Saw Mill and Lumber question

Good Morning!
I'm thinking of incorporating a saw mill on my layout, but have a few questions.
1st. Why are the logs put in a pond before cutting?
2nd. Since I'm looking at the late 40's, am I correct that finished lumber would be shipped by boxcar?
3rd. Was it typical for heavy lumber to be shipped to mines for shoring, or by the late 40's had concrete become the primary method of shoring mine shafts?
My layout is still in the planning stages, so I'd like to eliminate blatant impossibilites early!
Thanks for your help! Greg
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in order:
1) Logs were dumped in ponds for several reasons. First, it made moving them around by hand relatively easy. Secondly, it helped clean them of dirt acquired in dragging them out of the forest (dirt dulls saws quickly). Thirdly, it helped loosen the bark, which was usually removed prior to sawing (bark holds imbedded dirt and rocks).
Today, ponds are unusual. Most mills just 'dry deck' the logs. Modern large log handling machinery make dry log handling easy. Perhaps it's a 'time' issue. The pond was just one more added complication. Logs are still usually debarked before sawing, however.
2) Yes, finished lumber was usually shipped in boxcars. Rough lumber, especially larger sizes, was sometimes shipped by flat car. Today the lumber is often wrapped and shipped on center beam cars.
3) Wooden timbers are still used for shoring and piling, not to mention railroad ties, though steel and concrete are more commonly used today.
Dan Mitchell ========Gcjabber wrote:

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"Daniel A. Mitchell" wrote: <snip>

<snip>
When I worked as a switchman in the 60's, we used to see flats with finished lumber. No cover, just open to the weather. I remember hearing somewhere that lumber companies did this as a cheap way to season the lumber; do it while it was in transit. Anyway, the loads were very unstable. When they got to us they often had pieces falling off the sides, or the load was leaning to the side, or some pieces shifted off the end where they were near-touching the adjacent car. I always wondered why railroads accepted poorly-secured shipments like this.
Paul Welsh

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The pond, like Dan says, is used for several purposes. For modeling, I'd put the pond off the layout with the loading system at the edge of the railroad. The use of boxcars was high back before some of the new cars and the heavy usage of plastic to cover wood products. Nowdays, flat and specialty cars are more used for moving wood about. Heavy timberes (12x12 and larger) are still being made for a lot of different purposes and we now have the laminated stuff also being made. Back in the '40s, the big timbers were a regular thing to ship everywhere as steel and concrete were less used. The '40s were about the end of the Shay era of logging as trucks were pretty much taking over most of the log removal from the forest. Even the big companies had already pretty much stopped railroad operations and converted to trucks. The sad thing is that the last of the logging locos werent fully used up before the trucks had taken over. One thing that I'd suggest is that you do a section of the layout where the rigging is for the moving of the logs from where they fall to the loading area. That rigging is really fairly complex and will really be a standout for your layout and you will be able to spend a fair bit of time describing how the logs are lifted to the loading area and put on the cars.
-- Bob May Losing weight is easy! If you ever want to lose weight, eat and drink less. Works evevery time it is tried!
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snipped-for-privacy@aol.com (Gcjabber), In a message on 24 Nov 2003 16:06:41 GMT, wrote :
G> Good Morning! G> G> I'm thinking of incorporating a saw mill on my layout, but have a few G> questions. G> G> 1st. Why are the logs put in a pond before cutting?
This only relates to the one of the 'old' ways of moving logs from the forest to the mill. Before there were logging trucks, there were rivers (well the rivers are still there, but they now have a ribbon of asphalt running along side). The logs would be dumped into the river and floated down stream to the mill, which would have a 'pond' to hold the logs until they were cut. Note that the old saw mills might be water powered using either a water wheel or (later) a water turbine, so the 'pond' might in fact be an artifact of the mill's power system.
Modern sawmills are diesel or electric powered and the logs are delivered by truck. Whether there is a nearby waterway / river / pond is incidental -- the 'modern' mill might be on the site of an old water powered mill -- the old mill pond might still be there, but not used (by the mill).
G> G> 2nd. Since I'm looking at the late 40's, am I correct that finished lumber G> would be shipped by boxcar? G> G> 3rd. Was it typical for heavy lumber to be shipped to mines for shoring, or by G> the late 40's had concrete become the primary method of shoring mine shafts? G> G> My layout is still in the planning stages, so I'd like to eliminate blatant G> impossibilites early! G> G> Thanks for your help! G> Greg G>
\/ Robert Heller ||InterNet: snipped-for-privacy@cs.umass.edu http://vis-www.cs.umass.edu/~heller || snipped-for-privacy@deepsoft.com http://www.deepsoft.com /\FidoNet: 1:321/153
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You are correct in that some logging operations, especially in the east, delivered their logs to the mill using local rivers. In such cases the 'log pond' might just be a boomed-off 'bay' (wide point) in the river. A few western operations also assembled HUGE ship-like log rafts to transport logs along the seacoast to the larger mills. Some operations also used log flumes to transport either the logs or rough cut lumber to or from the mill. Such water transportation used to transport the logs to the mill, however, has little to do with the popular use of a sawmill log pond to store and handle logs.
The common western logging operation, and many eastern as well, used either railroads or (later) trucks to transport their logs from the woods. When the logs arrived at the mill, they were dumped into the log pond, for the reasons I earlier stated.
The pond cleaned the logs of unwanted debris, saving the saws undue wear (or worse). The pond also allowed a just few 'pond' men to sort, select, and move the heavy logs to the jackslip without using elaborate machinery. The men used long poles, and worked from the shore, or more commonly while riding on the logs. This is where the lumberjack's 'art' of log rolling originated. It took a lot of skill to hop from one floating log to another, while pushing on other logs with the pole, and not fall into the pond. Usually the ponds were only a few feet deep, but the danger of being crushed between the floating logs was considerable.
In some later operations, especially when very large logs were involved, a small one-man pond 'tug' boat was used to maneuver the logs. These usually consisted of a tiny nearly round tub-like boat with a vertical well in the middle through which a large outboard motor was mounted. The motor could be rotated to thrust in ANY direction, regardless of how the boat was oriented.
Dan Mitchell ========Robert Heller wrote:

