The Heart of the Gold Country
The Amador Sawmill is one of the last operational steam powered sawmills in California. The sawmill is operated by Amador Sawmill and Mining Association, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization supplying rough-cut lumber and timbers for projects that require time-period saw marks for their restoration. The sawmill is a living history museum using turn of the century (1890-1910) steam power operated by volunteers. The Amador Sawmill’s mission is preservation and education by acquiring, restoring and preserving authentic historic working sawmill equipment, and to provide Public education through display and demonstration.
The Amador County Fair features live operation of the steam powered sawmill on the Amador County Fairgrounds. “You haven’t experienced the Amador County Fair if you haven’t seen this sawmill operate”, said Ken McCoy, long time volunteer and docent.
The authentic 19th century sawmill is run by the powerful 1907 Corliss single cylinder steam engine with a 7 ft. flywheel, and will once again turn giant logs into useful boards as they pass through the 48” circular blade. The1890 Smith & Sayer steam engine will again come to life to drive the sawdust removal conveyor.
In addition to the huffing and puffing engines, and flying sawdust, there will be an expanded machine tool exhibit featuring restored 19th and 20th century machine tools. Included will be a circa 1907 Sebastian lathe which originally was used to make shell casings for the U.S. Navy. Also on display will be a Rockford Horizontal Milling Machine of the same vintage. The tools will be operating as originally configured with power being transmitted from an overhead line shaft.
On the logging side, an operating Steam Donkey similar to those used to pull logs out of the woods in 19th century Amador Couny will be fired up. The steam-driven winches will be operated by docents who will provide overviews and conduct tours.
All are welcome to visit the demonstrations and talk to the volunteers who build and operate the exhibit. Learn how the Steam Donkey’s Dutton boiler is fired up and the history of its use on a pile driving barge in San Francisco Bay. Watch the sawmill crew muscle a huge log onto the carriage that moves it through the 48” saw blade. Watch as the Sawyer communicates with hand signals to direct the efforts of setters and off-bearers. Take a look in the Engine Room and be hypnotized by the rhythmic machinery huffing and puffing, turning steam into 60 horse power.
According to Bill Braun, President of the Amador Sawmill & Mining Association (ASMA), “Fulfilling our mission to restore and demonstrate historic equipment is fun, but more important is our increased ability to educate young people about their American heritage. By recreating a live 19th century Sawmill, we provide a glimpse into Amador County history and one of the three traditional industries here, Logging, Mining, and Agriculture”.