Starting a logging railway

Discussion in 'Logging, Mining and Industrial Railroads' started by conor, Nov 29, 2004.

  1. conor

    conor New Member

    Hello everyone, Im new here and also to the world of model railways.

    I am starting my first railway after christmas and have decided to start with a logging type railway. I want to do a model of my own creation based in the era of Diesel Locomotives of about the 60s/70s USA. I have come up with a track plan, and have a fair idea of all the wiring etc but now comes the problem of choosing the correct train. I want this model to be a very true to life model even though it doesnt represent anywhere in existence (hope you follow me) My problem is i dont know hich locomotive to pick. I want a good locomotive at a reasonale price (under $50), but i dont know which one to pick, i've bee looking at and have seen some nice locmotives at reasonable prices but im not sure if the markings (Santa Fe, Union Pacific etc.) are right for the type of model i want to create. So basically i need help to pick a locomotive with the correct decals. Any suggestions? Ho is the sacle of choice by the way.
  2. neilmunck

    neilmunck Member

    Welcome to the gauge :)

    I am more of a steam man than diesel however from what I have gathered over the years;

    If you want a diesel loco for a logging layout in the 60's/70's the type of thing you are after would be a second hand switcher or first generation GP bought from a larger railroad.

    As a resullt you can get a loco lettered in Southern Pacific or Union Pacific or Great Northern or any railroad that opperated in the area you are modelling at that time. The logging railraod would probably just stencil their markings on top of the existing paint.

    This makes it easy for you as to give your layout identity you can add decal initials easily to your loco but the original paint that still shows will give visitors a clue as to where your layout is set geographically.

    I was very unimpressed by the selection of Athearn "Blue Box" locomotives on the internettrains site and walthers doesn't have much either ( i think they are being dropped from their product line :mad: ) but have a look in a local model shop (if you have one :eek: ). Failing that you might have to pay more ($80).
    would all be appropriate (in my mind) and i know the Atlas models are very nice

    I hope this helps some
  3. conor

    conor New Member

    thanks thats a great help. I really cant wait to get started now, i'm fairly sure of what im buying but i just need to finalize my track plan first. Thanks again.
  4. neilmunck

    neilmunck Member

    glad I could help.

    This is a great forum for getting help but be aware that everything said is just someones opinion and it can be wrong. Sometimes they don't read the question properly ( I have just read you thread on flexitrack :) so you know what i mean :D ).

    If you need any help drop a line
  5. conor

    conor New Member

    thanks again. and thanks for linking the two threads together.
  6. Summit

    Summit Member


    Welcome to The Gauge. Feel free to ask away here.

    Here's my take on your question.

    There were very few logging railroads that survived into the diesel era. Those that did generally fit a single mold...a reload center at one end of the line where logs were brought in from the woods by trucks and were re-loaded onto railcars, and the sawmill at the other end of the line. Some logging railroads served more than one reload, but one was the norm.

    Here is a quick (possibly incomplete) list of logging railroads that survived and the diesels they purchased. Locomotives purchased new are denoted (N) and locomotives purchased used are denoted (U)


    Hammond, Samoa, CA- 1 Alco S-1 (N), 1 EMD SW-900 (N)
    Pickering, Standard- 4 SW-9's (N)
    McCloud River- 1 GE 70-ton (N) plus two Baldwin S-12 switchers leased from the McCloud River Railroad
    Pacific Lumber Co., Scotia- 2 Baldwin VO-type switchers (U) and 3 GE 80-ton switchers (N)


    Southwest Forest Industries, Flaggstaff- 1 Baldwin S-12 (U)


    Weyerhaeuser, Longview- Multiple EMD SW-type switchers, mostly new
    Weyerhaeuser, Vail- had 3 Fairbanks-Morse switchers (N), plus an Alco C-415 (N) and a couple GP-7's in later years (U). See Below.
    Schafer Brothers, Shelton area- 1 Alco S-1 (N)
    Simpson Timber, Shelton- 1 EMD SW-900 (N), 3 EMD SW-1200's (2 N, 1 U), 1 Alco S-2 (U), 1 Alco S-4 (U)
    Rayonier, Grays Harbor- 5 Baldwin AS-616's (U)
    Rayonier, Sieku- 3 Baldwin S-12's (2 N, 1 U)