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In a message on Mon, 24 Nov 2003 11:38:46 -0500, wrote :
"AM> in order: "AM> "AM> 1) Logs were dumped in ponds for several reasons. First, it made moving "AM> them around by hand relatively easy. Secondly, it helped clean them of "AM> dirt acquired in dragging them out of the forest (dirt dulls saws "AM> quickly). Thirdly, it helped loosen the bark, which was usually removed "AM> prior to sawing (bark holds imbedded dirt and rocks). "AM> "AM> Today, ponds are unusual. Most mills just 'dry deck' the logs. Modern "AM> large log handling machinery make dry log handling easy. Perhaps it's a "AM> 'time' issue. The pond was just one more added complication. Logs are "AM> still usually debarked before sawing, however.
This depends on the mill! (I actually worked at a saw mill.) Lots of mills don't bother to debarked the logs. The 'slabs' are not really useful except as fire wood or something. Slab wood is what you get when you first run the *round* log through the *square* saw mill. A cylindrical (slightly tapered) 'slice'. This first cut is waste. Later there are edges as you continue to slice boards and run them through the edger (a machine like a double bladed table saw (one blade can be slid in 1" increments). Eventually the sliced log is rolled 90 or 180 degrees (depends on the log and the sawyer's choice/mood) and another slab is sliced off, and a few more boards. This process is repeated as needed.
I guess the bigger mills would debark the logs.
"AM> "AM> 2) Yes, finished lumber was usually shipped in boxcars. Rough lumber, "AM> especially larger sizes, was sometimes shipped by flat car. Today the "AM> lumber is often wrapped and shipped on center beam cars. "AM> "AM> 3) Wooden timbers are still used for shoring and piling, not to mention "AM> railroad ties, though steel and concrete are more commonly used today.
Oh, the mill I worked at cut railroad ties, shipped by truck to a RR siding and loaded on to a bulkhead car (a flat car with bulkheads at the ends).
"AM> "AM> Dan Mitchell "AM> ========== "AM> "AM> Gcjabber wrote: "AM> > "AM> > Good Morning! "AM> > "AM> > I'm thinking of incorporating a saw mill on my layout, but have a few "AM> > questions. "AM> > "AM> > 1st. Why are the logs put in a pond before cutting? "AM> > "AM> > 2nd. Since I'm looking at the late 40's, am I correct that finished lumber "AM> > would be shipped by boxcar? "AM> > "AM> > 3rd. Was it typical for heavy lumber to be shipped to mines for shoring, or by "AM> > the late 40's had concrete become the primary method of shoring mine shafts? "AM> > "AM> > My layout is still in the planning stages, so I'd like to eliminate blatant "AM> > impossibilites early! "AM> > "AM> > Thanks for your help! "AM> > Greg "AM>
\/ Robert Heller ||InterNet: snipped-for-privacy@cs.umass.edu http://vis-www.cs.umass.edu/~heller || snipped-for-privacy@deepsoft.com http://www.deepsoft.com /\FidoNet: 1:321/153
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On Tue, 25 Nov 2003 01:34:31 +0000, Robert Heller

The new computerized mills in BC scan the logs as they come out of the 'dry sort' yard and calculate the optimum cutting for maximum amount of saleable lumber, they even taking into consideration current market demand for particular sizes. The computer even runs the saw. You will be modeling a way more interesting era.

