Adirondack sawmill questions

Discussion in 'Logging, Mining and Industrial Railroads' started by Muddy Creek, Aug 18, 2004.

  1. Muddy Creek

    Muddy Creek Member

    On the Steam in the Woods website, there is a photo of the Emporium mill at Cranberry Lake in 1919. (Thanks to Marc Reusser.)
    I'm wondering what the gauge of the tracks on the platforms might be. I know that Emporium used standard guage track (on the ground) but these look like a narrower gauge for the lumber cars. How were these lumber loads moved around? Any idea where to find details of the cars used in this type of operation? I've read "Rails in The North Woods" that described Emporium's logging lines in the Adirondacks but haven't seen anything about about these platform structures or the equipment on them. Any general info about them would be appreciated.

    I saw a photo either on The Gauge or in another website forum showing a modeled section similar to the photo, looking very narrow gauge. I've been looking for the thread unsuccessfully. Modeling just these tracks could be an interesting switching layout in itself though available space will force me to compress considerably.

    Thanks for any info.

  2. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    Mower Lumber, used a 3' gauge, people powered carts to move cut lumber to a drying area. They also had a transfer table to sort what track to move the carts on. This looks like a similar facility, interesting modeling possibilities.
  3. m_reusser

    m_reusser Member

  4. Muddy Creek

    Muddy Creek Member

    Thanks to both for your replies. These platforms do offer a lot of possibilities. I remembered the model photo I've seen. It was of the McCabe Lumber series of kits.

    The prototype photos in the links above show the wide range of layouts possible for these structures.

    I like the photo of the horse moving the cart of lumber to the transer table. (Need a herd of LPH's I guess and is that horse decorated with all those dangly bells for a reason? Kind of like the backing-up beeper on a truck?) In the same photo with the horse & transfer table, it shows that the rails used were extremely light.

    The photo in the first link shows an interesting method of loading flats & gondolas, sort of a log dump for finished lumber.

    I can see I'll be redesigning the yard around the sawmill yet again. Thanks for the help!

  5. m_reusser

    m_reusser Member

  6. Dragon

    Dragon Member

    Don't know if these will help, but I have a book "Railroads of the Adirondacks" that talks about the Grasse River in the same area.
    It has sillhouett maps of the "footprint" of the RR facilities and the sawmills.

    You can click the pics for the full size image.
    Sorry for the fuzzyness, I don't ahve a scanner and took these with my digital cam.

    If interested, I can get the info for the book, but I believe it was obtained via Oso.

  7. Muddy Creek

    Muddy Creek Member


    Thanks for those pages. They are a huge help. They are very readable.

    I have Michael Kudish's earlier book but I don't believe he covered these plans. I've been keeping an eye out for a used copy but I can see I'm going to have to spring for the cost of his newer book.

    My sawmill module on my new layout is a compressed and fictional plan based on what I've read in the book "Rails in the Northwoods" and from photos I've found online. Looking at these plans, I think a larger, more prototypical model may be in the future. I'm planning a trip down to local libraries to do some research soon.

    Thanks again.

  8. silver

    silver Member

    Finally got on

    About two weeks ago I was visiting my inlaws who happen to own the old Emporium company office in Cranberry Lake. It is on the map that Dragon posted. It is a really cool building bought by them from the Dreby/Sykes the owners of the company. It is located just of the right side of your original photo. Inside there is some of the original built in desks with pull down glass. As well as some of the other furniture that was there as a waiting room / office. It was built on an embankment and there is a tunnel that runs from the tracks to the basement that has areas for baggage storage. Last summer I was married there on the shore of Silver lake.

    So I started researching the company both at the Clifton-Fine library(also in the map listed as the School) and over the internet. The right of way is open the the public as Snowmobile path 89. The Wye is still very visible. Many of the ties are still visible in the ground while the track thrugh here was pulled over 50 years ago.

