Steam Power
Pacific County Historical Society and Museum
Last modified on January 29th, 2005 / Contact the Museum / Web editing done by Brian Davis at bridavis@frontier.com
See the Steam in Portland, OR
     Ward Zimmerman reports that the Steam sternwheeler moored at the seawall in Portland, OR will be fired up and all of the machinery run on Saturday, February 12th, 2005.  A group of steam enthusiasts will attend this steam up.  Also, two of the four drum steam donkeys located there are in operating condition.
Top,... Steam,...Wild Donkey Hunts: 1996.96+.1997,... Climax Locomotive Class: A.B.C,... Other Sites
The Dream of Steam
     One hundred and fifty years ago a steam sawmill was set up in Pacific City, near the far Southwest corner of Washington state, near the mouth of the Columbia River.  Pacific City was briefly the county seat of Pacific County, then disappeared from most maps with barely a trace.  Steam power, however, would play a vital role in developing Pacific County's communities and resources.

     Sawmills were powered by stationary steam engines which rarely moved.  At first logs were moved by human, and later animals from the forest to water to mill.  Late in the 19th century someone took a primitive steam winch into the woods.  Early steam "donkey" engines were slow, but later models were able to make the logs fly from where they were cut, to a stream, road or railroad.  As the accessible timber receded from Pacific County's waterways loggers were forced to invest in steam powered locomotives to move the logs from a landing in the woods to the hungry mills at tidewater.

     Today the steam sawmills are gone from Pacific County, it is still possible, however, to find some of the steam donkey engines abandoned in the woods.  Historical Society members and other logging history enthusiasts seeks these old engines out and visit them to pay respect to the pioneer loggers.  Like iron statues from an ancient civilization, these engines remind us of the technological accomplishments of our ancestors.  Slowly they rust and return their minerals to the earth.  A reminder that man's domination of the planet is fleeting.

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Top,... Steam,...Wild Donkey Hunts: 1996.96+.1997,... Climax Locomotive Class: A.B.C,... Other Sites
Donkey Hunt, 1996
Society Field Trips - 1996 "Wild Donkey Hunt" near Elk River
     The Society sponsored two field trips in 1996 and 1997 to visit historic Steam donkey engines still located in the woods of Pacific, Wahkiakum, and Grays Harbor Counties.  Together with other logging history enthusiasts from all over the West Coast we visited 6 surviving donkey engines in their natural environment.  Earlier in the 20th century there were thousands of these machines in use throughout the Pacific Northwest.  Many were left in the woods after their useful lives, waiting, like ancient ruins, to be rediscovered by industrial archeologists.
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Top,... Steam,...Wild Donkey Hunts: 1996.96+.1997,... Climax Locomotive Class: A.B.C,... Other Sites
Donkey Hunt, 1996+
Society Field Trips - 1996 "Wild Donkey Hunt"
North River Steam Donkey
     This donkey was visited by the 1996 Wild Donkey Hunt Tour.  It is located on Donkey Slough, Lower North River, on WA State Fish and Wildlife land.  Our research indicates that this donkey was owned by Case Shingle and was part of a railroad logging operation which dumped logs into the river nearby.  This is a rare WWI era Washington Iron Works ("Seattle"), Simplex type, 4-drum engine.  These were early high-lead yarding engines combining the speed of a simple geared donkey with the power of the contemporary compound geared engines.  The extra power came from its large 11x17 steam cylinders.  This donkey can be reached by either water (North River), or by land, via a nearby logging road.  It is not posible to see this donkey from the road, however, and we walked right by it a couple times.  It looks just like another stump until you are within about 25 feet of it.
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Top,... Steam,...Wild Donkey Hunts: 1996.96+.1997,... Climax Locomotive Class: A.B.C,... Other Sites
Donkey Hunt, 1997
Society Field Trips - 1997 "Wild Donkey Hunt"
     The Society sponsored two field trips in 1996 and 1997 to visit historic Steam donkey engines still located in the woods of Pacific, Wahkiakum, and Grays Harbor Counties.  Together with other logging history enthusiasts from all over the West Coast we visited 6 surviving donkey engines in their natural environment.  Earlier in the 20th century there were thousands of these machines in use throughout the Pacific Northwest.  Many were left in the woods after their useful lives, waiting, like ancient ruins, to be rediscovered by industrial archeologists.
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Top,... Steam,...Wild Donkey Hunts: 1996.96+.1997,... Climax Locomotive Class: A.B.C,... Other Sites
Class A Climax
Class A Climax  (Antilla Studio Photo)
     Wentworth Bros. Logging Co. operated a short railroad near Dell Creek, with a log dump on the Naselle River.  Wentworth operated the only Class A Climax in Pacific County around 1910.  This locomotive had a "T" type boiler, two trucks (wheel sets), and was powered by a two cylinder engine similar to the type used in boats.  Most Class A's also featured a two speed transmission, allowing the engineer a choice of gear ratio's.


