Revelation and questions

Discussion in 'Logging, Mining and Industrial Railroads' started by coachC, Jan 24, 2007.

  1. coachC

    coachC Member

    Well, today I was just looking for small track plans for my first layout. I was planning a early 1990s CSX or freelanced but I happened upon this site. I have always liked the logging layouts I have seen from some of you folks and even posted on here last year about modern logging lines. Well after seeing the above site, I was hooked (hence the "revelation", well, sort of (hence the questions). I want to do a logging layout and save the freelance or CSX when I have more space. My problem is I am a diesel guy. I love the scenery, grades and structures of a logging line but I want to use old diesels of the 1950s. Does anyone else model this? I realize that many logging lines made it into the 60s and 70s but would a diesel look right on a layout like the one above. I also realize it is my world and I can model how I want but I would like to be close to prototypical. I would like to use the track plan of the "Possum Valley" but enlarge it just a little. I will be modeling in N scale and I love the amount of scenery and details of logging railroads in a small space. How did logging lines work as the diesel era took hold? How did they load the logs? Did they use the steam donkeys or did they start using mechanized log loaders? Any information will be greatly appreciated. Like I said, I am sold on the logging line but I like diesel locos.
  2. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    Logs can be moved around in a variety of ways. Steam was replaced by gasoline and diesel engines, but the principle of hauling stuff remained the same.

    1. Highline - usually used in mountainous or difficult territory not suited to vehicles. One tree is rigged at the work site to another at the loading site and a trolley system carries the logs along.

    2. Straight hauling - use any engine you like to run a winch to haul logs along or skid them aboard a railcar.

    3. Purpose-built loaders - loggers of today use a specialized front-end loader that has two huge pincers at the front. The logs are picked up and deposited where they need to go the way you would grasp things with your fingers.
  3. Summit

    Summit Member

    By the time the diesel era came around most logging railroads were either already dead or on their last legs. Logging railroads made sense only in cases where you had a large number of trees being cut in one place that went to the same destination. By the dawn of the 1950's forestry and logging practices had shifted away from the swaths of clearcuts so common in the boom years- with the result that a sawmill might havest a few acres at the bottom of a watershed, then go father up the watershed for a few more blocks, then jump to the next watershed for a few patchwork cuttings, and then the next harvest might be many miles away. This kind of logging- both the scattered nature of the harvest activities and the relatively low number of trees coming out of each area- made logging railroads economically unfeasible. Those logging railroads that did survive generally had a few things in common- they had been cut back to just a trunk line, with few if any spurs. Trucks moved the logs from the woods down to landings established on the rail the landing the logs would be loaded onto railcars. The only job the logging railroad had was to take empties up from the mill to the landing and then take the loads down to the mill...the very definition of a unit train. Many argue that these operations were not logging railroads at all...but I tend to disagree with that view.

    Another consideration is the tremendous weight difference between diesels and the steam locomotives they replaced. Most logging railroads were built just well enough to support the equipment operated by the company- imagine the havoc created when you suddenly drop a 120-ton diesel switcher on a line designed to support a 70-ton logging mike or Shay? Many logging railroads that did make the transition to diesel had to be extensively rebuilt to accomodate the new power, and the less track that you had to rebuilt the better!

    By the dawn of the diesel era the Straight Hauling that Mountain Man refers to saw little if any use. Almost all log loading was highly mechanized. Here are some examples:

    - McGiffert Loaders. McGifferts consisted of a loading boom and hoisting mechanism mounted on a platform supported by a large frame shaped like a C opening downward to the tracks. Empty log cars fit underneath the loader and were dragged underneath the loader either by a switcher or a block and tackle system, or were gravity fed. The boom would then be used to hoist the logs onto the cars. For shots of McGifferts at work, see the first several photos on this page...

    and this page...

    The first page is the Edward Hines Lumber Company in central Oregon...their big sawmill sat in Burns, with a 51-mile long common carrier shortline owned by the company (the Oregon & Northwestern Railroad) running north to the little town of Seneca. Up until 1958 Ed Hines had a private logging railroad that ran quite a ways into the timber from Seneca. The second link is to some McGifferts operating on the McCloud River Lumber Company in northeastern California. Note that most McGifferts were steam powered; several diesel powered McGifferts were built, including one of the models shown on the Edward Hines page. Another eastern Oregon logger- Brooks-Scanlon Lumber Company in Bend- created their own diesel McGifferts by mounting shovel bodies and booms on the platforms.

    Another common loader was the slide-back model. If you go to this page again...

    ...and scroll down to the bottom of the page you will see a slide back loader at work. Note that this is just a shovel body mounted on a giant sled...the loader would simply drag itself from one flatcar body to the next on the sled, with the boom loading each car as it works its way down the line. These are also the Edward Hines Lumber Company, but many other operations used this type of loader. Obviously either of these loaders did not permit the use of stakes to hold the logs onto the cars, meaning that the railroad either had to have cheese blocks and chains or collapsable stakes on the log cars. McGifferts would be appropriate until the very late 1950's...very few saw any use after that. New requirements for rigid stakes on log cars helped to kill these older technologies off.

