Lombard Log Haulers
Odds and Ends From The MUSEUM!
By Trudy Wyman, Curator, Millinocket Historical Society Museum
The Great Northern Paper Company owned three Lombard Steam Log Haulers. This is according to John McLeod’s history of the Great Northern Paper Company chapter on Spruce Wood. He wrote that several people have written books on the development of the “first practical track-laying vehicle.”
As early as the mid-1700’s, the idea for this type of vehicle was explored in England. In Maine, the Peavey brothers thought there should be a better way to move logs than with horses and they and others experimented with the idea. Alvin Lombard of Springfield, Maine was a woodsman, sawmill operator, and inventor of several pieces of equipment having to do with wood. Lombard’s steam-powered log haulers were “half-tracks” and weighed about 20 tons. Lombard built a prototype in 1899 and later in 1901 patented his machine in the U.S. and Canada. The McLeod history goes into detail as to all the specifics of the original Lombard as well as changes that came later. An interesting fact was that the “steersman” sat in the open exposed to the elements, the smoke and the cinders.
Over time, coal replaced wood for fuel and electric headlights were added. If hauling a train of sleds, the crew consisted of three or four men. If four, they were steersman, engineer, fireman and conductor. The conductor was also the brakeman even though there was no way to slow the train other than reversing the engines and throwing sand under the sleds!
The Lombard steam log haulers were manufactured for only seventeen years and during the last five it was mostly for making parts. McLeod’s research says only 83 were built and not all were used in Maine. They came to the woods when oxen were still in use some places, and in the early years operated on roads built for horse hauling. Steam log haulers were eventually put out of business by the arrival of the internal-combustion-engine tractor.
The Great Northern Paper Company acquired three with the purchase of the Jackman Lumber Company some time before 1927 and they were left in storage. They were put into service after a fire in February of 1927 at the Cooper Brook operation. They may have been sold after that to various contractors like Edouard Lacroix. We may assume from that, that the photos in the Great Northern logging collection at the museum show Lombards owned by contractors working for GN rather than being owned by GN.
To see a Lombard Log Hauler, you can visit the Maine Forest & Logging Museum in Bradley, Maine. On some weekends, in summer, this machine is on display working. The Pattern Lumberman’s Museum has a non-working model on display.