A Trip to the Heavy Equipment Boneyard

A donkey engine is a “portable” winch (usually steam-powered) loggers used to drag and lift logs. There would have been heavy wooden skids bolted to the I-beams on the bottom of this one, and after being hauled into the forest the engine could use its own cable and winch to drag itself to different locations. First used in shipping and mining, donkey engines were adapted to logging in the early 1880s. If you’re a fan of the History Channel show, Ax Men, then you’ve seen the Rygaard Crew use a yarder to drag or carry logs uphill along an elevated cable. A yarder is the modern equivalent of a donkey engine.

This 1951 Caterpillar D8 was converted to a yarder. A stayed tower (spar) would have extended up from the machine and been connected by cable to a tree or stump some distance away. Felled logs would have been connected to a carriage on the cable and then winched up to the yarder and loaded onto a truck for transport.

Bill Lyons logging donated this machine to the museum.

Stationary engines, like this one from Le Roi, were used to power generators, pumps, and even small saw mills. The engine was bolted to skids and hauled to where it needed to be. At that point the machine to be powered was connected by belt to a flywheel or pulley on the back of the engine. This engine was manufactured in Milwaukee and is missing a radiator and perhaps a housing. Le Roi started making engines in 1913 and was in business until the late 1950s.

The 1930’s era gas-powered compressor in this photo was made by Schramm Inc., a century-old Pennsylvania company that is still in existence. In the old days Schramm made compressors; it now specializes in truck- and trailer-mounted drilling equipment for wells, geothermal, and energy exploration. The compressor shown here would have originally been up off the ground on iron wheels; the piece sticking out the front is the hand crank for starting the engine.

This was produced by the Power Machinery Company of Vancouver, BC and was first sold in 1949. Of course chainsaws have been around for longer than that. The first portable gas-powered model was built by Festo (the original owner of Festool) in 1925.

What you want to look at here are the two wooden frames with fuel tanks and motors attached; the one in front is labeled RM Wade & Company. These are drag saws, which came after the hand-operated cross-cut saw but before the chainsaw. They consist of a two-stroke engine attached to a cross-cut saw blade. The one in back has a blade on it; the one in front does not. The blade on a drag saw could be oriented to fell standing trees or cut downed trees into shorter pieces. It’s a clever design, and as hard as it must have been to haul these things into the forest, it had to have been much easier than sawing by hand. To see one in action, search for “drag saw” on YouTube or click the link to this video.

This truck is built like a... Well, you know.

We’re talking heavy-duty here; the wheels have solid rubber tires and are turned by a heavy chain-drive coming off the rear differential. The truck still runs and has a top speed of 17 mph.

An unusual feature of the truck’s design is the aluminum alloy radiator—which is behind the engine instead of in front of it.

This TA series McCormick-Deering tractor was built by International Harvester in the early 1930s. The cab is shaped like one from an old locomotive.

This is old but I can’t tell when it is from – maybe the 1930s or 40s. At some point the owner bolted a perforated steel plate over the radiator to protect it from damage. Many of the machines at the museum were similarly equipped, which suggests how hard logging could be on equipment.

This WWII era half-track was modified for logging and looks to have been used very hard. The piece angling off the back is an A-frame, which was used for lifting. It’s hard to see in the photo but a cable runs through a sheave (pulley) on the A-frame and connects to a winch on the vehicle.

Here’s another stationary engine; this one is from Aliss-Chalmers. As you can see from the corrugated metal “roof” on top of the engine, the owners didn’t baby this thing.

The tractor-style seat, stock radiator cover, and lack of protection over the operator suggest this machine was used for farming rather than logging.

During it’s working life it’s unlikely this stationary engine would have been idle long enough for a bird to build a nest on it. Things are different, now that the engine is out in the boneyard.

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