a big CASE 80 and 40′ Case thresher in 3′
scale, so he convinced me that the 3′ scale engine fires,
handles and sounds as close to the full size engine as any model
could. He also pointed out, that, although the 3′ scale engine
acts big, it has the advantage of being comparatively easy to store
as well as to transport to various shows. After talking to Wally,
my mind was made up. My next engine would be built to 3′

Once I had decided to build a 3′ scale model the big
questions was a three inch scale what??? There are dozens of
beautiful engines, any one of which would make a wonderful model.
Since there were several model CASE 65’s built or being built,
I decided to try something different. Many ideas were considered –
an AMERICAN ABEL ‘Cock-O’-The-North’ 26 hp; an AVERY 20
hp return flue; a CASE 80. But the GARR-SCOTT 25 HP double rear
mounted looked best. I soon found that the detailed information
necessary to build this model was difficult to obtain locally, so I
decided to advertise. Ads placed in the various steam magazines got
a lot of sympathetic interest but little else. One reply came from
Syd Matthews in Toronto. Syd was more interested in REEVES than
GARR Scott, but because he knew the area where we lived at the
time, he thought he’d write anyway. The result of our
correspondence was that I finally decided to build a REEVES 32 hp
cross-compound engine.

The first step in building any model is to obtain a set of
drawings. Since there were none in existence, I started by scaling
down the big 1912 REEVES 32 c.c. owned by the Western Development
Museum in Saskatoon. This engine, #6819, is what REEVES called
their ‘Canadian Special’ or ‘Alberta’ model. These
Canadian Special REEVES engines were much heavier in some ways than
the ‘American’ design of the same horsepower rating.
Canadian Special boilers all had butt-strap longitudinal seams,
possibly because the boiler laws of the Provinces of Alberta and
Saskatchewan were generally more stringent than those elsewhere.
The rear axle, gearing and rear engine saddle were mounted on
extended wing sheets at the rear of the boiler. In the U.S. design
these were mounted on brackets which bolted directly into the
boiler back head. The rear wheels had flat spokes riveted into
steel rims instead of round spokes cast into the hub and rims as in
the U.S. models. In most Canadian models, the drive gears were
fully enclosed in sheet metal covers to keep out grit and dirt.
Because of these covers, the master or bull gears drove the rear
wheels at the hubs instead of at the rims as was common practice on
so many engines. This was the reason for the heavy flat spokes in
the rear wheels that method of driving them put extra strain on
them. There were several minor differences, but the Canadian
Special REEVES was basically the same as the U.S. design in all its
major dimensions.

The drawings, which had begun in 1962, involved miles of
traveling as well as reams of correspondence to obtain
measurements, pictures and detailed data from the original. Several
hundred hours were spent at the drawing board reducing each part to
one quarter scale (3′ = 1′). During this time, I had
visions of assembling the engine only to discover the crankshaft
would make less than a full turn because I had goofed on some
detail somewhere, and the crossheads didn’t have enough travel
in the tunnels or that the crankshaft counterweights wouldn’t
clear the rear saddle. This meant careful cross checking of every
part in relationship to the others to make certain that everything
was going to work. When finished in 1965, the drawing set was made
up of 13 sheets, each 24′ x 36′.

Once the drawings were completed, actual construction of the
model began with the collecting of materials. Some of the parts
were gleaned from the local junk yard. For example, the
differential uses spider and axle gears from a defunct Austin; the
bull gears and pinions are from an old pump jack which had machine
cut gear teeth. Careful selection of the proper ‘junk’
meant that these items were very close to scale size when modified
to suit the model. Obviously, not everything could come from the
junk yard, so many parts were specially made. This included
castings. To make the castings, I first made a set of wood
patterns, along with the necessary core boxes. Fortunately, Norwood
Foundry in Edmonton proved to be more than a little sympathetic
toward this project and offered much appreciated advice regarding
the pattern making. They also did the actual pouring of the scores
of iron castings used in this model. Their workmanship was
excellent and the castins flawless.

The heart of any steam engine is the boiler. The model REEVES
boiler is all ASME code approved steel, all seams arc welded. The
seamless shell is 10′ in diameter, and contains 29 tubes,
3/4′ O.D. x 24′ long. These tubes, together with a 12′
x 13′ x 8′ firebox, give the boiler more than 12 square
feet of heating surface. 106 Staybolts support the crown sheet and
heads. Much of the work and all of the welding on this boiler was
done by my good friend, Fred Freschette of Red Deer, Alberta.
Without Dred’s help I’m sure that this boiler would have
turned out to be a rather sorry effort. As it was, the initial test
made in June of 1970 at 300 psi was a complety success. Since the
working pressure was to be somewhere near 125 psi, we felt that
this test pressure would be adequate. Steaming this boiler later
on, I learned that with its relatively large firebox and ample
heating surface it would fire easily on coal or wood and never give
any signs of priming or ‘perking.

