The first dragsaws were reciprocating power saws using a six foot steel crosscut saws to buck logs to length. Dragsaws were the forerunners of the modern chainsaw. They were the first powered saws used in the logging operation. The earliest models were powered by steam from a donkey engine. The model in the picture right is gasoline powered and is atypical of those used from the 1920’s through the 1940’s and by some diehards until the 1950’s.
In theory they were portable. Hank Simonson used one in his youth . He said that portable only meant portable if you were very strong and fit as they weighed some 300 pounds. They were very reliable and very rugged and were significantly more efficient than cutting (bucking) by hand.
The model in the pictures at left was scratch built by Colin Menzies in 1:24 scale from measurements taken from an old drawing [see picture below]. An original which is part of the Roots of Motive Power Museum collection in Willits was also used by Colin as a source for details. There are several more in the logging museum in Eureka.
Right is a picture of another more complex drag saw in operation.
The pictures left show restored models in operation. Manufacturers included Multnomah, Vaughn and Wee McGregor.
There are still working dragsaws. The picture above is of one on show and working at the 2012 Roots of Motive Power Steam-up. The movie left shows one in operation.
When standing by the dragsaw on display at the Sugar Pine Railroad (see picture) I wondered what the impact of the dragsaw was on logging. The replacement of horse and oxen by donkey engines and railroads had a massive impact on the logging industry. However, I cannot remember having heard or having read of the impact of the dragsaw. One thing is for sure, tending a dragsaw (however temperamental they might have been) seems a far superior way of making a living than being at one end of a six foot cross-cut saw (aka a misery whip) all day.