BRADLEY, Maine — Eli King climbed down off of a steam-powered log hauler Saturday with a grin on his face.
“It was fun, but it’s not very fast,” the 11-year-old Ellsworth resident said of the machine that revolutionized getting logs out of the Maine woods and to market. “It wasn’t too bumpy. It was pretty smooth.”
Eli’s dad, Travis King, 41, of Ellsworth, said that he brought his son on Saturday to Heavy Metal Day at the Maine Forest and Logging Museum at Leonard’s Mills to see the machine that looks like a locomotive on tank tracks in operation.
“I wanted to show the kids the history of the place [where] they live,” he said. “I’m amazed at how old it is and it still works.”
Getting the Lombard log hauler running again took decades of work and thousands of volunteer hours, said Herbert Crosby, a retired University of Maine engineering professor. Crosby, his colleagues and about 150 volunteers, including 80 UMaine students, worked on the machine until it finally was up and running in April 2014.
Most of the parts used to get it running were either made at UMaine’s Advanced Manufacturing Center in Orono or by hand using sand casts and molten metal.
The museum acquired the machine in 1984. It originally came from near Ross Lake, north of Allagash Lake, according to the museum.
“When we got it, it was not pretty,” Crosby said. “It had no wheels in the front, no cab and the boiler had to be replaced. It was a basket case and proved to be way worse than it looked.”
The machine was invented by Alvin O. Lombard, the son of Italian immigrants, who was born in 1856 in Springfield, Maine. Lombard started working at age 12 as a shingle buncher in his father’s factory.
Lombard quickly became an inventor, according to the museum. He obtained his first patent on Nov. 9, 1900, for the lag tread that allowed the engine to operate on snow, ice and over bushy terrain.
The first steam-powered log hauler began operating Thanksgiving Day that same year. It required four men to operate it — an engineer, fireman, steersman and a conductor. On Saturday, just three men were needed to run the locomotive.
A typical Lombard steam-run log hauler cost $5,500 in 1903, or $150,000 today, according to the museum. Eighty-three of them were built between 1900 and 1917 in Lombard’s Waterville factory. Only five remain.
The museum’s 1910 steam-powered log hauler is 30 feet long, about 8 feet long, with a top speed of 5 miles per hour. It weighs an estimated 19 tons. It’s fuel capacity is 1.5 tons of coal of just under a cord of wood.
It used one cord of for every seven miles it went towing a full load, which was typically eight sleds. Each sled held about 14 cords of wood or about 6,000 to 7,000 board feet of lumber. Under ideal conditions, a log hauler could pull 300 tons.
Gas log haulers gradually replaced steam-powered machines beginning in 1910. The museum also has a 1932 gasoline-powered hauler.
The museum’s log hauler is dedicated to the memory of Bill Lynch, who headed up the restoration committee from 1999 until his death in 2012.
“Bill had the vision to make it work but he didn’t leave to see it,” Crosby said.
Getting the boiler filled with water, building the fire with wood and getting the water hot enough to make steam to run the log hauler took about four hours, said Noah MacAdam of Orono, who helped operate it Saturday.
“We throw in a few sticks of wood to keep it going on every run [around the museum grounds],” he said “We like to [keep the] boiler at 150 pounds per square inch to keep it going.”