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One other point I managed to overlook. Today, with logs ponds a rarity, the logs are WASHED. This can be done on the raw logs, or after they are debarked. This removed the embeddeed dirt that is so damaging to the saws. The washing is done by high-pressure water jets in a special machine. Sometimes these pretty effectively debark the logs by themselves.
Dan Mitchell ========Mountain Goat wrote:

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Dan,
Thank you for the excellent description and explanation of the Cass operation. Wow!
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Bob Schwartz
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I suppose debarking depended somewhat on the type of logs being sawed. I have visted many working sawmills, and a several abandoned ones. When working with the larger logs, as was the case in railroad logging days, I believe most lills debarked the logs. This had little to do with making slabs, but was mainly to save the saws.
Today, using mostly much smaller timber, some mills don't bother to debark the logs. This is especially true of the many small portable mills used throughout the country. The eveidence of this can be seen at most lumber yards, where they try to get a 2X4 out of a 5" tree, with the result that the lumber has bark remaing on three sides! NOT good! :-(
The most recent working mill I visited, Pardee and Curtin in West Virginia (not far from Cass), now dry-decks their logs. They used to have a pond. Now the logs are just fed to the mill using a large front-end loader equipped with big tongs to grab the logs. The logs first go to a debarking machine (in a separate small building), then to the sawmill proper. Their head saw (a big bandsaw) is electric powered. All their internal log handling machinery, however, is still steam powered. NEAT!
The explanation for the steam power is that they tried hydraulic machinery (as used in many other mills), and found it too SLOW. It turns out the steam can be pushed through a lot of piping (to operate the cylinders of the machinery) a lot faster than the more dense hydraulic oil. Like most sawmills, P&C also have ample steam available, as it is used to heat their kilns for lumber drying. So, they converted BACK to steam. The steam powers the huge 'shotgun' cylinder that propels the saw carriage, and the various clamping, 'kicking', and log rotating devices used to position and load the logs on the carriage.
The huge saw carriage (with log attached) moves almost unbelievably fast, stopping and returning for the next pass. Today all the machinery ON the carriage is automated. In the old days a man rode the carriage to control the onboard machinery. Talk about a 'thrill' ride! All told, it only takes about a minute to reduce a large log to lumber.
P&C is highly recommended for those who want to experience what an old time sawmill must have sounded, felt, and smelled like. Looking ta the ruins of the huge sawmill at Cass one can then imagine what it must have been like when it was in operation.
I had the grand expedience of studying the interior of the Cass sawmill before it burned to the ground. I spent MANY hours in there, on several trips to Cass, studying how the lumber moved through the mill, and how power was delivered to the many machines. The mill was powered by a huge Corliss steam engine in a separate building, and delivered to the mill by one immense flat leather belt. This drove a long countershaft below the mill floor (the sawing was done on the upper deck). From this primary countershaft belts and secondary shafts extended all over the mill, passing up through the floor at or near the machines being driven. A bewildering array of powered rollways (lumber handling) and conveyors (slabs, chips, and sawdust) ran all over the place.
Cass had two huge band "headsaws", and a slightly smaller band "resaw", plus the usual edgers, and cut-off saws. Planing was done in separate buildings.
Cass was somewhat unique among large mills. In addition to the usual cutting of logs for timber, they also had a 'pulp' operation cutting smaller logs into short lengths for shipment to the paper mill. This operated in a side bay off the main mill structure. Larger slab wood from the mill could also be routed to the 'pulp' room for cutting.
Smaller slabs, chips, and sawdust went to the 'Hog' .. a big chipping machine that ground the wood scrap into appropriate smaller pieces, then it was conveyored up to the top of the boiler house where it was burned to make steam to run the mill.
Most sawmills had a uni-directional lumber flow. The logs came in one end of the mill, were cut, resawn, edged, sorted, perhaps planed and went out the other end of the mill in a finished state, never reversing direction. It was a one direction LINEAR operation.
NOT so at Cass. At cass there were conveyors that returned rough sawn lumber 'upstream', toward the front of the mill. This allowed one "headsaw" to serve as a "resaw". Apparently it was easy for the two headsaws to get ahead of the one dedicated resaw. Hence the improvisation.
At one time it was the largest hardwood sawmill in the world. When the mill burned, all the machinery fell into the basement. Today all that's left are the foundations, and the rusting remains of all the machinery .. just a jumbled mess. This was the last remaining great eastern sawmill. Sad!
Dan Mitchell ========Robert Heller wrote:

