Kevin’s Komments 09/28/2023

Logging Railroads

Back in my early days of model railroading, logging railroads caught my attention. Climaxes, Shays, and Heislers (geared steam locos in general) were my favorite locomotives. I followed every article published in Railroad Model Craftsman by members of the local model railroad club, the Eastern Loggers, in the late ‘70s through the ‘80s. Their portable layout was inspiring. Outside of doing a few studies on geared locos, I haven’t looked at logging railroads in a long time. The following pic got me thinking…!

The Pacific States Lumber Co. built the Cedar River logging trestle around 1917 to access railroad service to its company town, Selleck, WA. This pic is a great shot of a pile driver and its crew taking a break from driving the many posts for the trestle.

When completed, the trestle was 203 feet high and 843 feet long. 203 ft is quite a bit higher than single wood poles can typically be obtained. But on closer inspection, you can see that the trestle had two levels of roughly 100’ poles. The photo was taken by Darius Kinsey.

Here’s another west coast logging company trestle – Deer Island Logging trestle, Columbia County, OR.

This is a logging trestle made mostly of stacked logs rather than vertical bents. There’s a nice 2-truck Climax with a string of loaded skeleton cars crossing the trestle, McBride Creek just north of Columbia City, OR.

These stacked log trestles were referred to as crib trestles.  Here, the two crib trestles act as leads to a wood truss bridge over stream or gully.  The photo was taken on the Columbia and Nehalem Valley RR, Columbia County, OR.  Photo was used in ‘Railroads in the Woods’ by John T. Labbe and Vernon Goe.

I got a chance in the ‘90s to visit Townsend, TN, on the edge of the Smokey Mountains, a little southwest of Gatlinburg.  Townsend originated as a Native American town.  Around 1900, Colonel W. B. Townsend bought land around Townsend and then up into what is now the Smokey Mountain National Park, all the way to Clingmans Dome.  Townsend became the center for the mill for the Little River Lumber Company, and the Little River RR ran from Maryville to Townsend and up along several routes into the Smokies.  Here’s a pic from the Little River Railroad and Lumber Company Museum in Townsend. The rust colored machine on the left is a logging skidder, used to load logs onto flat cars.  A 70-ton Shay engine sits behind a railroad flatcar, which was used to carry the logs out of the mountains down to mill.

And of course, we’ve got to get a closer look at that 3-truck Shay. I believe these two pics came from the Little River Railroad and Lumber Co. Museum.

If you hike the Middle Prong trail in the Smokies, most of it follows the old railroad line – the area is called Tremont – coming from “tree” and “mountain”. Although it’s difficult to see today, the railroad had stripped most of the trees out of this area by the 1920s. When hiking this area, you can find remnants of the old lumber RR. This image was taken from Smoky Mountain National Park literature.

I don’t have much info on this photo, but the machinery is a steam donkey – often used to pull the logs towards the tracks and then rigged to load the logs on the log cars.

1917 Logging …..Here’s another good pic of a steam donkey near Menzie’s Bay, Willamette, OR.  This high speed Duplex yarder and loader was known as the Riley Combination Yarder and Loader.  The timber claw hanging from the large vertical trunk in the foreground was rigged through pulleys to the steam donkey.  The claw and rigging would allow the steam donkey/loader to lift logs onto the cars.  A 65-ton Shay is at the front of the skeleton cars in background.

Here you see a skidder with a timber claw loading a log onto a car, at Clatskanie, OR. Photo from the Gerald W. Williams Collection.

Again, not much on this photo, but we see a large log being loaded onto a skeleton car – probably with the help of a steam donkey/loader. Check out the already loaded logs in the background.

The print on the photo tells us that this is Blackwood Lumber Co. in Pardee, VA. The load is marked as Yellow Poplar. It looks like the loco is pulling the cars back to the mill. Loading was probably done with the assist of the steam crane/skidder near the back of the train. Notice how the skidder is loaded onto a flatcar.

Going back to west coast lumber, here’s a string of skeleton cars loaded with logs.

In this pic, the iron horse is replaced by the draft horse. This team hauls the “largest load of logs ever hauled on sleighs by horses,” (at least up until the time of photograph) according to the Library of Congress (circa 1909).

Logging train at Black Rock in Polk County, Oregon, 1890’s – The Climax appears to be backing three loaded log cars down a 15% grade transitioning to a 7% grade! It looks like this might be a series of switch backs working down the mountain. The markings show this as the G-W-L Co. – I was unable to find out who that was.

Not quite a skeleton log car these open top flat cars are built/modified for logs. This picture was taken at Oregon’s Bridal Veil Lumber Company in 1910. The log ramp in the fore ground looks like it could be a ramp to a float pool. With all the trees in the background, I’m not sure if this is close to the mill. But guessing, the logs were probably unloaded down the ramp into the pool at this point. They would then float downstream to the mill.

This Weyerhaeuser Timber Company camp no. 4 and Shay locomotive no. 3, Vail, Thurston County, Washington, between 1890 and 1945. These camps would be built up near where the logging was taking place. Most of the structures could be lifted onto flatcars and transported to a new site when necessary.

A group of log drivers (one gentleman driver shown in this pick) would direct the logs downstream preventing jambs. Usually the driver would be seen with a long pole in which he would use to control and direct the logs down the stream. This pic was taken in New Hampshire – the Brown Company.

If the log drivers failed and let a log get caught in the banks of the stream, a log jamb could be created.  The jamb could turn into a dam which would back the water up the stream.  This log jamb occurred at Berlin, NH.  Isn’t it interesting how old descriptive phrases become commonly used metaphors – “log jamb”

Another pic from Bridal Veil Lumber Co. – a log flume.  Log flumes were used to transport lumber and logs over mountainous terrain – An interesting beginning to what is commonly known today as a ride in an amusement park.

Check out these multiple log flumes leading to this unknown mill.

The logs were usually floated at the mill before being fed into the saw. Even if the logs were brought to the mill via the railroad, they would be dumped into the log pond. This is the log pond at Pope & Talbot Sawmill in Oakridge, Oregon.

Logs are carried from the storage pond to the upper level of the sawmill on a bull chain, or jack ladder. Jets of water wash dirt and grit from the logs before they are fed into the saw.

Sawmills have long been considered a defining symbol of Oregon. In 1870, there were approximately 173 mills in the state. This is another pic from the Bridal Veil Lumber Company – the back end of the mill. What an amazing scene between the mill, trestle, and the mountain forest beyond!

This is a pic of a saw mill on the Chehalis River, Cosmopolis, WA, around 1892.

Aerial view of Hull Lumber Company, OR, 1951.

Here’s I pic from inside an unknown mill with a large log after it’s first cut. I believe this is a European mill.

Once the lumber was cut into boards, it would be stacked and dried – Seattle Cedar Lumber Manufacturing Company’s mill in Ballard, ca. 1919.  Once dried, the boards would be loaded into boxcars and sent to distributors and lumber yards.

Battle Lumber Co. #5 was an 0-4-0 Porter. Check out the transfer table and the multiple door loco shed to the left. The transfer table has three tracks.

This is a nice photo of Meadow River Lumber Company Heisler #6 at Rainelle, West Virginia.

…And, a lot more can be found.  I tried to present a generic picture of lumbering and logging railroads (and a few alternative logging transportation methods).  But, the story is varied depending on era, location, and company.  There is a huge collection of logging industry literature out there awaiting for your browsing!




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