    Coos Bay Lumber Company, Powers- 3 SW-1200's (N)
    Brooks-Scanlon, Bend- 2 Alco S-3 (N)
    Edward Hines, Seneca- 4 Baldwin AS-616s (U) plus 2 Alco S-3 (U)
    Weyerhaeuser Springfield- 4 or 5 GE 70-tonners (U)
    Weyerhaeuser Sutherlin- 1 Baldwin S-8 (U) and 1 Whitcomb 80-ton (?)
    Weyerhaeuser Klamath Falls- 2 Baldwin S-8 and 2 Baldwin DS-4-4-750's (all N), later replaced with three GP-9's (U)
    Medford Corp., Medford, 1 Baldwin S-8 (N)


    Potlatch, 3 Whitcomb 65-ton centercabs (all N)

    British Columbia (Vancouver Island)

    Comox/Crown Zellerbach- 1 Baldwin VO-type switcher, later replaced with a pair of Alco RS-type road switchers (all used)
    Canadian Forest Products- Woss/Beaver Cove- 4 EMD SW-1200's (3 N, 1 U)

    I'm sure I missed some here, and I may have gotten some models slightly off, but this should give you a pretty good idea of what kind of diesels were used in logging. Your "typical" logging locomotive would be a switcher type, usually in the 800-1200 horsepower range, usually either from General Motors-Electro Motive Division (EMD) or from Baldwin. Many of these locomotives had special features not found on most locomotives of the switcher type, such as dynamic brakes and larger fuel tanks, which forced air reservoirs onto the top of the unit hoods.

    Here are some links to some pictures of some locomotives specially equipped for logging service, mostly from Rob Jacox's Western Rails website.

    Coos Bay Lumber Company EMD SW-1200's, specially equipped with dynamic brakes and roof-mounted air reservoirs:

    Weyerhaeuser's Baldwins assigned to their Klamath Falls operations (base of rail operations was at Sycan, OR; logging railroad went 45 miles north from Sycan, and logs were forwarded to the mill at Klamath Falls by the Weyerhaeuser-owned common carrier Oregon California & Eastern). Note the spark arrestors on these units:

    A whole slew of photographs taken one cold morning at the Sycan shop complex by Jimmy Bryant and posted on his Loggers, Railroads and Pine site"

    Be sure to click on all the photos to see the larger images. Both the power for the logging railroad and the power for the Oregon California & Eastern are seen.

    Weyerhaeuser EMD GP-9, at Sycan, which replaced the Baldwins:

    Simpson Timber Company's SW-900 and SW-1200's:

    This is an index page, with LOTS of thumbnails on it. Click on each thumbnail to view a larger image. There are a couple Simpson shots up near the top (the SW-900 and an Alco switcher), but if you scroll down towards the bottom of the page there are five more photos of the EMD's. These units have dynamic brakes (except for the #1202) and normal sized fuel tanks.

    Weyerhaeuser Longview roster:

    Contains roster information and photos for just about every locomotive used on Weyerhaeuser's Longview line. This railroad hauled enormous amounts of timber up until 1980, when the eruption of Mt St. Helens destroyed just about all of the timberlands tributary to this railroad. The railroad remains active today hauling woodchips and rough cut lumber between a couple Weyco mills, but it is no longer a logging railroad.