    A variation of the highline was also common at landings. In this case a tall spar tree would be placed right next to the would have some sort of a boom on it. Some sort of a hoist (like a donkey) would be used in conjunction with the spar tree and the boom to load logs. These could also be used to skid logs into the landing...but their use became less and less with the introduction of more modern logging equipment.

    The ultimate log loading involved any piece of equipment- such as a loader or excavator- equipped with grappling hooks or other specialized equipment to pick up and move logs. Some examples of these can be seen at the following links:

    Scroll down to the bottom pictures. This is also on the Edward Hines operation, but this time we are at their mill in Hines, OR, just south of Burns. This picture shows unloading the logs...but the same principles and equipment would be in use at the landing to load the logs. Note that the flat cars have received stakes to hold the log loads on the flats while in transit. Another example can be seen at:

    Scroll down to the fifth photo down...this picture is on Weyerhaeuser's East Side unit, tributary to their giant sawmill in Klamath Falls, OR. These machines worked at a number of different landings and reloads in the block...their Woods Railroad connected the reloads with the Oregon California & Eastern Railroad, which transported the logs into K-Falls. This operation lasted until 1990 before folding. These machines were on the large end of the spectrum and often depended on oversize trucks (WAY too big to be highway legal) to bring the logs from the woods to the landing over private truck roads. These machines would then transfer the entire load to the railcar.

    Lastly, a few operations used locomotive cranes to laod cars, a few of which were equipped with highly specialized booms specifically designed to handle logs.

    If you are searching for more inspiration I would like to recommend a few resources to you. The first is to find yourself copies of the January, February, March and April 1984 issues of Railroad Model Craftsman. RMC ran a Pacific Coast Logging series in those four issues...January covered a general history and overview of the timber industry on the Pacific coast...February covered the steam locomotives...March covered the specialized equipment used in railroad logging and a few design pointers...and April covered the diesel era. These issued should be readily available through back issue dealers such as Next...I don't have the specific issues at hand, but between 1986 and 1990 CTC Board ran a seven part series on the diesel logging railroads left at the time (St. Maries River in Idaho; Camas Prairie in Idaho; Weyerhaeuser-Springfield, OR; Weyerhaeuser's Chehalis Western in Washington; Simpson Timber in Washington; Canadian Forest Products on Vancouver Island, B.C.; and Weyerhaeuser's Woods Railroad and the Oregon California & Eastern in Klamath Falls, OR). A number of books have some pretty good coverage of specific diesel loggers- Logging Railroads of Weyerhaeuser's Vail-McDonald Operations by Frank Teleweski and Scott Barrett (Oso Publishing, 2005) has quite a bit dedicated to the diesel years of these operations. Logging to the Salt Chuck by Pete Replinger and John Labbe (Northwest Short Line, circa 1990) covers the Simpson Timber railroad, with quite a bit of diesel coverage. There are many other sources as well that I am leaving out...but these should get you quite a ways.

    I'm sure I could think of more to say if I thought hard enough...but I have probably already said too much. Please ask away if any of this confuses you!

    Jeff Moore
    Elko, NV
  4. coachC

    coachC Member

    This is the second time you have answered one of my questions very thoroughly. Your websites are excellent and I look foward to reading them in more detail when I get some time. Thanks, you have given me some great ideas. Like I said before, you really know your stuff. Thanks again,

    ps: by the way, do you have your own layout?
  5. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    There is still limited log hauling by rail here in Montana. It spiked in 2001 after a very disasterous fire season in 2000. The logs are brought to "reloads" by truck and transferred to purpose built log cars with high supports on the sides to allow for high volume loads. Since mills are few and far between, the logs travel large distances on mainline and branchlines on scheduleds freight trains. You might look up the following. Montana Rail Link. Plum Creek Timber, MT. Simpson Lumber Co. in Shelton, WA state(they still use diesels). There was an article on Simpsons diesel operations in Tall Timber Short Lines magazine, summer 2006 issue. If you are interested in railroad logging history, I would suggest the above mentioned magazine or Timber Times, another logging related magazine. They both have websites and contain prototype and modeling info related to the logging and timber industries.
  6. Summit

    Summit Member


    You are welcome! Glad to be of help...

