On the field of Marmont was exhibited, for the first time in
France, the steam-reaper of Aveling & Porter, of Rochester,
England. It consists of a wide-swath reaper, on the ‘Bell’
principle, driven by a traction engine at its rear. It was a
striking revival of the machine invented and used by the Rev.
Patrick Bell, at For-far, Scotland, in 1828, but cut a swath of 12
feet wide at the rate of 2 miles per hour, over double the work of
the Scotch machine. This was no extraordinary advance in point of
economy, as the Bell machines worked with two horses and laid the
swath in the same manner. The Aveling & Porter machine had a
nominal power five or six times as great.
Like its prototype, the tongue of the machine extends to the
rear, the power being behind, but, instead of a pair of horses
hitched to the end of the tongue and facing their work, a 10 or 12
horse traction engine pushed the reaper into the grain, the cutting
apparatus, grain-reel, and endless discharge-apron being worked by
gearing driven by an endless chain from a sprocket-wheel or the
fly-wheel shaft of the engine. The endless apron is inclined, and
discharges the cut grain in a regular and continuous swath on the
left of the machine, with the butts towards the engine and out of
the way of the latter, which followed in the rear.
In front of the engine is a crane with tackle operatable from a
drum, which may be thrown in connection with the engine when
required. During the turning of corners while at work, and in
transporting the apparatus to and from the field, the reaper is
lifted and hangs suspended from the crane.
The machine is operated and guided by one man, the various
levers being conveniently placed; so that the reaper may be raised
or lowered, the locomotive moved forward, backed, or guided to left
or right, and the gearing which controls the functions of the
reaper proper put into or out of operation.
The machine did very good work, but it can hardly be said that
it was regarded as of much practical value. The same objection was
made to it that has always been justly urged against that form of
steam-plow in which a moving locomotive drags the plows behind it
over the ground. Without pretending to state accurately the
relative proportions of the power which was exerted in moving the
traction engine itself and in moving and operating the reaper
proper, it was thought that less than one-half of the power exerted
would have been sufficient to have cut a swath of the same width
had the reaper been drawn by a wire rope on the round about method
of installation, and which is sufficiently explained, for the
present purpose, in the section treating of steam cultivation.
The agent remarked what is the best that can be said for it that
it was not designed as the best reaper for a man who had to buy a
reaper, but was intended for persons who use a loco mobile on their
farms for other purposes, and require an attachment to enable this
engine to be useful in harvesting also. It requires a great deal of
room at the corners to turn itself, but this difficulty vanishes
when a couple of swaths have been cut around the field. For handy
use in getting at down or lodged grain it is not a success.