Many steam engines started their lift driving Farm equipment - Grain Threshing Machine and Yes, you wanted to keep the sparks from the steam engine exhaust as FAR AWAY from the straw pile as possible. Thus a very long belt.. And the owner of the tractor probably carried one belt that fit most applications, which would be a really long belt..
The long belts allowed for the weight of the belt to create a better drive friction ratio without the need to be so tight. also being long smoothed out any shock loads
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