The wheels were built of steel and riveted or welded together.
The front wheels finished to 12′ dia by 4′ face. Each had
28 spokes welded in. The rear wheels are 20′ diameter, and
6′ wide, plus 3′ wide extension rims. The 3/4 x 1/4 flat
iron spokes are riveted to the hubs and rims. All four wheels have
bronze bushings. Once the wheels were finished and installed on the
boiler along with the cast iron smoke stack, things began to look a
bit like an engine. After the smoke door and ring were bolted on,
along with ‘Cole’s’ 5/16 model fittings, water glass
and injector, a 1′ 200 pound steam gauge was attached, as was
the ‘ kunkle # 1 pop valve, and 3/16’ blower line. A fire
was built in the firebox late one evening, even though all that
could be done was boil water and blow the whistle. In spite of
using wood so wet that water actually ran out of the draft door, it
steamed quickly and easily, coming up to popping off pressure in a
very few minutes.

Seeing the little boiler steam and hearing that whistle blow
provided the incentive to get at machining those castings. Many of
them were quite small, so there was no trouble in handling these in
my 12′ Atlas lathe. The cylinders are pretty big, both have a 3
stroke, and bores of 2′ and 3′ So I had the cylinders bored
by a friend who operates a big machine shop nearby. However, I
tackled the crosshead tunnels and the flywheel myself. These
castings were pretty big, but with light cuts and a lot of patience
I managed to finish them up on the 12′ Atlas. The flywheel is
11′ in diameter with a 2 3/4′ face, and is bored for the
1′ crankshaft. The crankshaft is built up of SPS steel,
machined all over, and ground to finish. Once all the parts were
fully machined, the engine was assembled in my basement workshop
and finally mounted on the boiler and wheels.

The biggest headache was getting the intercepting valve so it
wouldn’t leak. This is a small valve which allows the engine to
be run either as a double-simple engine for starting up or for
heavy power at slow speeds; or as a cross-compound, which is normal
operation. Simple as the valve was, it still required hours of hand
lapping to get it to seal properly in all positions. Likely, the
second most difficult part ot build was the governor. I was most
worried about getting the governor to ‘govern’ the way it
should. However, a bit of careful calculating produced a spring to
act against the flyballs to maintain the proper speed.

Finally, one evening in August of 1972 the time had come to test
it. Once again, we fired up. The first time I opened the throttle
there was the gentle hiss of wet steam from the cylinder cocks and
the little Reeves was off, running sluggishly while everything
warmed up. In a minute or two the engine seemed to run more
smoothly, so with some apprehension the intercepting valve was
changed over to cross-compound motion. Fears quickly vanished as
the flywheel picked up slightly and ran more smoothly than before.
When the throttle was opened wide, the engine revved up to governed
speed, then settled into a smooth rhythmic motion that gently
rocked the whole engine back and forth. Moments to remember!

As in all new machines, there were some bugs. Some extra work
was required on the valve gear because the Clay gear used on the
REEVES was finicky at the best and this one wouldn’t let the
engine run in reverse properly. It ran fine forward, but
wouldn’t back up. Also, the gear ratio was not quite what I
wanted, as the engine wanted to ‘walk’ up to fast on the
road. A smaller crankshaft pinion and larger differential gear
corrected this. Other than that, the little REEVES is a model that
gives my wife and I smiles a foot wide.

It steams easily, never priming under any load and has ample
power to pull anything within reason. With only 60 pounds of steam
it will pull any load it has traction for. Our chief engineer, 9
year old son Randy, has pulled nearly a dozen kids of assorted
sizes in coaster wagons, with 25 pounds of steam. And many of the
kids dragging their feet! Several people told me that in a compound
model this size the low pressure cylinder does little work, because
the high pressure cylinder does almost all of the work. Yet this
little REEVES seems to pull as well with the low pressure cylinder
as with the high pressure. Under heavy loads the little engine has
a sharp, but soft exhaust, due, I suppose to its very low exhaust
pressure. (about 15 pounds) The 5/16′ model injector is fast
and reliable, and with the addition of an independent steam pump,
water feed will not be a problem. The canopy, of wood and canvas,
lifts off easily to allow free access to the engine parts for
maintenance and adjustments.

Now all that remains is something for the engine to do. My next
project is a Rumely Ideal Thresher. A big one 40′ x 64′ –
all wood. But that’s another story.

  • Published on Jul 1, 1973
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