    Weyerhaeuser had an extensive logging railroad operation south and east of Tacoma, centered around the Vail, WA area. I won't go into the entire history here, because it is a long long that a publisher is currently in the process of working on a THREE VOLUME SERIES OF BOOKS about this one operation. Anyway, in addition to the private logging railroad there were a couple common carrier lines that were part of the overall operation- the first was the Chehalis Western, which lasted up until around 1976, when it was replaced by the Curtis Milburne & Eastern, which lasted until 1980. In that year the Chicago Milwaukee St. Paul & Pacific Railroad abandoned their entire mainline from Miles City, MT to Tacoma, which was the largest single railroad abandonment up to that time. Weyco had depended heavily on the Milwaukee for a good portion of it's log movements, and to protect that transportation source Weyerhaeuser purchased roughly 200 miles of track and around 500 log flats from the Milwaukee after it shut down. Weyerhaeuser created a new Chehalis Western to run the railroad, which they equipped with four new GP38-2 diesels purchased new from General Motors, which joined a couple of GP-9's and an Alco C-415 inherited from the previous operations. For pictures of these units, visit Rob Jacox's website about the Chehalis Western at:

    Potlatch Corp. was also dependent on the Milwaukee to support their operations in St. Maries, Idaho, and as such they purchased around 100 miles of track after the MILW shut down and created a new shortline railroad, the St. Maries River Railroad, to operate that line. The St. Maries was equipped with five locomotives (3 GP-9's, 2 SW-1200's) purchased from the Milwaukee, plus several hundred log flats and a bunch of other equipment.

    For motive power, I would suggest looking at either the Athearn EMD SW-7 or SW-1500 or Baldwin S-12. These are good running and good looking locomotives. If you are willing to spend a little more, then I would strongly encourage you to look at any one of the Stewart Baldwin switchers (DS-4-4-1000, VO-660 or VO-1000, S-8, S-12) or one of the Life-Like Proto 2000 switchers (SW-9/1200, SW-8/900, Alco S-1) or one of the Atlas Alco switchers (S-2, S-3, etc.). They are a little bit more expensive than the Athearn locomotives, but they are MUCH better runners and are much more highly detailed. I would recommend getting an undecorated model if you can and creating your own paint scheme- solid yellow or solid orange were common on logging diesels, or something with bright visible colors.

    Finally, there are a couple resources you should look at getting. Railroad Model Craftsman magazine did a four part series on Pacific Coast Logging that appeared in the January-April 1984 issues. January issue carried an overview of Pacific Coast logging, including a discussion of different forest types and how that affected the types of logging that went on in each one; February issue was about the steam locomotives used in logging; March was about the equipment used on logging railroads during the steam era; and April was about the diesel era of logging railroads. You will definately want to get your hands on the April issue, and it is worth it to get the other three as well. Walthers a few years ago came out with their "Trees and Trains" series that produced a series of models based on the forest products industries, and they produced a book "Trains, Tracks and Tall Timber" or something close to that. It does contain quite a few mistakes and leaves a lot to be desired, but it is one of the best collections of diesel era logging railroad photos available in any source. There are a couple good books about specific regional areas that contain good information on diesel loggers, specifically Logging By Rail by Robert Turner (about Vancouver Island, B.C.) and Logging to the Salt Chuck by Pete Replinger and John Labbe, which is about the Simpson Timber company and railroad out of Shelton, WA. CTC Board did a seven part series on diesel loggers in the mid- to late-1980's...the seven operations covered were Simpson, Chehalis Western, Canadian Forest Products, Camas Prairie, St. Maries River, Weyerhaeuser Springfield (OR), and Weyerhaeuser Klamath Falls (including the Oregon California & Eastern). I don't have the specific issues at hand right now, but will be able to provide them in about a week if you are interested. There are two magazines out there that are entired devoted to logging railroads, Tall Timber Short Lines ( and Timber Times ( Finally, I recommend that you join the Yahoo 4L e-mail group (Loyal Legion of Logged-on Loggers). It is a good, friendly group.

    A good source for back issues of any magazines that I mentioned in Railpub (

    I hope you find this interesting, and I apologize for making it this long. I should also put in a plug here for my own website- (McCloud River Lumber Company, McCloud River Railroad Company, McCloud Railway Company). It was a logger up until 1963.

    I hope this helps, and if you have any questions just ask away. I will try not to overwhelm you next time.

