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What is a Steam Donkey?

This is one of a series of posts about the West Coast Trail trip I did in 2013. See the rest of the West Coast Trail posts.

At a couple places on the West Coast Trail you can see into the logging history of the area. Steam donkeys were one of the relics on the trail that you get to gaze at in confusion while hiking by. Cool, it’s a steam donkey! What’s a steam donkey?

I had a bit of an idea but didn’t really know until I wrote this post up today. Here is what a steam donkey is.A steam donkey is basically a steam-powered winch that was used in the past for logging. The “donkey” part of the name refers to small engines that were often in sailing ships. The “donkey” engine was a small secondary engine that helped load or unload cargo, raise and lower sails or power pumps.

The steam donkey is basically  a steam engine with a winch attached to it. The winch would have a hemp rope or cable around it that would be taken off into the woods by the “line horse”. The cable would be attached to a tree that had been cut and then drag or “skid” the log back to the steam donkey using the winch.

The trees would be moved back to mill or “landing” where the trees would be transferred to boat or rail.If the steam donkey needed to get to a new location, crews would attach the cable around a tree or other strong anchor point and the donkey would pull it self overland to the new location.

Often other things were attached to the steam donkey like water tanks, fuel oil tanks or a “donkey house”, which was a makeshift shelter for the crew.

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