I’d never heard of one either….
On a recent camping trip to Algonquin Park , one rainy afternoon we boarded the van and drove to the Algonquin Logging museum. Walking the trail, admiring an old tree farmer much like the one I had hot wired in my youth, all manners of axs and chainsaw and after seeing the bunkhouse quite thankful I wasnt a 19th century logger, we rounded a corner by the log dam and perched on the embankment was a paddlewheeler like no other I’d ever seen.
Turns out not only was it a paddlewheeler, designed to help the logs along stretches of river with little or no current, but had amphibious capabilities as well, in the crudest sense of the word. These little alligators were equipped with a boiler driven winch which at the end of a given waterways use, the logging team would blaze a path thru the trees, and the vessel would use its winch to haul itself over a bed of logs laid down by the crew to the next waterway. Presumably this ungainly act is where the vessels earned their moniker. The paddlewheel was enclosed and the reinforced hull allowed for the abuses of the portages. As could be expected the boiler ran primarily on wood , with birch being the preferred fuel, but near the end of their reign even diesel powered steel hulled examples were made.
Originally designed by an Ontario boilermaker as the answer to the logging industry needs, they eventually saw service all over north america and even as far as south america. By the 1940s however , more modern equipment and bans on the clear cutting practises required for the portages led to their final demise, scrapped or just abandoned.
This particular example is a reconstruction of the William M, found abandoned in Algonquin Park. Bit like the ‘100 year old farmers ax’ … the fittings are the original but the wooden structure understandably is not, and don’t bother to try steal it because it wont float either….
The boiler , and internal gears and winch…
And finally, the sunset in Algonquin Park that night…..
Offsite link to an article on Alligators of the north … http://www.woodenboat-digital.com/woodenboat/20060506/?pg=46