In 1898, I unloaded and operated a new 20 hp. double Reeves, a
wasteful engine, at Danville, Kansas, and as I drove it into the
yard I saw, near a shed, a rear mounted double Ritchie & Dyer
with a broken crank shaft and the engine whipped to pieces. Reeves
& Co., built independent stackers in the late 80’s and
early 90’s. That Company bought Ritchie and Dyer and developed
Reeves double and cross compound engines. Nearly all plow engines
sold by Reeves & Co., were cross compounds because of the
economy of the cross compound over the double. Reeves cross
compounds earned enviable reputations as plow engines and wherever
prairie grass sod was plowed, Reeves cross compounds plowed it.
Reeves & Co., if there was any cream in the steam plow
business, got it. Trouble was reported with crankshafts in Reeves
engines. Neither Ritchie & Dyer nor Reeves engines were built
with center bearings on crankshafts. The sight of the Ritchie &
Dyer, whipped to pieces, remained with me and my reason for
suggesting center bearings on crankshafts of cross compound
Advance Thresher Co., built more than 13,000 engines, thousands
of separators and much other equipment from 1884 until 1912 and so
successfully managed its business, the newly organized Rumely Co.,
paid 282 for Advance Thresher Company stock. It is not probable,
with such a record of achievements, that company was influenced by
suggestions and the new engine would have been what it was, without
Advance Thresher Co., built a cross compound rear mounted
engine, with live axle, center bearing on crankshaft, intermediate
gear keyed to a shaft with babbitted bearings, improved Woolf
reverse gear and without a clutch.
I sold 40 hp. cross compound engine No. 11,140–the sample at
the Kansas City Branch. It was a coal burner boiler with jacket,
cab and full water and coal equipment,– a proud appearing engine.
The boiler contained seventy 2×100′ flues. Drive wheels were
built up, with flat spokes, 30′ rims and 78′ high,– a high
wheel but a foot too low. The crankshaft was 4?’ in diameter,
counter shaft 53/8 and rear axle 5?. The high
pressure cylinder was 9×13′ and the low 13×13′.
In the 1890’s I operated 10 hp. Nichols & Shepard engine
No. 3,381 in Lyon County, Iowa. The main bearings were brass with
quarter box adjustment, sensitive to adjustment and if too tight
would heat, expand and kill the engine almost instantly. We were
threshing south of Rock Rapids. The night was clear and moonlight.
The next morning was clear and frosty. We had threshed but a few
minutes, before I went to the crank wheel side of the engine. The
edge of the crank wheel was covered with brass cuttings and oil.
The main bearing had been doped with powdered emery. The bearings
did not expand and kill the engine, as when too tight. We removed
the crankshaft and cleaned it and the bearings but it was necessary
to take it down the second time. Crops were large and rigs
numerous. A highly rated engine man was operating an engine that
day across the field. In 62 years I have not convinced myself he
did not dope that engine. The little engine soon again was
faithfully doing its duty and did for many years.
The 40 hp. cross compound was shipped, settlement made, fixtures
attached, boiler steamed and engine driven down an incline to the
ground. The warehouse and shop foreman from the Kansas City Branch,
a highly rated man, was there to see the engine tested on the plow,
as it was the first 40 and probably the only one sold at the Kansas
City Branch. As usual in small towns, every man and boy, who could
get on that engine were riding it. The shop foreman and I were
walking together by the side of the engine. The engine had barely
cleared the railroad switch, when it stopped so suddenly the riders
were nearly thrown from the engine. The impact of the gears was
terrific. It has been 45 years but I have not forgotten the
expression of horror that spread over the face of the shop foreman,
with the crashing sound of that engine.
The eccentric on the low pressure cylinder had slipped and
reversed that engine. The low pressure chest cover was removed and
as I looked into the chest, I saw at least a tea-spoonful of
powdered emery on the bottom of the chest. Emery was discovered in
bearings. Pistons and valves were removed and pistons, rings and
valves cleaned. Bearings were removed and bearings and shafts
cleaned but after exercising the utmost care it seemed all of the
emery had not been removed as I replaced both cylinders, pistons,
valves and rings with new ones. Furrows two inches wide had been
plowed in the bottom of the cylinders. It seemed neither the owner
nor the shop foreman fully realized the gravity of the situation.
My experience with the Nichols & Shepard engine taught me a
lesson and I thought the engine ought to be returned to the Branch,
torn down and thoroughly cleaned. The shop foreman was sent there
because of the Company’s confidence in him. No other employee
of that Branch, more fully enjoyed the confidence of the Branch
Manager and he was worthy of it.
The engine did good work regardless of all that had happened,
was powerful, economical and the gears were quiet. It easily pulled
12 breaker bottoms in buffalo grass sod. The owner’s only
complaint on the engine was the Woolf reverse gears. The double
ported valves, although partly balanced, required power to move
them and the reverse gears were overworked by them. Either piston
valves or another kind of reverse gears, would have been an
improvement and both would have been better.
The throw of those eccentrics was short and the eccentric arms
were hitched to the short ends of the rockers and the valve stems
to the long ends and was the same as hitching two horses to a three
horse evener. The horse on the short end did the work and the
eccentric was the horse on the short end. Too many joints, because
of lost motion, reduced the efficiency of a reverse gear.
However, it made little difference to but a few, who had bought
engines. The short reign of the steam engine as a plowing power was
near the end, when Advance Thresher Co., built the cross compound
engine. The large Oil and Gas tractors were here. Advance Thresher
Company, before it sold, had built and tested a 40-80 gas tractor.
The motor was a 7×10′ four cylinder vertical engine and stood
parallel with the frame. The power was transmitted through bevel
When emery was discovered in the engine, I had no idea where or
by whom, the engine had been doped. Later it was reported done in
the Kansas City Branch by disgruntled employees of the shop, who
disliked the shop foreman and sought to injure his standing with
the company. They did their work well, when they doped the engine
but failed miserably when they attempted to discredit the shop
foreman with the company. In 1912, when H. G. Schnelle was
appointed Branch Manager for Avery Company’s Dallas Branch,
Geo. L. Roberts went with him.
Readers of THE ALBUM have read about the plain white Dunkard
Church southwest of Aurelia, Iowa. Others and I, when I was a boy,
sat in those white pine seats, with straight backs and listened to
much about Hell.
H. G. Schnelle and Geo. L. Roberts have been peacefully sleeping
many years but to the WEAK men, who did the wrong, because of
fancied wrong, may the same merciful God, to whom John Early so
pleadingly prayed for our souls, have been merciful.