27th Annual Pioneer Days

Log hauler

Content Tools

Rt. 3, Box 79AG Douglas, Georgia 31533

Early in August of this year I went up to Wisconsin for a visit and while there had the opportunity of attending the 27th annual Pioneer Days, August 11 and 12, at Pioneer Park, Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

This is a very good show, with just about anything in the power line that one could hope for threshing, sawmill, shingle mill, steam plowing, tractor pull, and a large variety of old and new tractors of all types and sizes, and many operating gasoline engines covering almost any age and size, plus a lot of model machinery both running and static displays.

The 'Star' of the show was a Phoenix log hauler built by the Phoenix Company of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, in the early 1900's. They started in business under the name of Graham and Tollec in the year 1861 for the purpose of building logging machinery and equipment making it possible to log by steam. They moved to the corner of Forest and Wisconsin Streets in 1874. (Most of this information is taken from the booklet given out at the show.) The company had the first centipede traction engine ever invented to run on sleigh runners over ice-covered roads to haul logs. The log hauler was used to transport logs up to 12 miles, and the average load that was pulled was 25 sleds carrying upwards of 100,000 feet of timber. A hauler replaced about 250 horses. Records no longer exist as to production, but it is believed that some 150-200 haulers were built between 1909-1929. Only eight haulers are known to be in existence at this time.

The machine is built around what appears to be a standard locomotive type boiler with a twin cylinder vertical steam engine mounted well forward on each side. The engine is very similar to a standard two cylinder winch engine. Each engine drives one track through a system of gear-ing; there is no mechanical connection between the two track drives. The engines are about 7.5 by 10 and the machine is called a 100 HP machine. Operating steam pressure was in the 200 psig range. With this set-up, the engines have the same number of power strokes as a 16 cylinder, four stroke internal combustion engine, and the fact that it has the torque of a steam engine, the pulling power is fantastic. The exhaust is a surprise with the machine moving at 3-4 mph the exhaust is best described as a rushing sound.

It so happens that my uncle, Charles Keller, operated a machine shop in Eau Claire, Wisconsin from about 1917 to his passing in 1949 at which time my brother took over the shop and operated it until 1979. During the years the log haulers were being built, they performed work for Phoenix as well as Phoenix doing work for them. I worked in that shop at various times from 1936 to 1979, and as a lad of 18 or so can recall going to the old Phoenix plant on various errands.

I am enclosing pictures of the log hauler as it appeared in the 'Parade of Power' at Pioneer Park (below left), and of Mr. Dan Keikhafer's working model of the log hauler (below right). This model is a marvel of craftsmanship. It has a feed water pump, duplex, vertical, made by Dan, that is a joy to see in operation. It is about 2' high by 1' deep by 1' wide; he made the patterns, castings, and did the machine work on all of this. His attention to detail is out of this world. I had heard much about these log haulers in my younger days, and at this stage (I'm 72) doubted that I would ever see one of the actual machines, let alone one that operates and is in good condition.

As it happened, I was the first person to ride in the log hauler after unloading from the lowboy trailer, other than the operators. Note that there are wheels on the front for show purposes, but the picture of the model shows the sled runners that were used in the logging work. The model is mounted on rollers under the tracks so the machine can be run in place.