    JD Moore
    Elko, NV
  7. conor

    conor New Member

    right, well i want a train to fit in with the era of the following two pieces of scenery. The woodland scenics plank and tie mill and the woodland scenics coal mine. Im building a valley type layout with logging in the mountains to the side. Its going to have a town that will grow in size over time but for now my main plan is to just set up the industries. I was thinking of possibly going back to the late steam era to fit in with the buildings (and anyway i think id prefer steam) what was a typical steam train used by smaller logging and mining companies in rural areas? i was thinking this bachmann maybe, or maybe a different 2-6-0. what do you think.

    By the way, thanks very much summit for the very detailed help, im really sorry that after all your long typing ive changed my mind to steam.
  8. conor

    conor New Member

  9. conor

    conor New Member


    to post yet again, but i thought id share my plans with you, i just hope this uploads. its pretty simple. there will be a valley with hills to each side and a river flowwing through it. The blue lines are the rails, the black lines are the roads. The town is beside the lake and will eventually grow and spread out as more money becomes available. This plan is 9ft wide and 6ft deep. My main focus to start will be getting the wiring done (probably going to need lots of help with this stage, getting the terrain formed, laying track, and setting up my little industries (coal and logging).

    Now ive got a question that i thought about today, im purchasing this pretty much all from the internet and will be getting the products shipped from the states. Ive got experience doing this with guitars and watches so i know the whole customs and tax etc stuff. But my problem is with the power pack. If i buy a power pack from the US and just get a voltage converter it will work fine won't it?

    so without further ado heres the plan, any suggestions welcome,

    im an adventurous person so have decided to jump right in at the deep end with regards creating tunnels, water, gradients, bridges etc. I have lots of experience working with LEGO (i even have the LEGO train) so hopefully that will help a bit.


    Attached Files:

  10. Summit

    Summit Member


    Not a problem! There's no crime in changing your mind...

    I'm not an electronics expert by any means, but you should be okay with your electronics with a converter. What part of the world are you from?

    As to steam locomotives...You will want to set your sights (and price limit) a little higher than you would have with diesels. With steam, you do get what you pay for. If you are looking for something that has a lot of life to it, then be prepared to part with a little bit of money.

    First, a quick background. "Normal" steam locomotives like the one you had a link to were good machines in many ways, but they did have some serious drawbacks when it came to logging railroads. Understand that your typical railroad was built to a certain level of permanence...the massive initial costs associated with building the railroad were expected to be recovered over a period of many years of operation. Most railroads were built to stay, and as such a great deal of engineering and earthwork went into their construction. Logging railroads were a different story, as the railroad built may only last for a year or two before the area it served would be cut out (i.e., all of the harvestable timber has been logged) and then the railroad would have served it's purpose and it would be scrapped, with the rails re-used to build the next railroad into the next stand of timber to be harvested. Sometimes ties were re-used, but more often than not they were left in place. As a result loggers tended to skimp on railroad construction, doing as absolutely little earthwork as possible, and often grades would be incredibly steep and curves very sharp. Also, trackwork was temporary at best, which meant lighter rail, fewer ties, and often times no ballast work at all. Your normal, direct drive steam locomotive was generally not flexible enough to cope with these conditions, and loggers quickly were forced to create more suitable locomotives on their own.

    One inventive loggers was a man named Ephriam Shay, who logged on the Michigan Penninsula. Over a period of several years he fashioned his own logging locomotive. On your "normal" steam locomotive, steam from the boiler is passed through two cylinders, one on each side, that drive the main rod, that is connected to a side rod, that turn the driving wheels. Shays' locomotive mounted the cylinders vertically on the right side of the boiler, pointed downward. The cylinders drove a coupled drive shaft that went the length of the locomotive, and the drive shaft drove each axle directly through a series of gears. Shay got a patent on his locomotive, which he sold in due course to Lima Locomotive Works in Lima, Ohio. Lima went on to build something in excess of 2,700 Shays of all sizes and types. Most ended up in logging and mining operations, with the majority in logging. The Shay locomotive was the dominant locomotive in what became the "geared" steam market. Many other manufacturers built their own geared locomotives, but only two were able to reasonably compete with the Shay, the Climax and the Heisler. Climax was the second most popular, and it featured two cylinders on each side of the locomotive, mounted up on the side of the boiler and pointed towards the ground at a 45 degree angle. These two cylinders drove a shaft that went crosswise underneath the boiler, which through a geared drove a drive shaft that went the length of the locomotive down the centerline. This shaft drove each axle through a system of gears. The third type of geared locomotive was the had two cylinders that were mounted in a "V" arrangement, with the point of the V underneath the boiler. Like the Climax the cylinders drove a drive shaft that went the length of the locomotive on the centerline, but on the Heisler the drive shaft drove only one axle on each truck, with the other axle driven by a side rod. There was a fourth manufacturer, Willamette, that build around two dozen Shay-type locomotives at their plant in Portland, OR, after the original Shay patent expired and was not renewed by Lima. To see examples of each type of locomotive, go to the following website:

