Log Rail Trains

I’ve read an article dealing with a man that built steam engines, and such. The article is on a car in 1902. The article mentioned some of the steam engines he made. It refers to him making an engine for a logging company that was for a log rail train. Has anybody ever seen any information that refers to a train that would run on wood rails. The article uses the word mule engine later as something he owned, so I don’t think the mention of the log rail train is speaking of a mule engine. The article was written by someone that knows the different engines of the period.
I haven’t found anything else on the subject, but would like to know of any known trains that used log rails.

I don’t know anything specific about your question, but is it possible that you are misinterpreting a poorly written desription? In other words, could the reference be to a log ‘rail-train’? A normal rail train used to carry logs?

Second vote for log “rail train” instead of “log rail” train. Very very early in railroading, tracks were wooden (think something like a 2x4) with, generally, a strip of metal along the top. These were quite dangerous, and led to a phenomenon called “Snakeheads”, whereby the “rail” would break and come through the floor of a passenger car, in many cases killing or injuring quite a number of people.

“Snakehead” definition from here :

SNAKEHEAD—A rail that comes loose from the ties and pierces the floor of a car; a fairly common accident with the strap-iron rails of a century ago.
That’s the only use of wooden rails I’ve ever heard of, at least after the invention of the steam locomotive.

Google up the term “Steam Donkey” and I think you’ll find lots of information of the sort you are looking for.

Steam donkeys were common all over the northwest in the early logging days. They were essentially a steam engine mounted to a deck made of logs. The steam engine ran a series of cables on drums to pull itself around in the woods and to skid logs into a deck.

They were often used in conjunction with log flumes which were logs stripped of their bark and laid end to end from the log deck to the nearest road or body of water. The logs were greased to assist the logs on their journey. I can still see remnants of such a log flume here on my property and I can track it up the mountain about four miles.

I guess I could have explained how steam donkeys were generally used. After the trees were fallen and limbed, a hooker would “dog” them together with a log dog, which is a short chain with points on each end that they would pound into the end of the logs. Then the cable from the steam donkey would be tied onto the first log and they would pull out a “train” of logs all hooked together end to end.

The operator of the donkey engine also had one of the more amusing job titles I’ve heard: “Donkey Puncher”.

I doubt if logs were used as rail for more that a very short period as they would not stand up to the weight of locomotives, cars loaded with logs and the pounding of the wheels. Steel topped timber would last a short time before failure.
In the early 1900 much lumber and coal was hauled out of remote valley by “Shay” locomotives which could “walk” the iron/steel rails which were seldom level cross-ways. The axels were driven via bevel gears by a jackshaft running along the right side of the engine from the cylinders mounted vertically at the front of the engineers cab.
** Model Shay Locomotive **

Logs were indeed used for rails on some logging operations. They were called “pole roads”. You can find information about them by Googling “pole railroad” or “Shay” or “Heisler” with “pole road” as a modifier.

Here’s a start:


I too think it unlikely to be what was discribed. I won’t rule out somebody trying it though. I figured this is a good group to ask about ever hearing of such a thing. I thank all the people who have already answered.

Sharky I thinks we have a match to the article discription. Great help everybody. Thanks again.

The man was Doman and he started making marine engines. He opened a branch in Seattle Washington. He had a great marketing ploy. He taught the Pacific salmon fishers how to ground the ship at high tide to remove barnicals and not have to pay for a dry dock. They could use the same method to install one of his engines. Aparently the Australians and New Zelanders, ordered large quantities.
The page you linked to had a picture from Washinton of an engine of unknown owner and maker, with a marine engine. I have to wonder if it has his marine engine on it. It’s a strong likely hood. It’s mentioned that Edison bought on of his engines. He also liked to brag that he beat Ford and Cadilac in making the first v block gas engine. Here’s a link for the article I was reading that lead to the original queation.