    My in laws own the land in the forground of your picture right up to where the mill was. In fact the shed on the left is now their boathouse in near the same location but no longer on stilts. Unapparent in the picture is how the tracks rise and fall to meet different elevations some concrete foundations remain that were for the elevated push cart rails. I have some of this rail it is very light weight just under two inches high.
  9. silver

    silver Member

    Some more on Cranberry Lake

    A few more things. The map of Cranberry Lake I have found some inaccuracies in. The first is one that you can see if you compare your picture to the map. The wide platform in the center left you can see in the map but the diagonal that creates the smooth s-curve is missing in the map. The other I found by poking around in the woods. The foundations of the enginehouse north of the mill still exist and in fact I found a kind of poetic very weathered stack of lumber just as it had been when the mill stopped. Half of it has turned to dirt but the north end is still neatly stacked. Parts of the mill foundation are still there as well. Anyway sorry for the aside the inaccuracy is that some tracks lead south west from the enginehouse as a little yard they extended to a swampy area parallel to the west jag in Mill street. I know this because I found rails still in guage in the area and it is graded. Also west of these tracks are parts of One or more Lynn tractors in a flat storage area that may have been a garage for summer storage.

    Other things about the map that may be interesting to a modeler/historian the barn in the map is still there. The building across the street from The Stone Manor motel/restaurant at Rt3 and Mill street used to be the catholic church that you can see in the Postcards from Cranberry Lake and Wanakena from that postcards series of books. The track to Cranberry lake ran between this and the old town hall that was torn down in 1976. The two buildings across rt3 are still there they are both owned by the same guy but I dont know how long the old Emporium general store now painted red will stand. The owner is letting it fall apart too bad it was once nice building. The white storage building next to it on the track is now called Emporium and is run as a marina. There is a nice picture someware of the Grasse River Galloping Goose White bus speeder#11 in front of it. In that picture you can see the front porch that is now gone but on the building now you can see where the porch attached because of holes in the wall.
  10. silver

    silver Member

    A lost opportunity for preservation

    In July 1953 long after the Cranberry Lake area rails were pulled and Heywood Wakefeild(sp) took over the Conifer mill. Rail City a tourist attaction and early railroad museum bought several Emporium rail cars including flats#323, #322,box car#208,Combine#12,White bus speeder#11, Homemade gas passenger "Rolliam" with Thomas Flyer model 31 parts,Caboose #71 "Perry's Pride", yellow handcar and 3 gas speeders. Rail city failed afer a few years and I can't tell what happened to everything. I have tried to get in touch with the new rail city museum now run by the founders son to find what happened at

    I have found two items that are still around over the internet. The New York Museum of Transportation owns the Yellow handcar now painted brown and lettered for the nymt. The other is more exiting #71 "Perry's Pride" is in somewhere around rt5 in Barnett Vermont owned by Dr. Marvin Kendall according to

    The Adirondack History Museum in Bluelake NY has a display of the company office that claims to be of the office in Conifer but according to Virginia Dreby Grandaughter of William Sikes owner of the company. This was a misunderstanding the furniture is actually from the Cranberry lake office.The museum also has the company records.

    This reminds me despite the relative size and obscurity of The Grasse River Railroad and the Emporium Lumber Company. Several companies make models of the very distinctive homemade cars. Keystone Model Works makes a two pack of models of the logging buggies with the rails mounted on the top for a Barnhart Log loader to move along. They also make models of the #71 caboose that became "Perry's Pride" in the late Heywood Wakefield days. Both kits are available in O and HO. IHC makes a Barnhart Log Loader in HO lettered for Emporium Lumber Company.

    As you can probably tell I was champing at the bit to reply to this topic when I found it in my search and could hardly wait for the long awaited permission to post.
  11. Muddy Creek

    Muddy Creek Member

    Thanks, silver for the Cranberry Lake/Emporium update. I appreciate the info on the current conditions there. I'll be heading down there either in the fall or spring. (I'm north of there in the Lake Placid/Saranac Lake area but haven't got down to Cranberry Lake.) I was wondering what, if anything might still remain of the sawmill & trackage.

    I've been mountain biking along lots of the old NY Central & D&H roadbeds that are open to snowmobiles so I'm looking forward to riding some Grasse River roadbed if it's possible.