    Note the menu on the left hand side of the screen...if you scroll down through that, in the Equipment section at the top, you will see links to the pages on the site for Heisler, Climax, Willamettes, and numerous Shay pages grouped by owner's first letter.

    So far, the Shay has been made twice in plastic. Model Die Casting (Roundhouse) made a Shay kit in both two and three truck versions years ago, which can still be found today but are tricky to put together. MDC products are available only through Horizon Hobbies now, and if you go that route be sure to get the guide on how to build the Shay from Oso Press ( However, I would recommend that you look at the 80-ton, 3-truck Shay that Bachmann produced a couple years back in their Spectrum line. Here's a link to the Bachmann Shay in Internet Trains:

    Don't let the price scare you off, however, as if you search around a little bit you can find it for $125. This is above what you are looking for price wise, but YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED. This is a beautiful model, arguably one of the best steam locomotives ever produced in HO scale.

    There is also a 2- and 3-truck Heisler available from Rivarossi now. They are a little too big for what they were supposed to be, and they were expensive when they first came out, but the price has come down if you know where to look. Right now Trainworld/Trainland in advertising the 2-truck Heisler at $89.99 apiece...check out , then scroll down until you see them. These are nice models also, but not quite as nice as the Bachmann Shay.

    Bachmann is also coming out with a Climax in the near future. The two truck model is due out early next year, with the three-truck version due out at some point after that.

    If you absolutely cannot stand the appearance (or cost) of the geared steam locomotives, then what you had a link to (the Bachmann 0-6-0) would be a good choice. Rod locomotives used in logging service tended to be smaller, with small drive wheels. 2-6-2's and 2-8-2's were the most common wheel arrangements seen, and having both the pilot and trailing trucks made them equally adept at going forwards or backwards (rod-type locomotives without pilot trucks had a greater tendancy to de-rail the drivers).

    I've gone on long enough with this...I hope that this gives you a starter. If you are interested in learning more about geared steam, do internet searches for Climax, Heisler, Shay, Geared Steam, etc...there is a wealth of info out there on the web. I still recommend the two magazines (Tall Timber Short Lines and Timber Times) and the four-part series on Pacific Coast Loggers in the 1984 RMC's.

    I hope this helps...

    JD Moore
    Elko, NV
  11. neilmunck

    neilmunck Member

    Hi Conor - if you are not in the USA and use a different voltage where are you???

    I am in the UK where we use 230V so I buy all my mains powered stuff here to aviod all the problems with voltage. What voltage do you run at? I would assume something near 240V at 60Hz. The 115V stuff runs on 50Hz so the voltage converters don't work perfectly. It is adequate but costs more than just getting one locally. Alternatively you can build a power pack quite easily and a lot more cheaply. A friend of mine did it last week. I can get the parts list and circuit diagram if you want - it is not too hard.

    The plan looks good to me but you have to be able to reach all the track so can you walk all the way around it? If so would the space be better used as a "walk in" layout where the trains go around the sides of the room and you stand in the middle looking out? You could have a penninsula sticking into the middle of the room if you wanted.

    good choice on going for a steam loco - they are so much more fun!

    The loco you have suggested is an old style Bachmann loco and a piece of junk compared to their new stuff. It is also not really appropriate for logging. Look at Marc Reusser's site for excellent photos.

