Family Has High Regard for Its 1917 Reeves 16 HP Steam Traction Engine

Marrying into a steam family develops man's lifelong passion for the hobby

| Spring 2007

The love of a woman snared John Gallahue into a lifelong fascination with steam traction engines. “My wife, Tara, and I started dating in about 1979, and her father, Lloyd 'Bones' Dehm Sr., was running the 1917 Reeves 16 HP steam traction engine at the Mt. Pleasant (Iowa) Midwest Old Threshers Reunion, and had been since the early 1960s. He ran it over the years and helped maintain it.

“Tara has been going to Mt. Pleasant about every year since she was alive. So, because we were dating, in about 1980 I went to Mt. Pleasant with her for a day. Of course, then I was more interested in my father-in-law’s daughter than in steam,” the 56-year-old laughs.

But that soon changed. “I started helping him and got attached to the idea of steam and the Reeves. So when I had the opportunity to buy it, I jumped at the chance and ended up with it.”

The Reeves didn’t require a lot of work to keep it going. “It had been re-flued not long before I got it and new babbitt bearings had been poured for the valve linkage rods. Other than that, it just needed cleaning up. I want to get it painted before I take it back to Mt. Pleasant in September,” John says.

John is pretty sure that other than when it was manufactured by the Emerson-Brantingham Co. of Rockford, Ill., the 1917 Reeves 16 HP steam traction engine, serial no. 8017, has not been out of the state of Iowa. “So it’s getting kind of homesick sitting here at my place,” he says. There weren’t many steam traction engines in the Piper City, Ill., area where he grew up and now lives, mostly because the area was swamp land until drainage ditches were dug.

“Steam engines couldn’t cross the bridges built over the drainage ditches because they were too heavy and would break through. They did have steam engines around here, of course, but it seems like most people went right from horses to the gas tractors,” John says. Most of the remaining steam engines were cut up for scrap during World War II.


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