Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Logging Photographs - Getting Logs out of the Woods

A month from now I will be presenting at the Michigan Alliance for Environmental and Outdoor Education annual conference in Sault Sainte Marie, MI.  This will be the second time that I have presented at the MAEOE conference.  In 2014, I gave a presentation titled "Teaching With and About Michigan's Wildflowers".  This year my program is on Michigan's Logging History from the 1850s to the 1920s.  Teaching about history may seem out of place at an environmental and outdoor education conference, but Michigan's history and environment are inseparably intertwined.  The Michigan that we see today is completely different than it was when the first Europeans explored the state.  The vast forests that once covered the state were almost entirely logged off during the latter half of the nineteenth century.  I have written several previous posts about the logging industry.

Days Gone By - Logging Photos

Michigan Logging Photos

More Logging Photos

Logging Tools Part 1 - Axe and Saw

Anatomy of an Axe 

One thing that always amazes me about the early logging industry is the way that they not only embraced technological change but also were innovators in their own right.  Logging was hard physical labor and the men in the lumber camps constantly sought ways to make their work both easier and more efficient.

During the earliest years of Michigan's lumber industry, the majority of logging was done during the winter.  Winter was the easiest time of year to move logs in the woods.  Sleighs pulled by draft horses could move heavy loads containing many board-feet over iced roads through the woods.  The logs were then deposited in banking grounds along the state's many rivers where they would be floated to the sawmills during the spring floods.

Part of a logging crew standing around a small load of logs in northern Michigan

River hogs prying logs loose from the shore during a river drive

Logging in this manner had some advantages.  It was relatively inexpensive and did not require much infrastructure.  However, logging in hilly terrain was difficult and many areas were too far from rivers to log efficiently.

Towing a load uphill often required the additional pulling power of a second team of horses

Even with these disadvantages, the use of horse-drawn sleighs and river drives remained popular throughout Michigan's logging era.  Even though the use of sleighs continues, the methods evolved over time.  For much of the period, logs were loaded onto sleighs by a method called cross-hauling.  Cross-hauling involved propping a pair of hardwood logs against the side of the sleigh and using a chain pulled by a team of horses to slide the log up this improvised ramp and onto the sleigh.  A pair of loaders equipped with cant hooks helped guide the log into place.

Cross-hauling was a long-used method of loading logging sleighs

Over time, many lumber camps introduced the use of jammers.  A jammer is a tripod or derrick used for lifting rather than dragging the log onto the sleigh.  Hooks were driven into both ends of a log and attached to a wire cable running through a system of pulleys.  Horses pulling on the end of the cable lifted the log atop the sleigh.  A pair of hardwood logs would still be propped against the sleigh creating a ramp to guide the logs, but the majority of the effort was directed upward rather than across the sleigh.  Although this method required more equipment, it was much more efficient than cross-hauling and could be used to stack loads higher than the old method.

A jammer loading logs near Mackinaw City, MI

Efforts were made to log during the summer, but the use of horse-drawn wagons was considered very inefficient.  Only a few logs (sometimes only one large log) could be loaded on a wagon at a time.  The rough conditions of logging roads also damaged the wagons on a regular basis.

Summer logging with wagons was not very efficient as only a few logs could be hauled at a time.

The invention of "high wheels" near Manistee, MI allowed summertime logging to become more efficient.  These pairs of large (up to 11 ft diameter) spoked wheels could be used to suspend logs off the ground and roll them across the rough terrain more easily.

High wheel, also known as big wheels or katydids in use near Stanton, MI

Michigan lumbermen were the earliest in the country to adopt the use of railroads for logging.  Although there is some debate as to which purpose-built logging railroad was constructed first, one of several in mid-Michigan can probably lay claim to the title.

The Lake County Railroad operated between the Pere Marquette and Manistee Rivers in northwest Michigan

The adoption of railroads allowed the lumber companies to log areas that had previously been too far from rivers to be economically viable.  Over time, logging railroads allowed removals of most of the previously inaccessible timber across the state.  These railroads often operated for only a few years before being abandoned when timber resources were used up.

A narrow logging railroad cut through the woods near Cadillac, MI

Sawmills in some communities were supplied by both river and railroad
Methods used to load trains were the same as those used to load sleighs, cross-hauling and jamming.  The photo below shows a swing jammer with a pivoting arm that lift logs off to the side of the train and then swing around to lower them straight down atop the train cars.

A swing jammer in use in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

In addition to the railroads, lumbermen were quick to adopt steam power in many forms.  Steam engines powered sawmills throughout the Great Lakes.  Stationary "donkey" engines were used to drag and lift logs on logging sites.  Around 1900 the steam crawler was developed.  Running on a continuous steel track, the stem crawler could take the place of many teams of horses pulling sleighs through the woods.  The first crawlers were steered by a team of horses that when before the steam engine.  Later models were directed by a driver who steered a pair of track placed in front of the treads.

A steam crawler used to haul lumber in the western Upper Peninsula

Steam was also eventually used as a replacement for horsepower for loading logs onto the railroads.  Some steam jammers were built stationary next to the railroad sidings.  Other jammers were placed on railcars and could load trains anywhere along the track.

A steam jammer grasps a load of logs in this photo from northeast Wisconsin

Eventually, toward the end of Michigan's logging era, steam powered equipment was replaced by gasoline engines. 

A gasoline powered Holt Tractor hauling logs in northern Michigan

Even with the introduction of new technologies, the use of water to float logs remained a popular option throughout the Lake States (Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota).  Floating logs was a cheap option and the logs were often stored behind booms in the rivers until the sawmills cut them up

Logs in the Thunder Bay River at Alpena, MI

Some locations were too far removed from sawmills for transport by rail.  In locations along the shores of the Great Lakes these logs were often dumped into the lakes, connected into large rafts and floated to the closest sawmills.

Logging waiting to be rafted near Grand Marais in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

Rafting logs from distant locations allowed some sawmills to remain in operation even when nearby forests were cut down.  Mills in Saginaw and Bay City, MI received logs from as far away as the Canadian shore of Lake Huron and remained in operation for nearly twenty years after local supplies of logs dwindled.

Log rafts in the Saginaw River

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