    I think (know?) you would be much more satisfied with the appearance and perfomance of although it is maybe too expensive
    or which is even lettered for a logging company :thumb:

  12. conor

    conor New Member

    thanks for the advice people.i like that bachmann spectrum neil. i might just get that. as for the walkin thing, i was thinking about access just last night. Im going to work on a way of getting to the middle but space isnt a huge problem. Ive got an entire attic at my disposal, (its floored area is 15ft wide by 30ft long. I have access space to access all around the layout but the 3ft reach to the centre might need modification. I'll see.

    Oh by the way im in ireland.
    I lookied at a hornby controller/power pack form a UK store. How do the dual controllers work? I'll definately be expanding the number of trains in the future so should i look into a dual controller? But i was thinking that if the train numbr is increased i might start with DCC. Which is better?
  13. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    conor: The Woodland Scenics coal company kit you linked to is NOT a coal mine, but in fact a retailer of coal--coal is dropped off from hoppers sent by a mine, and sold to individuals and businesses who use coal for heat.

    Generally such a coal distributor would not be found on a logging railroad--even in places where coal was used for steam engines, loggers generally used wood instead because fuel was lying around in piles at the worksites!

    If you know you want to have multiple engines running at the same time, you probably want to go DCC. To keep things simple now, just get a single controller-a dual controller requires two sets of wiring and a set of switches that allow you to switch a section of track from one controller to the other--all of which becomes redundant and unnecessary if you go to DCC later.

    About your track plan--Unless you have the arms of an orangutan you will NOT be able to reach the middle of that track plan. Generally no point on your layout should be more than two feet from the edge of the layout or some sort of access hole.
  14. conor

    conor New Member

    thanks for pointing that coal thing out jetrock. i know that coal mines were not generally found on logging railroads, but im basically setting up a mainline that will be common for logging and coal at the moment and in the future i will introduce a passenger service.
  15. neilmunck

    neilmunck Member

    So you are in Ireland eh?

    NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO don't buy from the states as it takes ****ing forever to arrive and you have to pay VAT and shipping (the standard charge for Walthers stuff overseas is $20 plus 20% of the order value! )

    I get my stuff for Macs Modelrailroading in Helensburgh - not a million miles from Glasgow :)

    Their url is According to thier postage information you won't have to pay any tax or anything as this is within the EU. You just pay what the list price is.

    DCC is way too expensive for me. I use a Gaugemaster Powerpack and extra controller on a cord (called a walkaround controller because you can, well, walk around with it) and cab control. This means that the track is split into electrically isolated sections and a switch on the control panel controls which controller is linked to which section of track. I need a picture really.


    PS. have a look at Mac's site. You get very good service from them and it should arrive in less than a week with no hidden charges.
  16. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    conor: Just so you know that the Woodland Scenics kit you are ordering is NOT in fact a coal mine, but rather a coal seller.

    Another bit about logging railroads: Most logging railroads were owned by lumber companies, and their business was selling lumber, not railroading. Generally they didn't handle freight or passengers, other than carrying logging crews and equipment to and from job sites.

    One thing you might consider: Logging railroads generally did not carry their products to market--the railroad line was there to bring logs to the mill, and lumber was sold via a connection to another railroad. Since it sounds like you want to make a common-carrier railroad (a railroad that carried assorted freight to and from different places), you might consider the lumber mill you want to build to be that interchange point--rather than have your trains actually going up to logging sites to bring logs to the mill, those logs are brought down from the hills to the mill by a different railroad (which you can represent by leading some narrow-gauge track up into the hills, out of sight of the viewer.

