Steam Donkey WIP …Update

The inking is complete!

steam donkey, steam yarder, Willette Steam donkey, Willamette Iron Works, pen and ink, pen, drawing, watercolor, WIP

Steam Donkey

My progression since my last post is shown in the gallery below. I’ve included how I mount my paper for watercolor painting. Click on the images to enlarge.

This old donkey wasn’t alone. Very nearby was a second steam donkey. It was another Willamette. These two machines worked together on the same logging site.

Willamette steam donkey, steam yarder

The second steam donkey. It’s had parts removed by collectors.

Mark, the photographer, commented on my last post:

“The historians on our Steam Donkey expedition had a schematic of this Donkey. The manufacturer (Portland Iron Works) listed the Capistan (an option used to guide the cables in and out) as weighing 2,200 lbs. This donkey and another smaller unit were used until the Depression when they were parked on the side of a hill. By the time the Depression was over, other methods to yard logs were discovered, so they sit in the same resting place today. The original steam donkey was invented by John Dolbeer in 1881 in Eureka, California.”

steam donkey, steam yarder

Look how steep the hill is. It appears, they stopped in the middle of moving this donkey. Things must have been bad for them to abandon this equipment in the woods.

Now it is time for me to start slinging a little paint. Stay tuned for the next installment.

73 thoughts on “Steam Donkey WIP …Update

        • You know how when you are painting, the paper starts getting ripples in it? Especially when you’re doing washes. Stretching the paper allows you to paint on it with minimal buckling. The paper expands when you soak it. Then, when stapled down on the stretcher boards and allowed to dry, it shrinks. This makes the paper tight like the top of a drum. When you paint on stretched paper, it stays flat. The method I show is just one way to do it. The stretcher boards are available at most art supply stores and come in any length. You can mix and match the lengths by taking them apart, because they just slip together. Also, they are very inexpensive.
          You can also soak your paper and, staple it or butcher tape it to a flat board, then allow it to dry. If you want to paint on your paper wet, you may want to use a board so that it will dry more slowly. The stretcher boards allow the paper to dry faster. I hope this was helpful for you.


  1. Great post Tim – its a lovely drawing, beautiful detail, and fascinating to see your process. I look forward to the next step, even though I think it is complete in black and white! On a side note, when we are camping in remote parts of Australia we sometimes come across donkey boilers which are used to heat water for showers etc. They are made from 44 gallon drums for the fire, with water pipes passing through (not sure of the technical details!) but they could be a simpler version of yours.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Really like the details you’ve captured in your drawing. The machine is amazing and so full of character. It could easily be a character in illustrator Shaun Tan’s work. Thank you for sharing your creative process.


    • Yes, Tim, your work ink work is impressive. How do you start the watercolor now – like is there a plan to go from lights to darks, or does it depend on other things for you?

      Liked by 2 people

      • With watercolors I usually go light to dark. Unless the background is dark, then I go from foreground to background. I guess that is still light to dark. I tend to layer my paints a lot, so light to dark is the only way to do this. If the background is light I can usually paint foreground feature directly on top of it. With a dark back ground, it has to be negative painting, so I like to have the foreground feature done first. Then it is easier to protect, while painting the background darks. I hope I made sense, not sure I did.


        • Thanks. Do you use hot press Lanaquarelle paper (or have you ever used it) – and if you’ve used hot press, do you also soak it like cold press. I usually use Arches 140# CP, but am liking some of the effects I’m getting with the above hot press. Just wondered if you have different techniques between the two?


          • I’m not familiar with Lanaquarelle. I’ve soaked hot and cold press paper including Arches 140 lb. I don’t have a preference between the two except for selecting the “tooth” or texture of the paper. With the pen and ink mixed media I like a smooth paper. That’s why I picked the 90 lb hot press Canson for this picture. I prefer the 140 lb for stretching because it’s more durable. However, I used the 90 lb because it’s so smooth. Also, I like the 100% cotton rag.


          • Very true, I have received some excellent advice that I’ve taken full advantage of. There are so many things to learn out there and making connection like this is very valuable.


  3. Tim you have found two of best kept secrets of the Stanislaus, The Steam Donkeys were abandoned by the Pickering Lumber Company the upper larger one is a 2 speed compound geared Willamette used in high lead logging operations. The smaller engine below is Willamette Humboldt Yarder. BTW excellent work if you need any addition info or photos feel free to contact me

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Mike. I may take you up on that. It is good to hear from you at the Sierra Logging Museum. The museum used to carry one of our books, Forest, Trees and Wood. It’s now out of print. Is Pat still there? If so tell her hello from Tim and Mary.


  4. Tim interesting process and amazing tools ‘Steam Donkey’, you are spending and going along way to do your art… I think your drawing is excellent and as always it is joy to come and visit you. Have a good weekend my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: “A Ghost in the Forest” | THE FORESTER ARTIST

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