Steam Donkeys and Lumberjack Food

Steam Donkeys 

Nine men stand around and on a train locomotive pulling a platform with wood on it behind. A dog sits next to one of the men.
Loggers pose by a locomotive steam dockey in the 1890s. The machinery typically hauled heavy logs from the stump to a flume or railcar. (Courtesy of Oregon Historical Society) Enlarge Image
In the early days of logging, teams of men and oxen dragged trees along skid rows to rivers, flumes, and collecting ponds. This was a massive undertaking, as old growth Douglas firs were often over 200 feet tall, five or six feet in diameter, and could weigh as much as 30 pounds per cubic foot. In the 1880s, this process became faster and more dangerous with the invention of the steam donkey designed to pull logs or lift them over brush and uneven terrain. The machine had a smoking engine powered by wood or coal, and gearing which turned drums or winches containing wire rope.

As more railroads opened eastern Oregon to logging, the steam donkey became indispensable to timber operations without access to rivers. It was designed to move logs from stump to flume or railcar. The steam donkey was replaced by gas powered yarding machines after World War II. The railroads they serviced were soon phased out by heavy-duty logging trucks.

Lumberjack Food 

Cutting and hauling timber is hard work. Before the logging industry was mechanized, lumberjacks did much of the work by hand. This was so physically demanding that such woodsmen needed to eat between six and eight thousand calories a day!

At the beginning of the 1900s, this meant that every logger’s daily ration consisted of close to one lb fresh meat, 1/5 lb smoked meat, two lbs fresh fruit and vegetables, 9/10 lb flour, 6/10 lb sugar, 1/5 lb butter, three eggs, and 1/5 lb dry coffee or tea.

Dozens of men sit at long tables eating a meal. The tables are packed full of pitchers, rolls, meat and other foods.
Men eat a meal at a Stimson Lumber Company mess hall in the mid 1900s. (Courtesy of Oregon Historical Society) Enlarge Image

Staples were beans, pork, and biscuits. In Oregon, loggers ate as locally as possible for freshness. By 1900, most loggers in the state had access to all of these foods, depending on the season:

PROTEINS
-fresh beef, codfish, fresh pork, ham, bacon, salt beef, corned beef, pickled beef, sowbelly, fresh fish, partridge, sausage, chops, steaks, hamburger, oysters, chicken, clam chowder, cold cuts, eggs
STARCHES
-potatoes, rice, barley, macaroni, boiled oats
VEGETABLES
-carrots, beets, cabbage, sauerkraut, pickles, rutabagas, turnips, beans
FRUITS
-raisins, currants, figs, berries, fresh fruits
PROCESSED FOODS
-jellies and jams, dried and canned fruit, condensed milk, coffee, tea, chocolate
BAKED GOODS
-biscuits, breads, pies, cakes, doughnuts, puddings, custards