The On-Line Magazine of Rideable Model Railroading

  NUMBER 125


© February 02, 2009   

 ©Discover Live Steam. This material may not be published, rewritten, or redistributed without written permission.


 | Read other articles Send in an article |


A Decker Style Log Loader

Written by Gerd Ziller
photos by Gerd Ziller

A brief history of my large scale railroad

The day I spotted photos of a Shay geared locomotive, I became a fan of American logging railroads. The Shay is my favorite steam locomotive design.  During the last ten years, I've built logging railroads in Fn3, On30 and N-scale.

In 2003, I had the chance to drive a large 7.25” gauge steam locomotive during an anniversary weekend. After this great experience, I decided to start large-scale modeling. I chose 5” gauge for my new railroad project because this is a more common gauge here in Germany. The theme would be a peat railroad (the mining of peat from peat bogs) in 2.5” scale. Nearly all rolling stock and two battery powered locomotives were scratch-built from wood and metal. In 2005, I got a chance to buy a little live steam loco second-hand and I changed the theme of my railroad from a peat railroad to a European narrow gauge line in 2” scale. But I was still unhappy with this theme. Several times, I made some plans for converting my 0-4-0 Koppel steamer into an American style-logging locomotive, but I did not modify it until 2007.

I sold all my railroad cars, ordered  forty new wheel sets and started the “Bear Creek Lumber & Railroad”. My diesel switcher got new wooden buffer beams and a wooden cab and I built the first US style cars for my new railroad. Finally, the steam locomotive was rebuild into a 0-4-4 Forney and set back in service in Spring 2008.

Today, my railroads roster contains one diesel switcher, one live steam Forney, six pairs of disconnects, two cabooses, a coach, some freight cars and a bunch of MOW equipment. There’s also a class A Shay planned for 2009.

The log loader

As I used my railroad for fun, I was looking for a way to load my disconnects with logs. On many logging railroads, spar trees and steam donkeys were used for this operation. But I was looking for a smaller version that could be easily transported, set up, and operated.

Some years ago, I built a tunnel-style log loader in Fn3 (1:20.3 scale) and I thought "Why don’t I build one in 2”-scale"? I collected information and pictures of the Decker log loader, built by Clyde Iron Works. This log loader is a steam-powered crane, resting on trucks to be moved on the railroad line. The special feature on this crane is that there’s a parallel track inside the body to allow empty log cars to pass the loader. On each end, rail ramps were mounted to the frame. A string of empty log cars can be pushed backwards through the loader. When the first car has been loaded, the string of cars is moved forward by mean of a spotting cable It pulls to place the next empty log car under the boom. After loading all cars, the ramps are lifted off and the log loader can be moved to another location for loading. Most prototype loaders are built as self-propelling units using chain drives.

My Decker style log loader

My idea was to build a simple, but good looking, model of a Decker-style log loader. As this loader is designed for playing, I decided to not build a live steam model. I’m using hand cranks to operate the loader. It's a lot of fun, easy to handle, and the kids will enjoy it too.

The main frame above was built from steel channel, flatcar, angle and rectangular pipes. Most joints are welded, some others use screws. Two sections of rail were placed inside the frame for the parallel track. The rail ramps, also made from stock rail, bolts, and wood, were mounted to the parallel track with hinges. These sections can lift off when the loader is moved.

For a good stand on the rails, the water tank was placed between the trucks, hanging on the underside of the frame. I built up this tank from plywood and filled it with concrete. The tank weights thirty pounds and is mounted to the frame with bolts. This allows me to detach the tank for transport.

Most of the superstructure was made from plywood, including the winches. I used a chain drive with 4:1 gear ratio on the spotting line and 4.5:1 ratio for the loading cable. The swing boom is moved with a lever, placed near the rear end on the engineer’s side. All handles and cranks can be detached. The swing boom is made from wood and held in position with chains, running to the boom stay and continuing to the rear end of the loader.

The boiler and steam engine are made from wood and styrene. I added many details, including a pressure gauge, water gauge, safety valves, whistle, and pipes. As counterweight for the logs, I filled the boiler with sixteen pounds of concrete. Concrete was also used inside the coal bunker on the rear. All this ballast gave the loader a good stand during operation, also by handling heavy logs (up to thirty pounds).

The last step was to mount sidewalls and a roof to the loader.

The log loader project was done in approx 120 work hours and was first in service in late 2008 on a test track in my back yard. In January 2009, the loader was shown in action on a large live steam indoor meet for three days. A lot of people asked me about prototype information and about North American logging railroads. It was a great point of attraction on our layout. Finally I’m sure, that running trains are only one part of our hobby.

Now that the loader has been finished, It's time to realize my next dream. As mentioned above, I’ll build a class A Shay for my railroad.  I started the wheel sets and pedestals some weeks ago. Feel free to take a look at my homepage: and take a look at these two videos...

Written by Gerd Ziller
photos by Gerd Ziller

Would you like to discuss
the ideas in this article? 
Post a comment or question here.

the end

Write to
(the subject line must contain the word discover)


Have an idea for an article? 
We need your article on ....

Technical Issues such as problems and solutions associated with steam locos, hydraulic drives, electric drives, track laying and maintenance, signal systems.

Construction Projects, mostly looking for car projects (let's leave the steamer building to the print magazines). How about scenery construction or building a hand car?

Full scale railroads and museums.  If you work for or volunteer for a railroad, if you've visited one recently and have a few photos and can write up a half dozen paragraphs on it, we'll be happy to put it up on the web.

Live Steam Railroads. How about a little background and a tour of your railroad or one you've visited.

Please share what you know with us.


The On-Line Magazine of Ridable Model Railroading

Read Other Articles

| Live Steam Railroads | Suppliers | Postings | For Sale  |
 | Events Calendar | Books | Magazines | Videos  | Photo Contest |

Hit Counter