Farm Collector

Logging As It Was, Way Back Then

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

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

The earliest Lombards were steered by a team of horses harnessed
to the front runners. The horse was soon replaced with steerman and
a steering wheel on a bobsled at the front of the engine. This
rather fragile looking bobsled was supposed to control the
direction of the log hauler and train of sleds around the curves
and between standing trees. No method was ever developed for
braking the sleds on downhill routes, except for throwing hay in
the tracks. The life of the steerman was very exciting and, upon
occasion, short.

It took 62 horses to haul comparable loads that one Lombard was
able to haul. Another advantage was the fact that the Lombard could
work continuously, both night and day. Their top speed was five
miles per hour, 20 miles per hour down hill.

Eighty-three Lombard steam tracklayers were manufactured by
1915, when gas powered equipment was introduced. The majority
stayed in Maine and New Hampshire, with three going to Russia. Most
Lombards were cut up for scrap; the few that were left have been
found in the midst of a forest where the rusty hulks became hemmed
in by a new generation of large trees.

In 1907 the Lombard Company had started to design a log hauler
with an internal combustion engine, but it was not exclusively used
until 1917. The last steam powered log hauler remained in service
until 1918. A. O. Lombard died in 1937, but his company continued
to provide parts and service until 1954.

Three Lombard-made traction machines will be in operation during
the ‘Back to the Past’ celebration at Scribner’s Mill
in Harrison, Maine, August 2 & 3, 1997. The oldest will be Ted
and Frank Crooker’s 1914 wood powered steam log hauler, #74.
This magnificent traction engine was originally used by the Great
Northern Lumber Company, Presque Isle, and is unique because it is
complete with all original parts. It took Harry C. Crooker 10 years
to find a replacement transmission and a front boiler door and two
days to get it running . It is tested to 225 lbs./square inch of
pressure; however, it usually runs at 140 lbs.

The other two Lombards that will be operated during the
Scribner’s Mill Back to the Past are called auto tractors.
Owned by Raymond and Paul Breton, one is a 1928 gas powered Lombard
dump truck from the St. Francis area that was rescued from a scrap
yard. The other is a 1934 gas powered Lombard log hauler, next to
the last tractor made, found at Star bird Lumber in Strong, Maine.
Both of these tractors have been meticulously restored.

Information: Scribner’s Mill Preservation, PO Box 282,
Harrison, Maine 04040 or 207-583-4289.

Source: Young and Budy Endless Tracks in the Woods 1989.
Crestline Publishing Company. Interviews: Harry C. Crooker, Raymond
and Paul Breton.

  • Published on Jul 1, 1997
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