Logging Towboats and Boom Jumpers
The Story of O.A. Harkness
Logging “Admiral” and Mechanical “Wizzard”
Camden/Rockport native Orris Albert “O.A.” Harkness was a true mechanical genius. In 1896 he built the naptha launch RAY which towed the passenger barge MIKADO, providing tours of Megunticook Lake. From 1903 to 1951, he contributed significantly to the success of the Penobscot Log Driving Company and the Great Northern Paper Company in Maine’s Penobscot River timberlands by utilizing the developing technologies of the times to move logs efficiently to paper mills. His career began with designing and constructing several log boom tow boats and included designing dozens of “boom jumpers.” His responsibilities expanded to include oversight of a complex 3000′ tramway, steam and gasoline powered Lombard log haulers, a specialized railroad, sophisticated pulpwood conveyors, and crawler tractors, all to move harvested logs to and along the waters of the East and West Branches of the Penobscot River, initially to sawmills and then to paper mills. Through his great personal energy, inventiveness, creativity, ability to keep complicated machinery and mechanical systems in operation, and his intelligence in understanding GNP Co.’s competitive position and how to further it, emerges a fascinating narrative. The book includes many photographs of the time, as it explores logging in the Penobscot and Allagash watersheds. Written for those who are intrigued by history, it also contains expansive historical information about the many aspects of logging in the first half of the 20th century.
“A fascinating account of O.A. Harkness helping Great Northern become the largest paper mill in the world by building a specialized inland navy to move logs to the mill. He also operated an innovative logging tramway, a fleet of Lombard log haulers, and a landlocked wilderness railroad to move logs from the Saint John watershed to the Penobscot. The ghost train locomotives still remain in the woods. Many rare historic photos and blueprints enhance the book.” — Herbert Crosby, Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering Technology at the University of Maine, and Board Chair of the Maine Forest and Logging Museum.
ROGER MOODY’s own history includes an undergraduate education at the University of Maine, a graduate degree from Syracuse University, many years of municipal and school management in Maine, and service for eight years as a Knox County, Maine, Commissioner.