Logging As It Was, Way Back Then


| July/August 1997



112 Route 9, South Rhinebeck, New York 12572

Prior to 1900, the only means of hauling logs from the woods was by horse power. Rough back country restricted operations to trees located near water large enough to float logs to the mills. The lumbering operation required the cold winter months and iced roads for hauling of the log sleds. Because hundreds of horses were injured or killed each year by run-away sleds, the industry was anxious to find a way to utilize a mechanical means of hauling logs.

By the 1890s steam power was being considered as a replacement for the horse teams. But it wasn't until November 1900 that Alvin O. Lombard built and patented the first steam traction engine log hauler, that would eventually replace the horse.

Alvin O. Lombard of Watertown, Maine, was a self-taught millwright and gifted mechanic with a flair for innovative designs of practical machines. Though his first attempt, the Mary Ann, was plagued with problems, by 1906 the steam log hauler had been refined and Lombard was building what he called the Standard Machine, which sold for $5,500.

The early Lombard steam locomotives created a sensation in the lumber regions of New England. The Lombard could haul up to 300 tons of hard, as well as soft woods, because it eliminated the need to float logs to their destination. Haulers were capable of traveling over snow as well as the iced tracks that were required by the horse teams. The loads were hauled on the same type of sled the horse pulled, but in trains of four to 10 sleds.

These machines required four men to operate them: an engineer, fireman, pilot (steerman), and one to couple up sleds, assist in taking on fuel and looking after the train of sleds when on the road.