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Thank you for a fascinating review of the Cass mill.
-- Jim McLaughlin
Please don't just hit the reply key. Remove the obvious from the address to reply.
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You are welcome.
The Cass mill was already abandoned when I first went there in 1973. When I toured the inside, ca. 1984-86, it was badly deteriorated but still pretty much complete. One had to be VERY careful in the mill, as parts of it were near collapse. The whole place was dripping wet with condensation, with lots of slippery moss, and very dark. The filing room floor above had partially collapsed into the sawing floor, but missed the remaining headsaw (one was sold and removed earlier). The whole wooden saw deck floor was rotten and unsound, and invited a fast trip to the basement (15 ft. down?) if you stepped in the wrong places. I, and a couple companions, did most of our exploring by following the heavy beams of the rollways. I was particularly interested in the power flow through the mill ... how all the various shafts and belts directed power to the different machines. We made a lot of diagrams, and took many measurements.
The lumber 'flow' was very confusing at first, with rollways where they're not supposed to be, by conventional wisdom. We had pretty much figured out that some were for 'counter' flow direction, but didn't know exactly why. Then we located one of the old sawyers from the mill, a man in his 80's. He explained the use of one headsaw as a make-do resaw, as the dedicated resaw wasn't able to keep up with both headsaws. Made sense, once you though about it. Cass cut mostly smaller lumber, and so did a lot of resawing. If a mill was cutting mostly big timbers, there'd be a lot less resawing needed.
I have a lot of pleasant memories from wandering around in that Mill. It's all still there, sort of, but the mill proper and the planing mills all burned. The brick enginehouse, steel boiler house, and dry kilns are still there, in advanced states of decomposition. The tall smaokestack just fell a couple years ago.
Dan Mitchell ======= Jim McLaughlin wrote:

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snipped-for-privacy@deepsoft.com says...

In northern Idaho and eastern Washington I see lots of log stacks with a permanent spray of water over them. Since we have extremely low humidity in the summer, I assume it's to keep the logs from drying out too fast. So that was probably another reason for the pond.
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Sounds reasonable. If the log dries too fast in will 'check' (split), reducing the available lumber that can be cut from it.
Probably it also reduces fire danger.
Dan Mitchell ========Larry Blanchard wrote:

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"Larry Blanchard" wrote:

Over here in Western Oregon / Willamette Valley I've seen the sprinklers on three log decks. We have a lot more humidity over here than you do in Eastern Washington or Idaho in the September - May period, and though our summers are dry I doubt they are anywhere as dry as yours.
One log deck, which no longer is in operation, was in Oregon Coty, along I 205, between the highway and the SP mainline south from Portland to Eugene. It served the Publisher's paper newsprint mill at Willamette Falls, about (?) two (?) miles up river. That mill made news print / newspaper for, among others, the LA Times. The Times owned Publisher's Paper. Not sure why wood destined for a newsprint mill would need to remain wet.
Other two are about 60 miles SW of Portland on SR 18 over toward the coast in Sheridan and Grande Ronde in the foothills of the Coast Range. Both of those use the timber for dimensional lumber. Even in the summers, being only about 30 miles as the seagull flies from the Pacific, are areas that are slightly humid. Again, September through May, its real wet and humid.
I think the sprinklers are for fire prevention / protection, and not to control humidity / dampness in the timber.
Any knowledgeable timber industry folks here?
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I have always heard that log have to be wet to saw well. It won't dull the blades as fast as dry wood.
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the
Intuitively, fora dimensional lumber mill, that makes sense. Any celluar moisture and any surface moisture will, to a point reduce friction, and friction means both blade heating and blade dulling. The moisture probably is not enough to cause rust / corrosion on the blade.
But what about the wood for the paper mill?

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I grew up near a small sawmill operation, complete with the Teepee sawdust burner. It has a small log pond that was surrounded by the highway on one side and the NP branch line trestle embankment on the other. I can't recall offhand how big the entry to the log pond was; there were large log rafts in the bay on occasion.
There was a small entryway from the highway into the sawmill. One could see log trucks parked inside; they got logs that way as well. I don't recall any kind of RR spur there for outbound shipments.
Kennedy
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All mills do not use ponds. There are several mills near here, from one man custom tie cutters up to the big mills (Pope and Talbot). None move logs by water anymore, its all trux\cks and has been for years. A mid sized mill runs sprinklers on certain log piles in dry weather, as keeping the logs damp reduces the checking ( internal lengthwise cracks) that occur as a log dries. A log can;t shrink without checking but cut lumber can, unless the center of the tree is in the board.

lumber
or by

shafts?
I don;t know about the big mines, but when I worked at Keno Hill Mine in the Yukon( a shallow mine with very poor ground) the only areas that were shotcreted were the shaft areas. The entire rest of the mine was all timbered. All timber was trucked in on the same trucks that took out the milled concentrate. Our concentrate had a high (600 oz/tonne) silver content so was shipped in oil drums, welded shut, on flatdeck trucks. One drum was about a tonne. There was no rail access, but presumably this would have been preferred if available. Old style mines like this use timbers that range from 4X6 up to 12X12. With a few exceptions, all are short, maximum 7 foot. The yukon has few trees large enough to get timbers from, so all ours came up from Alberta.

blatant
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