Small portable sawmill info needed

Discussion in 'Logging, Mining and Industrial Railroads' started by John Hubbard, Jan 30, 2006.

  1. John Hubbard

    John Hubbard New Member

    I'm working on a HOn30 micro logging layout (southeastern USA) and want to include a sawmill, but have limited space - that "micro" thing. I'm thinking that what I want to represent would be a small, portable sawmill setup, perhaps based around the little Woodland Scenics "Rural Sawmill" - see for a picture - or their "Tie and Plank Mill" - see . In either case, I'm thinking about a very small mill that would have been taken into the woods and set up for a specific logging operation, then moved on to the next place, rather than a much more permanent mill.

    What I want to know is how logs and lumber were handled around such a portable mill. Would there have been a mill pond, or would the logs have been manhandled or mule-handled, etc. I plan to have a track to the mill, but don't know if the logs would have been simply dumped on the ground in a handy spot, how cut lumber was handled and loaded onto cars for tranport, etc.

    Thanks for any advice, pictures, diagrams, etc.
  2. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    I don't recall seeing any photos of a logging operation that small. so I would have to guess at the answers to your questions.
    I can see a horse drawn wagon, as a means to get the cut lumber from the "mill" to a waiting flat car. Logs would probably be hauled from the cutting site to the "mill" by a "big wheel"
    The link has a photo of a "big Wheel"(scroll down about eight or so photos).
    There might even be a donkey engine available to hoist the logs off the BW, and put them on the saw.
  3. ironmule2004

    ironmule2004 New Member

    In my area of the south (Arkansas and Louisiana) most of the time the logs were brought out of the woods to a loading area on wagons. They were skidded to the wagons by mules and the poled or rolled onto the wagons at the "log set." The team would drop the load parallel to the wagon and the walk to the opposite side to pull the log up the poles onto the wagon. [​IMG] Most of the railroads around here hauled the logs from the woods to a large mill. One photo that I have, shows the logs being piled up beside the tracks at the logging camp, and then they are loaded again by mules and poles onto the logging train. The large timber companies had large sawmills and they owned most of the land here. The small "Groundhog" mills didn't come into play until more land was privatized. These mills would be set up deep in the woods on a particular tract. Even though mules still skidded the logs to the mill, most of the finished lumber was hauled out of the woods by truck by this time. My grandfather hauled his to a local flooring mill. Mill ponds weren't used either since the logs weren't stored for very long. The logs were cut and hauled with the lumber still "green".
    I couldn't see a railroad bringing logs to one of these little mills. There is no way it could keep up! I could see one of these mills being set as close to a rail line as possible as long as the timber was also close, so that they could ship the lumber out. Im sure that things are done different elsewhere. I was just telling you the way they did it around here. I do think the little mill would be much more interesting than a large mill!

  4. jim currie

    jim currie Active Member

    when a lad a uncle of mine had a peckerwood sawmill he set it up where he was cutting trees down used cables and horses to move logs around loaded cut slabs or boards on a old truck to deliver them to who ever ordered them.he was limited to if i rember to 24 inch trees.
  5. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    If you can find a copy of the current Timber Times (issue #36), there are photos of bull teams "skidding" logs, on a "skid road". Also, a pic of a rubber tired "skidder".
  6. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    The tie & plank mill might be your best bet. Normally, the way that early logging railroads worked is that the logging site moved around, but the mill did not. This doesn't mean that mills can't be small, especially if the product is simple to make--operations like shingle mills could be downright tiny. Mill ponds were common but not universal. A small operation probably wouldn't need one.

    I'd like to see your micro! I have plans to create an HOn30 logging micro of my own and love to see other's visions of them...
  7. John Hubbard

    John Hubbard New Member

    Jetrock, Thanks for the info. You can see my micro plans on my web site at

    There are four pages under that link. The first explains what I want to do. The second shows some ideas I received from other people - feel free to use any if they look good to you. The third shows how I decided to go. And the fourth shows actual work on the layout up to today.

    John Hubbard
  8. Gil Finn

    Gil Finn Active Member

    Ebay is a good bet.
  9. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    In the area where I grew up in the 1940's we had several "gypo" mills. Some were one man operations. Log skidding was done with a farm tractor. there was very minimal equipment in some of the mills. A carriage, a circular head saw, maybe a cutoff saw. The logs were usually rolled onto the carriage with a peevee. One neighbor powered his mill with a Ford flathead V8. There was a minimal cover over the engine and carriage, no walls. The lumber for the roof was cut by the mill and added as time allowed.
  10. RailRon

    RailRon Active Member

    I just discovered that the Tie and Plank Mill, which was mentioned above, just now is on sale at Walthers - today it sells for $27.98 instead $39.98

    Here is the link to Walthers again. Just in case!
    (Don't know how long this sale lasts...)


    PS: Pretty little layout, John! I wonder how it looks when the landscape gets green. :thumb:
  11. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    In the West, logging (2nd half of 19th century) started out with construction of a large mill at the mouth of a river or stream valley. There the river or stream could be dammed to build the mill pond. Mill ponds were essential in the early days 1) because water flows are highly seasonal in the West logs could be transported by water at only certain times of the year, and 2) the dam would stop the logs continuing out to sea or downstream.

    After the trees that could be easily pushed into the stream or river were logged, or it was discovered that some years there just wasn't enough water to push enough logs downstream to the mill, a railway would be built to access more of the trees further up the mountain sides.

    In supporting the railway and the primary mill, the smaller mills would be used to produce everything from firewood to rail ties to shingles to tanbark, and so on. These small mills would be located on site at the log loading (landing) sites in the mountains. Their products would be taken where needed on the railway, and that which was being sold would be taken to the point where the lumber company's main mill would ship its finished product.

    A logging railway was not a permanent thing. Spurs and branches were constantly being added and taken up to go where the logging action was taking place. Every five years or so, the entire main camp would typically be moved (cabins, store, stables, school, machine shops) closer to the action, at a junction of several spurs going up to currently used log landings.

    The above came from reading several books and magazines on a couple of Western logging operations.

    Ron: Thanks for the tip on the sale of the Tie and Plank Mill.
  12. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    Fred, and other logging enthuiasts: Regarding the river logging and log ponds; here in western MT, a 100 year old dam has been recently removed at the town of Bonner at the confluence of the Blackfoot and Clark Fork rivers. Originally the logs were floated to the dam and later the log trains dumped their cargo into the pond. The only problem was that the dams at Bonner also impounded a lot of silt from the mining industries around Butte and Helena and loaded the area with heavy metals which are still to be removed after the rivers drop to their original levels.
  13. rfmicro

    rfmicro Member

    John, There is an Aussie outdoor saw mill on ebay. The seller is ON30 Downunder that may provide you some ideas or be worth your attention.announce1

  14. Bucks Owin

    Bucks Owin New Member

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