    Jim touched on an issue that I did not cover...logging railroads may be basically dead, but moving logs by rail is far from it. Increasing environmental restrictions on harvesting activities in certain regions has caused the value of raw logs to skyrocket, and many sawmills are willing to pay big money for logs harvested far, far away simply because they cannot get enough local supplies to remain in operation. In many cases rail remains as the most economical way to ship these logs long distances. Some examples- Jim touched on the Montana Rail Link, which a year or two ago moved a lot of logs from a post-fire salvage logging operation out of Darby, MT. The Portland & Western hauls a lot of logs around on their system in western Oregon, and in fact last week several loaded log cars derailed in the middle of some street running trackage in downtown Salem, OR. The Central Oregon & Pacific hauls logs for Roseburg Lumber between two of their plants in Weed, CA, and Dillard, OR. Back in 1999/2000 Big Valley Lumber Company, who operated two sawmills in Burney, CA, and Bieber, CA, received 40-60 carloads (or more) of logs each week at their BNSF reload in Nubieber, CA...the logs originated on the Puget Sound & Pacific railroad in Gray's Harbor, WA Their mills ran almost exclusively on these logs for the last year and a half of their operations before the company imploded. The most spectacular example of the log moves by rail occured back in the spring of 2003...the previous summer saw those huge fires burn through much of central Arizona. The Native American reservations started salvage logging the burned trees by the following summer...Sierra Pacific Industries purchased most of the timber and had it shipped to their sawmills in Chinese Camp, Sonora, and Susanville, all in California. These logs were loaded on the Arizona Eastern Railroad at Globe, AZ, who then forwarded them to the UP in 80-car unit trains. These unit trains then passed through southern California, ran up the coast...the Sonora and Chinese logs went to the Sierra Railroad interchange in Oakdale, CA, for final delivery, while the Susanville logs went to the interchange with SPI's Quincy Railroad in Wendel, CA. In addition to these movements a couple of smaller mills in Oregon also purchased logs...these got loaded onto railcars on the Apache Railroad at Snowflake, AZ, who interchanged them to the BNSF as loose carload traffic instead of the unit trains UP operated. Most of these logs went to Klamath Falls, OR, but a few went farther north to Prineville, OR, via BNSF and the City of Prineville Railroad. From Prineville the logs were trucked 100+ miles east to a small sawmill in Prairie City, OR. There are other examples- the Collins Pine mill in Chester, CA, operates partially on logs received via the BNSF, and a few years ago Crown Pacific ran their sawmill in Gilchrist, OR, almost exclusively on logs harvested in New Zealand, shipped to Coos Bay by boat, and then shipped to Gilchrist by rail from there.

    There is only one "true" logging railroad left in operation, the Canadian Forest Products operation on northern Vancouver Island, B.C. The St. Maries River Railroad in Idaho comes close to resembling a logging railroad, but it is a common carrier shortline that handles the log traffic on a revenue basis. Simpson used to run an extensive logging railroad system, but back around 2000 (I don't remember the exact year off hand) they closed the vast majority of their logging railroad system. They still run 11 miles of it, between Shelton, WA, and what is known as their Dry Sort Yard...they still haul some logs, but instead of logs delivered from the woods down to Shelton they are hauling logs floated on Puget Sound into Shelton up to the Dry Sort Yard. They also haul a lot of rough cut lumber between the two ends of the line. These are just some examples...there are others.

    I'd second the recommendation of the two magazines. Tall Timber Short Lines can be found at and Timber Times can be found at I had an article I wrote about a part of the McCloud River operations appear in the latest issue of Tall Timber Short Lines, and I am working on at least one more for them...

    And, lastly, I do not have a layout of my own at the moment. I hope to have one in the future. My hobby is not exactly compatible with my wife's (cats), and to date I have never been able to get a room that remains sealed for long enough to build anything. The answer is a detatched shop building, which may be coming later this year. In the meantime what spare time I have around my job and family goes into the two websites and some painting and detailing of equipment- I have not quite decided which way I want to go yet, but I will most likely build a fictional modern day timber dependent shortline running from a connection with the joint BNSF/UP line just north of Bend, OR, eastward to John Day, OR. I have a couple of other ideas if this one doesn't pan out, and perhaps I will have a part of the layout representing another fictional diesel powered logger somewhere in Eastern Oregon.

    Jeff Moore
    Elko, NV
  7. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    What do modern log flats look like?
  8. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    I'll see if I can find a photo. They are flat cars with four bunks and long steel beams that extend up each side. Four per side and about the height of a boxcar. The beams can be lowered during loading and then are raised to allow the car to be fully loaded and keep the logs where they belong. Log loads don't look anything like they did when I was young. Then, three or four logs constituted a load. Now its sometimes several hundred "logs" about six to eight inches at the butt end. At the risk of getting into trouble here on the gauge, we used to call that kind of logs, "pecker poles". No further comment.
  9. Tileguy

    Tileguy Member

  10. alastairq

    alastairq Member

    sorry this is a bit late..that's what comes of being a newbie.....but in addition to all the excellent info above, I'd like to suggest trying to find the following book....

    ''Logging by Rail''..'The British Columbia story' Robert D Turner.

    It's published by Sono Nis Press, of Victoria, BC...and if my eyes don't decieve me, the ISBN number is
    ISBN 1-55039-018-X

    This actually seems to cover pretty much all the OP's requests....albeit not in virtual form.
    Most of the info is regarding steam haulage...but diesel is covered, including early stuff.
    Also much of the 'plant' loggers used, including a fearsome 'Humdergin??'
  11. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    To answer the "freelance" part of the "revelation"... Why not do a kind of hybrid operation that uses whatever the management could scrounge in the late 1950s or even later 1960s. By that time, second or third hand 1st generation diesels (e.g. my favourite the RS-1) would be available, and industrial diesel switchers (like 44-tonners) would be feasible too.

    And who's to say that your particular company did not find the railroad model uneconomical, and therefore did not bother to update their practices until much later...

    Hope that helps.

  12. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    That just sounds like a reason to use light power like GE 44- or 70-tonners.

Share This Page