Reeves Company Steam Plow and Steam Traction Engine Come to the Midwest

The history and restoration of Reeves Company equipment

| May/June 2002

Vaclav Vacik, a farmer from the area of Sunol, Neb., traveled by train to Chicago in 1909 to purchase a Reeves Company 32 HP steam traction engine and a 12-bottom Reeves Company steam plow. After the purchase of the steam traction engine and steam plow in Chicago, Vacik waited until the dealership could load the machinery and returned on the same train to the railroad siding at Sunol, Neb., where it was unloaded.

Shortly after the steam traction engine and steam plow arrived in Sunol, another local farmer went into partnership with Vacik. That man was John Soral, a Czech immigrant who had come to the U.S. in 1892, settling in the Czech settlement of Lodge Pole, just south of Sunol. His first house was built of sod; later, limestone was added. Local ads were immediately placed in The Lodge Pole Express newspaper, Lodge Pole, Neb.

By the turn of the 20th century, many attempts had been made to design and produce a plow that would turn the soil in a clean manner with the least usage of horsepower. Up to this point in time the subject of plowing was a common topic, often discussed by farmers and investors alike. The issue of plowing was so ingrained in the American dialogue that President Lincoln, while grappling with the formation of the Gettysburg Address and concerned he would fail in his message, is said to have remarked to an aide, "That speech won't scour," an expression referring to a plow whose blade will not come clean and do its job.

President Lincoln was also one of the first Americans to recognize the potential of steam leaving the rails and progressing to the realities of future farming opportunities. As America entered the 20th century, large farming operations were becoming more and more prevalent and the rush by manufacturers to design and manufacture larger plowing outfits was in full swing. The design of a more reliable plow that would penetrate the hardpan soil and remain uniform in the rolling terrain of some locales became an immediate challenge for the designers of the manufacturing firms. Farmers with foresight and a willingness to take the financial plunge began purchasing large steam plows for not only the tilling of their own land, but also land of others on a custom basis.

Western Nebraska was no exception. On Feb. 13, 1909: "V. Vacik has bought an up-to-date steam-plowing outfit and is prepared to accept contracts for work in that line. Those who want breaking done with moldboard plows instead of disks should see him about it."

Vaclav Vacik , traveled by train from Nebraska to Chicago in 1909 to purchase the Reeves 32 HP steam traction engine and the 12-bottom Reeves steam lift plow.