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

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    The Reeves 16 HP steam traction engine. Owner John Gallahue's son, John III, 18, often pilots it at the Mt. Pleasant (Iowa) Midwest Old Threshers Reunion.
    Bill Vossler
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    John Gallahue's Reeves 16 HP  engine patiently waits for action at the Mt. Pleasant (Iowa) Midwest Old Threshers Reunion.
    Bill Vossler
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    The front of the boiler on the 1917 Reeves 16 HP steam traction engine gives basic information on the machine. Ermerson-Brantingham bought Reeves in 1912.
    Bill Vossler
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    Reeves steam traction engines were built alongside Reeves gas tractors, like this 40-65 model, until about 1920. The Reeves factory shut down in 1925.
    Bill Vossler
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    This imposing-looking machine is a 1913 Reeves 40 HP cross-compound steam traction engine. This one had 28-inch extension rims attached to the drive wheels.
    Bill Vossler
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    A Reeves steam traction engine working a field, probably in North Dakota, circa 1915.
    Photo courtesy Richard Birklid
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    This 40-65 Reeves gas tractor manufactured in 1913 shows characteristics of the Reeves steam traction engine.
    Photo courtesy Richard Birklid
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    This ad from a 1903 Thresher World and Farmers Magazine shows a cross-compound Reeves steam traction engine.
    Bill Vossler
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    The 2/3-scale model of John Gallahue's 1917 Reeves 16 HP steam traction engine is in full swing.
    Bill Vossler
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    John hopes to have this scale model of the Reeves ready for the 2007 Mt. Pleasant (Iowa) Midwest Old Threshers Reunion.
    Bill Vossler
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    Remarkably, John Gallahue has a complete record of owners for his 1917 Reeves 16 HP.
    Bill Vossler
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    At left is Lloyd "Bones" Dehm Sr., who operated the 1971 Reeves 16 HP steam traction engine at the Mt. Pleasant (Iowa) Midwest Old Threshers Ruenion for many years. He is John Gallahue Jr.'s (right) father-in-law. In the center is John Gallahue III.
    Bill Vossler

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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.