We have been enjoying the articles on reverse gears for steam
engines by B. B. Brown in a steam hobby magazine, and by Lucian C.
Sweet a few years ago in IRON-MEN ALBUM. I have been using radial
reverse gears on steam traction engines for 40 years and find them
very satisfactory. It is true they have more joints or bearings to
keep up, but the superior results offset all other kinds many times
Some reverse gears are much better than others, especially for
economy and a quick admission and quick release of exhaust steam.
The best are of the radial type, all of which are off springs of
the Hackworth patent.:
Some of your readers may not agree with me on reverse gears, but
it is a fact that no steam traction engine ever won a neconomy test
at the Winnipeg, Canada Motor Contest, or any other economy run
that I know of, that was not equipped with a radial gear.
I consider the Baker the best reverse gear. Other good reverse
gears are the Clay as used on Reeves, Springer on Avery, Grime on
Port Huron and Aultman Taylor, and Woolf on Case, Minneapolis,
Huber and others. The Butterfield as used on the Nichols &
Shepard rear mount is similar to the Baker, as also is Wood
Brothers and Keck-Gonnerman.
The A. D. Baker Company claimed their gear had a full port
opening when the piston had moved only
3/8‘ from either dead center on a 10’
stroke engine. The Port Huron Grime gives full port opening at
nine-sixteenth inch of piston travel. At 90 to 92 per cent of the
stroke the exhaust is released quickly for a sharp but gentle
In ‘Steam Plant Operation’ by Woodruff & Lammers,
they state that a slow opening slide or piston valve causes wire
drawing, and loss of steam and power. The Joy reverse gear had no
eccentric and got its valve movement from the connecting rod, and
was a good reverse gear for the White steam automobile.
The Stephenson link, the shifting eccentric, and Marsh reverse
gears are slow moving and do not have a full port opening until the
piston has traveled nearly 3′ when the cut-off is 60% on a
10′ stroke engine. The exhaust release is also slow resulting
in a dragged-out sound.
The Marsh cannot be ‘Hooked up’ and all I can say for
it, it will reverse the engine. Imagine a locomotive that could not
be ‘Hooked up.’
The double-ported valve was used on steam boats long before some
traction engines had it, and it helps out some on their slow moving
gears. The Advance engine was a snappy sounding engine, but not as
much so as the short boilered Port Huron piston valve job. Both
engines had their exhaust nozzles choked down and that small
exhaust nozzle made them sound that way. I have seen engines with a
2′ main steam pipe and an 1′ exhaust pipe.
A few years ago, I owned two 32-100 hp. Port Huron Woolf
compound engines, one a traction and the other a portable. The
traction had the regular Grime reverse gear, and had a sharp but
gentle exhaust. The portable was the plain eccentric slow moving
valve and had a dragged out exhaust like engines with the shifting
In 1933 I was at the A. D. Baker factory at Swanton, Ohio, and
saw A. D. Baker’s improvement on his valve gear installed on
one of their traction engines. This improvement consisted of an
over-riding valve for early cut-off, and regular valve for constant
release. At their office, they told me that Louis Baker, son of A.
D. Baker, was riding at that moment with an engineer on a fast
passenger locomotive that was equipped with the new improved valve
gear, and was due to go through Swanton in a few minutes.
The New York Central R.R. passed in front of the Baker office,
and a number of us were out in front and waved at Louis Baker when
their fast train went through. Later on I was told, this improved
valve gear was not quite as good as the regular Baker gear when
starting a heavy load, but was a whizz for speed and economy on a
The Baker Company certainly proved that there is great economy
in hooking up the reverse gear, and using a large exhaust nozzle.
In fact their new 23-90 uniflow engines were built with a 2′
main steam pipe and a 2′ exhaust nozzle.
At the Fort Wayne, Indiana Threshers Reunion last year (August,
1957) a 20 hp. Advance-Rumely had all it could do to pull a 6
bottom plow in hard plowing. My 22-65 Case pulled the same plow at
the same time, with the reverse lever in the third notch from the
corner and did it easy. I am sure my Case could have pulled a 10
bottom plow as easy as the Advance-Rumely pulled the 6 bottom plow.
Both engines carried 175 lbs. W. P.