    Incidentally, you asked earlier about period-appropriateness of that Woodland Scenics tie mill kit--considering that most WS stuff is intended for early 20th Century settings, I'd say that if you are modeling anything later than around 1940 (which means just about anything diesel) then it might look a little out of place--quaint, if not anachronistic. Walthers makes a fairly nice modern lumber-mill kit that is considerably larger (but not huge) and doesn't cost that much more--and I'm sure there are other lumber mill kits in your price range with more modern fittings.
  17. conor

    conor New Member

    thanks jetrock. neil i know that i have to pay vat and shipping but have pretty reasonable shipping. like i said before im familiar with shipping from the states and anyway you dont always get taxed, its a kind of order and hopew situation. the shipping takes 5-7 days according to the site. i will look at the sit you gave me but i will still more than likely order form the states.

    by the way i found another mill that might be good, i decided to put the coal mine on hold for another while and give a bigger budget to the logging. i also modified the plan a little and i'll post it later for all of ye to see, it uses the idea of a common rail i n some parts but when the logging train goes into the hills (main logging areas) it will go onto a different rail. i also decided to put in a bridge that will span the river valley from the top left to the bottom right but in a little bit, it will link onto the previously drawn rail before it goes over the bridge. then when i expand in the future the expansion will come in form the top left through a tunnel. should be good.

    well when i said i found a mill i really meant i fopund a few mills. Here they are: (not sure if this will be able to fit in to an american scene, its kind of european looking, what do you think?) (does this come with the rest of the roof?) (i think this is the one yoju suggested jetrock, isn't it?)
  18. Summit

    Summit Member

    Too add onto a couple things that jetrock said...

    1. One of the biggest problems in modeling logging railroads is space for a sawmill, if you want to include one. Like many other U.S. industries, sawmills started out small and became much larger as the markets for finished lumber and the means to transport that lumber became more readily available. In the first years of sawmilling it was not uncommon for sawmills to be very small affairs that would remain in one area until the timber available to it was cut out, and then that sawmill would be moved on to the next stand of timber, often by a new owner. The lumber cut at these sawmills were generally made for only local use, and most of the trees processed at these mills were close enough that they could be brought to the mill by teams of horses or oxen...these operations were too small to justify the great expense of building, equipping and operating railroads. Most of the commercially available sawmills are of these earlier, smaller sawmills, which were just too small to support a logging railroad.

    As the lumber industry consolidated and moved towards bigger mills, moving the mills became harder and harder. Sawmills intended to be stationary soon came into existence. The problem with a stationary sawmill is that it will cut through all of the timber immediately available to it in a very short time period, meaning that trees have to be brought to the mill from ever increasing distances to keep the operation going. Loggers recognized early on the value of railroads in transporting logs, and soon railroads became vital in the continued existence of most mills simply because there was not any other way to effectively get the timber to the mill in sufficient quantities to keep the mill operating. Building, equipping and operating railroads cost a lot of money, and as a result the sawmill (and the attached railroads) had to be in operation long enough and create enough of a cash flow to warrant the high initial investment costs.

    The Walthers mill suggested by jetrock ( is large enough to appear to warrant a logging railroad, but not so large that it overwhelms available space. In addition to this kit Walthers made a couple other intended to go along with it, a planing mill ( and Sawmill Outbuildings ( Sawmills by themselves tend to produce only rough cut lumber, which must be run through a planer to produce the smooth dimensional lumber that you buy at your local lumber retailer. More often than not a planing mill (or planer) is located in the same complex as the sawmill, but if it is not than the rough cut lumber produced by the sawmill must be transported to the planing mill. The sawmill outbuildings would be valuable to you mostly for the debarker, which removes bark from each log before going into the sawmill. In the era you are looking at now most of the waste from the sawmill would have gone into the wigwam burner to be burned...the commercial use of woodchips was just starting to come into play, so the woodchip loaders were not common.

    The planing mill is no longer available from Walthers, but it is still in stock in many hobby shops around the U.S. Otherwise, you could easily scratchbuild one out of sheet styrine.

