Roots of Motive Power Shows Its Remarkable,
Museum-Quality Antique Machines
Year Built: 1903
Type of Equipment: Donkey, Dolbeer Vertical Spool
Manufacturer: California Iron Works (Marschutz & Cantrell)
Location: San Francisco, CA
Non-Motive Power: Steam
In Service: Occidental and Willow Creek, CA
Owner: Chris Baldo
Members of Roots of Motive Power
The roaring, hissing, steaming, museum-quality antique machines on the beefy, burly side that will wow visitors at the Pacific Coast Dream Machines Show, April 28 at Half Moon Bay Airport, are brought to you by Willits-based Roots of Motive Power.
Roots of Motive Power was formed in 1982 by a group of friends in the timber industry who shared a love of local history and the antique machinery that helped shape it. Working closely with the Mendocino County Museum, Roots volunteers embarked on an enthusiastic course of acquisition and restoration of antique logging equipment. Fittingly, the first project was the restoration of the Museum’s Murray Brothers spool donkey, a veteran of many years of service with the Mendocino Lumber Company. Built in the 1880’s, the vertical spool donkey represented the earliest attempts to mechanize logging.
Among the artifacts that Roots of Motive Power is bringing to this year’s Dream Machines Show is a 1903 Marshutz and Cantrell Steam Donkey. John Dolbeer of Eureka, California changed logging forever in 1883 when he patented the first spool donkey. These simple, rugged machines were seen for decades in the woods, long after the arrival of more powerful and expensive steam yarders and skidders. The early spool donkey provided no system to return the rigging to the woods for the next log, necessitating a horse or manpower to do the job. The need to reach out further from the machine and solve the haulback problem led to the development of the “Improved” spool donkey about 1900. This development lengthened out the machine and installed a haulback drum, which has been standard equipment on logging equipment ever since. This donkey was built by Marschutz and Cantrell about 1903 in San Francisco, California. It was used to log the redwood timber near Willow Creek and Occidental in Sonoma county. It was purchased by Wade Sturgeon in the 1930s as part of his logging and sawmill operation near Sebastopol where it was used into the 1940s. The donkey stayed at the Sturgeon Mill until being purchased from Ralph Sturgeon in 1992. This donkey is owned by Chris Baldo of Willits Redwood Company.
1921 Kelly Springfield steam roller before (above) and after restoration (below) by Roots of Motive Power
Another Roots of Motive Power display piece coming to the show is the recently-restored 1921 Kelly Springfield steam roller. The roller was purchased in Los Angeles in 2003 and hauled back to Willits. “Since it was April, we had the trucker stop by the Dream Machines Show that year with the very derelict roller on the truck for display," said Baldo. "The roller sat in the weeds at the Roots yard for years before we finally started a restoration. We finished the roller just in time for the July 4th Parade in Willits in 2016. It was quite a project,” said Baldo.
1898 Marshutz and Cantrell "Improved" Spool Donkey after restoration
1922 Atlas Imperial diesel engine
1921 Kelly Springfield steam roller
2015 Buffalo Springfield steam roller
1926 Mack model AC dump truck
Members of Roots of Motive Power