     One of the few stories surviving from this operation regards the day the locomotive lost it's footing climbing a steep grade.  Fearing a wreck the crew jumped off while the train slid back down hill.  The train slid out of sight around a curve, but must have regained it's footing further down, as the crew soon met their train coming back up hill toward them.
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Top,... Steam,...Wild Donkey Hunts: 1996.96+.1997,... Climax Locomotive Class: A.B.C,... Other Sites
Class B Climax
Class B Climax  (PCHS#6-13-81-1(37))
     Creech Bros. Lumber Co. was another pre-WWI operation which used a Climax locomotive at several sites in the Willapa Valley of Northeast Pacific County.  Their locomotive was a Class B type engine with two trucks, and two inclined steam cylinders.


     This beautiful photo illustrates several characteristics of logging on the lines tributary to the Northern Pacific's South Bend - Chehalis branch line.  These temporary spurs were rarely more than a few miles long, making the slow, gear driven locomotives practical.  Low value logs such as hemlock were frequently used to fill gulches such as this if the company could not afford a pile driver for building a proper timber trestle.  These operations also used regular flat cars from the Northern Pacific instead of more specialized logging equipment.  The loaded cars were delivered to the NP RR "main line", and moved to log dumps in Raymond or South Bend by a local daily freight train.  Note that in spite of the crude track, this logging train has air brakes.
     Creech Bros. had a sawmill in Raymond, which is where these beautiful Douglas Fir logs are probably headed.  Creech sold their mill to Hart-Wood before WWI.  Hart-Wood later had their own logging operation on the Nemah River.
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Top,... Steam,...Wild Donkey Hunts: 1996.96+.1997,... Climax Locomotive Class: A.B.C,... Other Sites
Class C Climax
Class C Climax  (PCHS#4-6-87-1(1))
     Clemmons operated an extensive logging railroad in the far NE corner of Pacific County until they were bought out by Weyerhaeuser.  This Class C Climax loco had three trucks instead of two, giving it more tractive effort to move heavy trains.  Taken circa 1916, this image suggests Climax's state of the art locomotive at the time.
     Clemmons hauled their logs north to the Chehalis River, where it dumped them for delivery to Gray Harbor mills.  Since the logs were delivered directly to the water, instead of interchange with a common-carrier railroad Clemmons was able to use the more efficient "disconnected" log cars.  These cars basically used the log load for a body, saving weight for the return trip to the woods.  The disadvantage of disconnected trucks was that they had to be braked by hand instead of compressed air.  This was not usually a problem for the slow moving log trains, but made the brakeman's job a real challenge.  Operating one of these log trains was a highly skilled job for the train crew.  Logging has never been a safe, secure job.  Several Class C Climaxes worked in Pacific County, and at least one ran away on a steep grade, making a big expensive mess for its owner.
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Top,... Steam,...Wild Donkey Hunts: 1996.96+.1997,... Climax Locomotive Class: A.B.C,... Other Sites
  1. Camp 2 site is dedicated to historical logging in the days of steam.  The photo below is provided to us courtesy of Merv Johnson, the Camp2 director:
  2. International Railway Links
  3. Geared Steam Locomotive Works
  4. Shay Locomotives
  5. Sou'wester from Fall 1999 discusses Steam Power with its extensive article:

  6.     "Narrow Gauge Nadir on the Nemah"
  7. Stationary Steam Engines
  8. Trainweb
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