    2. I'll second what he said about logging railroads not usually being in the business of carrying anything but logs. However, it was very common for lumber companies to own their own shortline railroad, in addition to their private logging railroad. The private logging railroad was used to bring raw logs out of the hills to the sawmill, with the shortline being used to transport the finished lumber to the connection with a mainline railroad. This situation was very common, especially in the west. Kinzua Pine Mills in Kinzua, Oregon had a private logging railroad that extended from their sawmill into the timberlands that supported the town, and lumber was transported to a connection with the Union Pacific over the common carrier shortline that KPM owned, the Condon Kinzua & Southern Railroad. The McCloud River Lumber Company had it's own common carrier subsidiary, the McCloud River Railroad Company. In the early years the lumber company owned the railroad nearly outrights, and when it relinquished direct ownership of the railroad it did so by turning the railroad's stock that it owned directly over to the lumber company's stockholders, which meant that for many years the lumber company and the railroad company were essentially owned by the same group of stockholders. Although the two companies remained technically separate from each other, they did maintain a close relationship. The railroad did come to own a great amount of former lumber company trackage, and into the mid-1960's the primary traffic hauled by the railroad was raw logs received from the lumber company's private railroad and transported to the sawmill. Another example was the Michigan-California Lumber Company, which had a sawmill in Camino, CA, that was fed by a large network of logging railroads owned and run by the lumber company, with the shortline Camino Placerville & Lake Tahoe transporting finished lumber to a connection with the Southern Pacific at Placerville, CA.

    If the sawmill was not located on a line of a major railroad, it was very advantageous for the lumber company to own it's own common-carrier shortline. Common carrier status (which is a legal term) allowed a railroad to collect revenues for all traffic moved over it's rails and also allowed the comany certain other rights such as condemnation of land for right-of-ways, but it also had it's drawbacks, the biggest one being that the railroad was very closely regulated by state and federal regulators. However, many lumber companies took a great deal of pride in the fact that they owned and operated a "real" railroad in addition to their private logging railroads.

    What does this all mean to you? It means that you can easily have two separate operations represented on your layout, a private logging railroad and a shortline railroad, connected with the same sawmill. Your common carrier railroad would easily handle other traffic in addition to the lumber produced by the sawmill, including passengers. One thing to look at though...on many shortlines, if not most, dedicated passenger trains were largely a thing of the past by the mid- to late-1930's. By that time people were using their own autos or riding busses. A good many shortlines did maintain passenger services using small, self-propelled railbuses, such as this one made by Walthers (

    I hope this helps you out and is of use to you.

    JD Moore
    Elko, NV
  19. conor

    conor New Member

    hi again i got around to modifying the plan. im thinking of definately going with jetrocks lumber mill suggestion, any opinions on this mill though, i looks very impressive

    i think i need to explain this plan. right so we'll start our journey in the top left hand corner. basically a train will come from here (from my expansion in future), it will be a main line passenger train. it will come down the track, over the bridge (in red, B beside it) then it will go straight through a tunnel(in orange, T under it) then it will take a turnout to the left. It wil then loop around by where the town will go (next to the lake) then go by the left of the lake where it will meet with another line coming from up above. The two merged lines will then move down by the sawmill, (one of the merged lines will be used by the loggers) the mainline will then go back out onto the track and through the tunnel again and then leave this current section, of my overall vision(to be done at a much later date), at the bottom roght corner of the map. The logging train will leave the sawmill and travel down the mainline train tracks a little but will fork off to the left onto its own track, it will travel this track over as far as the existing track going up the left hand side of the map. it will once again continue straight on and go onto its own track and the existing planned track will take a s king of bend, then a full bend then go straight and eventually end up where the mainline trains would have started on this section.

    So everyones confused then?

    The logging train will only be on the mainline for the tiny bit from the logging area in the mountains at the top of the map down to the turnout for the other logging area at the bottom of the map. The other half of the oval will be used by a freight train to carry coal form the mine that im putting in at the top of the map near the bridge(thats for the future though) and it will also carry other freight and lumber on the mainline to the city that i plan on building as a different section in the future once this section is done.

    i hate to say this but im considering the idea of going back to deisel locos as they are
    1. cheaper
    2. easier to fit into my idea
    3. easier to find other things like sawmills and other structures to go with

    unfortunately the do look much nicer than the diesels but hey, nothings perfect.

    anyway i hope this map uploads.

    Attached Files:

    • rm1.JPG
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  20. conor

    conor New Member

    sorry i should point out that the pink line running above the tunnel should go on passed where it turns back out. it should turnout at the next blue line instead. oh and you might notice i have simplified the design (less turnouts etc) aswell

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