The Last Picture of Swaney's Big Forty

| September/October 1984

  • Big Forty Reeves

  • Big Forty Reeves

Box 426 Ridgefield, WA 98642.

This is the last picture taken in 1937 of Swaney Swanson's Big Forty Reeves before it was cut up for scrap iron. It was known in steam circles as The Big Forty Reeves, the biggest the company made. It developed 40 horse power on the draw bar, which was a lot more than any 40 horses could pull. For the cold Canadian weather it had a full jacket on the boiler. It carried three water tanks when it came from the factory, but Swaney had another installed in front of the smoke stack. It was a two story tractor, as the engineer sat above the fireman, in a special cab where he had a good view of the plows and the engine. It had power steering, a cross compound engine, the drivers were seven feet high and 56 inches wide.

Swaney ordered a special made plow to do breaking; it had sixteen bottoms and each cut a 16 inch furrow. The plow was beside the steamer when I took the photo but it was covered with weeds four feet high and piled high with scrap iron, so it was difficult to tell how many bottoms were on the original gang, but the bottoms were all 16 inch breaker bottoms. Swaney claimed that one day he broke 160 acres of prairie sod with this outfit. According to my figures it would be a long day.

Swaney did a lot of threshing with one grain separator he threshed a million bushels of grain. The machine is on display at the Pioneer Museum at Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. If my memory serves me correctly, it is a Yellow Avery with a 44 inch cylinder and a 72 inch body. Some of the men who worked for Swaney told me that on a Saturday afternoon when the men were tired Swaney would stand often on the feeder and wave four ten dollar bills and yell at the four spike pitchers, 'Plug this rig and you can divide this among yourselves.' No one ever plugged his machine not when there was a Big Forty on the other end of the drive belt capable of developing 120 horsepower.


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