    Thanks again,

  12. silver

    silver Member

    The homes in the distance in your original photo still exist for the most part they are now on First Street which is the road on the map that runs prependicular to the cranberry Lake Shore east of the log boom. Those are company houses that were sold to the workers when the mill stopped some very old now still live there.An interesting old yellow house is across rt3 from those houses. It was the Thompson house and was built by the Thmpson family on the foundation of the first house in the area. It was a log house built on the shore of Silver lake /pond by Fred Thompson and Fredrick Remington painteed a famous picture of it. Now at the Adirondak Museum.

    Mill street is lined with more former company houses on the west side and on the east the only two buildings that were on that side are still there the former chruch at rt3 and Mill and the horse barn. There is one newer house on the east side of mill and a very new one is set back in roughly the area that was the center of the log yard.

    Not much is left of the Cranberry lake mill itself. There are partial foundations. A mix of concrete and masonary. There is part of the huge iron smoke stack I found in the woods not attached to anything. Some of the bricks from the mill are now part of my inlaws patio. The easiest to see remnants around the mill are the lead tracks into the mill from the south they are graded and we keep them mowed. The ties are still there in this area at or just under the ground you can see in the plants growing through them. The concrete footings for the elevated decking are for the wider section you can see in your photo forground right. The most preserved area is the enginehouse There are still electric conduit a fair amount of junk tooling the full foundation(concrete) with pits and the formetioned lumber stack (please do not disturb this I am taking a series of photos over time of it). The area south of the enginehouse seems to have been graded for two tracks one section of parallel rail is still there near the swampy area near the jag in the road. If you go there is a Yellow gate across the road it is west of the gate in the woods. If you go far enough you will find the Lynn tractor remains.

    Oh almost forgot. In Silver Lake the log pond is still there it is just part of the lake bisected by a very neat fill. The embankment is made entirely of milled dimentional lumber which you can see under the water form a boat (no gas moters on Silver lake). A beaver lives in the mill pond. Also there is sticking up out of the water on the main body of water a pulley supported by two rails with a big foundation. Silver lake was used for overflow log storage probably in the winter when it was frozen over. There are a fair number of sunken hardwood logs down there. Also up the right of way before the wye is a stove loggers boat on the north side of the roadbed.
  13. silver

    silver Member

    North tram, Conifer and Childwold Station

    If you go to Cranberry Lake you should consider going in the summer. If you contact me I would be happy to show you around. I have had a lot of time to explore and have found some interesting finds.The old right of way is pretty open it is sometimes used for logging. The north leg of the wye is totally overgrown because it is redundant to log trucks. There are some ruined logging camps up the old north tram which really spreads and branches out up there. The line to Conifer and on to Childwold Station is much flatter and better built because it was the area that carried paying passengers and had rod locomotives. ATVs and snowmobiles use it along with peds like me. There are a few nice cast iron culverts on this section. I have not gone the whole way either direction.

    I visited Conifer not much was left. It is the definition of a sleepy town one way in and out with a fair distance between. The right of way is there used as driveways for a hunt club and a logger. The main yard has disappeared in to trees. The only building left is the brick powerhouse and some iron smoke stack sections in the locations Powerhouse and stack on the map. I saw a picture of the inside of the powerhouse somewhere lots of steam machinery(still there?).There are alot of company houses it is neat to see how exactly the same building can be made to look so different over time and alterations. Circle road is the one up the hill the nicer houses probably higher ups in the company houses are up here on a hill. Some old folks here probably worked for the mill. Today there are no commercial stores in town and do not seem like many young people.

    A resource that may be worth looking into further. Both Cranberry Lake and Piercefield(Conifer) have town historians. Piercefield actually has a nice little one room museum in the town hall/highway dept./old school that is only open Saturdays the historian is the woman behind the desk with Grasse River/Emporium photos and documents. (I am thinking of building and donating one of those Keystone #71 caboose kits and donating it.)

