A Different Kind of Willamette

Most railfans are familiar with Mt. Rainier Scenic and their beautiful 2007-2009 restoration of Rayonier Willamette #2.  Yesterday I was surprised to find MRSR doesn’t have the only operating Willamette in the area!  Ok, so the other operating Willamettes aren’t steam locomotives (#2 is the only operating Willamette locomotive).  They are however steam powered and they are Willamette products.

These Willamettes are steam donkeys and in the case of these two they were used in logging operations in the area.  The larger donkey was hooked up to a spar pole and used to skid logs while the smaller donkey was likely used as part of a static mill operation though no actual record of its use exists.  Today the smaller rig is used to demonstrate how log loading is performed at a landing.  Both of these donkeys are set up and operate at the Pomeroy Living History Farm.  Yesterday as part of the Washington Farm Forestry Association annual meeting these machines operated during a tour of the Pomeroy Tree Farm.

The donkeys operate just like the steam engines we railfans are so fond of.  Yes, the boilers are smaller and the cylinders not so massive but the same principles apply.  The interesting thing is these rigs don’t have any appliances attached to them.  No turbo generator, no air pumps, and no blower.  Very simple.  When the cylinders stop the machines literally go silent.  All you can hear is the crackle of Douglas Fir wood burning in the fire box.

At full speed the exhaust through the 4″ pipe sounds little like a throaty steam locomotive and more like a gas tractor.   Boiler pressures are a bit lower, 200 psi for the larger donkey and 125 psi for the smaller but that is enough to get them to do quite a bit of work.  Draft is controlled just like on a locomotive though the chain and hooks are probably just a bit more primitive.  Firing valve or mechanical stoker?   Nope, it is the fireman who splits the firewood and feeds the fire as needed.

Simple, portable, and useful.

I know these aren’t trains but if you have a general interest in steam, logging, machinery, or just love to go, I recommend visiting the Steam Logging Show the first weekend of July.  It would an enjoyable outing to see some historical equipment operate.