The Lombard steam log hauler, designed by Alvin Lombard, has
been designated as a National Historic Mechanical Engineering
Landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
Ceremonies were held Aug. 14, 1982, at Patten, Me., site of the
Lumberman’s Museum. A tablet was unveiled, dating origin of the
engine at about 1910, and stating:
‘This steam crawler-tractor emancipated horses from the
killing work of hauling trains of sleds over iced roads in the
winter woods of the United States and Canada.
‘Designed, patented (1901), and built by Alvin C. Lombard
(1856-1937) of Waterville, Maine, eighty-three ‘Lombards’
were the first practical examples of the often-tried lag or crawler
tread that would become the mark of the internal combustion
engine-driven agricultural and construction equipment and military
tanks in current use.’
In the earliest days of logging, the logs were floated down
streams to mills. An attempt was made at using an internal
combustion engine to power the haulers, but this did not work with
wheels in loose snow. Another man had an idea for using track but
did not get anything done.
Lombard’s first log hauler had an upright boiler and two
upright engines, but these were later made horizontal. It became
‘a railroad yard engine, known as a saddle back’. It had a
cab in front for the steersman and one at the rear for the engineer
and the fuel. Typically, it had a four-man crew engineer, fireman,
conductor and steerer. A bell rope was provided so that the
conductor, near the rear, could communicate with the front cab.
Lombard later turned to gas engines, and the only difference
between his later log haulers and his earlier ones was in the mode
of furnishing power. Gasoline, however, did not provide the pull of
steam; where a steam engine would haul 12 sleds, a gasoline engine
would pull five.
A diesel was built in 1934, but this was the last log hauler
since trucks had supplanted the haulers. Lombard went out of
business after 83 log haulers, of which three had gone to Russia.
Some of the old machines were cut up for junk; others were
abandoned, and some still stand rusting in forests.
One Lombard has been restored to running condition and can be
seen at the Lumberman’s Museum in Patten.
This article is based on the commemorative brochure, which
contains a reprint of a story by Lore A. Rogers and Caleb W.
Scribner, former curators of the lumberman’s Museum. The story
originally appeared in ‘The Northern Logger’ magazine.
If you are interested in obtaining a copy of the full brochure,
write to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, 345 E. 4th
St., New York, N. Y. 10017.
The Society has issued a brochure titled ‘Historic
Engineering Landmarks’, telling about all the landmarks chosen
to date. It is free for the asking.
There were no brakes on a log hauler or on its train of
sleds…nearly every road had its downgrade that made steerers pray
that they should live this once more then they would find some
other way to make a living. ‘Yankee Magazine, March 1965.
This wood burning Lombard Log Hauler, built in Waterville Maine
(circa 1900-1910) was in operating condition February 7, 1980. Took
a 2 mile run performance superb. Owned by Frank T. and Theodore D.
Crooker of Brunswick, Maine.
OTHERS WHO TRIED
While Alvin C. Lombard was successful in patenting a log hauler
that worked, other men had dreamed and failed to do the same. Their
stories are told in the ASME brochure, and there may be lessons in
them for today’s inventors who have ideas and become
James and Ira Peavey sought to provide power for a log hauler
through two large screws. ‘This worked on ice,’ the
brochure says, ‘and a full scale model actually hauled logs on
a good road, but the screw churned up the snow so much that it lost
traction and in loose snow it was pretty near helpless.’
Johnson Woodbury sought to reverse the track of a
‘horsepower’, the kind of treadmill utilizing horses to
provide power for a threshing machine or a drag saw to saw wood.
Woodbury envisaged this assembly reversed, the track on the ground.
A roller was built, but it proved impractical and was abandoned yet
later it was found that Woodbury’s snow plow would have been
An even earlier attempt to solve the problem was proposed by
Warren P. Miller, of Marysville, Calif., who obtained a patent in
1859. Miller designed his machine to run on sand rather than snow
but the authors feel that what he described was the same traction
system as Lombard’s, patented over 40 years later.