    I also looked in to what I could find at Childwold Station the Grasse River interchange with the New York Central Adirondak Division. Answer not much but I was pressed for time. The track of the Adirondak division is now owned by a tourist operation that operates the two ends of the line north of Utica and between Lake Placid and Sarinac Lake. They use old Alco deisels and have at least one RS-3 painted for the NYC lightening bolt just like in the late Heywood Wakefield days of the Grasse River RR. Anyway they are restoring the line to connect the ends back together for a much longer run. At Tupper Lake they are starting to rebuild from the foundations because it was torn down in the 70's (extreme restoration)their old station hoping to use it for this service. I wish them good luck they need tourist money and the jobs. They also are building a big Natural history musem in Tupper Lake so even more people may come.
  14. Dragon

    Dragon Member

    I actually spent a couple summers in Cranberry Lake while taking classes at the Biological Station (not the Wanakena station, the other one at the opposite side of the lake).
    I learned of the Grasse River from the pilot of the Forrester (SUNY ESF's "troop transport"). He had the book "Railroads in the Woods" and let me read it. I have since found one of the original hardback copies. It was shortly after that I found the Kurdish book.
    At one point I had thought I'd found an old RR shack while on an extended hike from the Bio station. It turned out to be merely a temporary structure for some early scientists to base out of while they surveyed the area, but it was a kewl find.

    I still try to get up to the Adirondacks now and then, but haven't had a chance to re-visit Cranberry since graduation. I see now I'm gonna have to spend some time off and head up that way and find some of the old Grasse River stuff.

    Thanks for the info!!!

  15. silver

    silver Member

    I am trying to put together a locomotive list of engines used by the Emporium/Grasse River RR. I have seen a Partial list somewere in my research but I lost it I am trying to get builders, built dates, Boiler diameters, wheel arrangements, wheel diameters, and the dates they were used. So far I think I have the Shays and Climaxes anyone knowing about the rod engines and any others including that wierd critter built by the "Lumber King" himself William Sykes dating all the way to the diesels of Heywood Wakefield please add to the list.

    _____________________________________Came to ny/
    Shay build#_Date Blt_Class__Truck#_GRR#_Purchased____sold/scrapped
    235______4/11/1889__B 37-2__2____34___1911(frompa)__30's?
    687______1/24/1902__C 65-3__3____40___1917_________1950
    974_______1/25/1905_C 75-3__3____52____1930__________?
    1548______8/14/1905_C 65-3__3____39____1911(frompa)__1929
    2755______5/5/1914__B 50-2__2_____1____3/1938________1942
    2758______5/20/1914_C 70-3__3____51____1930__________1951
    2881______8/26/1916_B 60-2___2____2____3/1938_________1942

    ______________________________________Came to ny/
    climax blt#__Date Blt_Class__Truck#_GRR#__Purchased___Sold/scrapped

    This is all I could find out but I know there is more please help with this project and also maybe give model starting point suggestions in all different scales. This could be a fun project to compile the whole consist and know when they were on the property.
  16. Muddy Creek

    Muddy Creek Member

    Hi silver,

    In the Rails in the North Woods book there is a roster of 27 locos & 5 rail motor cars including 2 homebuilts. The GRR had 13 rod locos and at the bitter end in the 1950's, Heywood Wakefield ran a 45 ton GE on the line, billing itself as the "World's smallest 100% dieselized railroad."

    This book has been a good reference for me so far. Until this thread, everything I knew about the Grasse River RR & the Cranberry Lake sawmill I learned from Rails in the North Woods.

    I could send a scan of the pages if you would like. I think you click on my name in the upper left of this post to send an email.

    Thanks for the offer to show me around. I'll definitely contact you about that.

  17. Muddy Creek

    Muddy Creek Member

    A quick question, silver. (Or is the Mr. Silver?) I was wondering if you know what the exterior finish on the mill buildings might be. Haven't seen a color photo for obvious reasons and don't know if they were painted, stained, whitewashed or left au-natural. Care to hazard a guess? I'd guess the roofs might be shakes, or perhaps a standing-seam metal roof to resist sparks from the chimneys.

  18. silver

    silver Member

    Sorry I was distracted by another project that came up. I would really love to see the consist list you mentioned as I don't have a copy of that book and I live in San Diego these days.

    "Silver" was chosen as a name because of Silver Lake or Silver Pond depending on who made the map. That is the name of the small lake next to the mill at Cranberry. It is technically a lake because the water turns over and thus does't get stagnant. You can really see this happen on the water surface when the air temp is changing. You can also feel it when you swim you go through warm and cool patches.

