Steam donkeys (basically a steam-powered winch) may seem primitive today, but they were state-of-the-art in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
How it works
A cable was wrapped around a log and the steam donkey drug it in. For a more elaborate explanation, Wikipedia explains is like this:
A logging engine comprised at least one powered winch around which was wound hemp rope or (later) steel cable. They were usually fitted with a boiler, and usually equipped with skids, or sleds made from logs, to aid them during transit from one “setting” to the next.
The larger steam donkeys often had a “donkey house” (a makeshift shelter for the crew) built either on the skids or as a separate structure. Usually a water tank, and sometimes a fuel oil tank was mounted on the back of the sled. In rare cases, steam donkeys were also mounted on wheels. Later steam donkeys were built with multiple horizontally-mounted drums/spools, on which were wound heavy steel cable instead of the original rope.
When the combustion engine hit the scene, the steam donkey faded away. However, if you look around, you can still sometimes find one out in the woods.
Photos courtesy of Rich Williams.
Click on images to enlarge.