    I have of couse only seen glimpses in black and white photos of the mill. In some it looks like it was painted white with a metal roof like in the photo of yours that started the thread. In others it looks it was weathered wood or painted red or brown. It may have been that it was wood and the darker photos were taken later after the building weathered. I know for a fact that the foundation was a mix of concreate tan and red brick. I know the brick color because I have some of them.

    The enginehouse may have been metal because it was neatly removed when the operation ended also there are a few corregated pieces left in the area. It had a concreate foundation.

    Also as an aside the house at the left/west side end of Mill street where the jag is was built at the same time as the office by William Sykes for his brother who ran the Cranberry office. It is for sale I think. (Big basement, winterized and big attic for modelers.)

    I just got a Keystone Locomotive Works Grasse River caboose in O-scale. It has an interior too with the right homebuilt trucks. It is a nice model I am happy with it. I am thinking of using it to make a full scale copy on the old roadbed in front of the old office. So maybe soon there will be another #71.

    Last visit my mother inlaw brought up the idea of getting an old railcar and putting it there as a playhouse for her Grandson(my son) due in November. She knows the caretaker of the old Benson mines / J and L Steel site in star Lake we went over there for a tour and to look at and old rail car over there maybe to move. It was a huge really old steel pullman car that was really rotted out with no windows that had been used as a bunkhouse late in the mills use. There had been two others but because they were on rail Penncentral took them when they stopped maintaining the track. Which is still there for quickly reopenning the mine for strategic military use. Hopefully this will never be nesseary. The mine still has alot of iron in it and the tailings stacks have material that can easily be extracted with todays tech. Some of the old machinery is buryed under the last days take. It is like they just turned of the switch. The mine itself is privately owned in trust to be used later. The buildings you can see from rt3 where built by the Us Govt in ww2 on 50 adjacent donated acres. All processing was done here. J and L was using these facilities and bailed out when the mine stopped and left a contaminated site to the state. It is now a superfund site. It's funny the contamination is only in the now publicly owned area not in the rest of the mine. In fact Coca-cola was going to bottle the water now filling the mine.

    Anyway sorry for the tangent the pullman was not worth moving.
    So maybe we will just make one. Getting Lumber milled to size is not a problem around there so it would by easier to make one than fix a steel basketcase.
  19. Muddy Creek

    Muddy Creek Member


    Thanks for more info on the mill and the Benson Mines. I've been starting my research of the Chateaugay Iron mines north of here at Lyon Mountain. That operation shut down in the 1960's. I'm ging to be heading up there this weekend. I've been planning to model mining & furnace complexes and am amazed at the scope of the facilities. I found one great website about this operation but haven't come across very much about the Benson Mines yet. There doesn't seem to be a lot published about Adirondack mining operations.

    I'll send some links to the Grasse River roster through the private email system here along with photos of the homebuilt locos and another view of the Cranberry Lake mill. (I don't want to push my luck with copyright issues by posting them here.)

  20. silver

    silver Member

    I really liked the mining and logging displays at the Adirondak Museum. They have a Lynn Tractor and log track icer. As well as good displays on the seasonal aspects of logging in the area. I think that for the most interest a model depicting the area would have multi-seasonal scenes for the most interest because different things were happening at different times.

    Another thing not on display there is the whole records of the Emporium Lumber Co. You can make arrangements to see them. This is probably where the roster info came from in the first place. It seems that hard non-fiction historic data in the public for reference should be open to the public for use and at this museum it is. Most of the info in the logging display is from these records. There are over 200 boxes of it.

    Also they have huge transport building. With winter road rollers and like construction equipment. A victorian Pullman Private car and probably the most complete collection of any railroads equipment. 50% of the entire Marion River Carry Railroads equipment is preserved there. This may seem like a big statement but it is exactly one 0-4-0 porter tank and an ex-nyc elevated car the two other ex-elevated cars were not saved. But pretty good for a railroad about a mile long. Those elevated cars are about the vintage of those nyc-el steam locos they found up in Alaska a few years ago that were used to build the trans-Alaska highway then abandoned in the deep freeze.

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