View single post by jtrain
 Posted: Tue Mar 17th, 2015 10:29 pm
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Joined: Sun May 27th, 2012
Location: Missoula, Montana USA
Posts: 1000
In case anyone is wondering about operations that made Minnesota (and Great Lakes area logging) unique from the rest of the world, there were several major differences.

To start with, logging in the North used nature much more than engineering. Primarily, the use of winter weather was essential for Minnesota logging. Minnesota, as well as Wisconsin and Michigan, has plenty of marshes and pothole lakes. Additionally, there is a lot of spongy ground that won't hold a train during the summer. So, the winter weather with the 4 foot frost depth kept the ground rock solid, allowing for standard gauge trains to run. Frozen ponds became staging points for logs to be loaded, and Ice roads were made through the woods where horses could pull massive amounts of lumber on sleds. In fact, horses were used in logging operations well into the 20th century and are still used in the North today in some instances by local farmers.

The terrain was relatively flat, so the most common logging locomotives in the area were 2-6-0's. King's compiled list of logging locomotives in Minnesota proves this, as well as the photographs in the book. This is a huge difference since in more mountainous areas, geared steam was much more common. That said, shays, climaxes, and heislers were valued for their flexibility on rough track and the power they delivered for their small size. There was at least 3 known Climax locomotives, around a dozen known Heisler locomotives, and 3-4 dozen shays in Minnesota alone. The flat(ish) terrain also allowed for standard gauge. In the book, there is only one documented 3ft gauge railroad that lasted more than a few years for the entire state.

Having vast tracts of forest did present a problem for the railroads in that a permanent mainline for a logging operation would be ineffective. Instead, the "main lines" appeared to be moved every few years or so with branchlines moving every spring, being laid and ready by fall, and staying in place through the winter. Therefore, the tracks were constantly changing and therefore operations.

Yet another big difference in operations was that near the coast of Lake Superior, many isolated logging operations would bring logs to the lake, and barge tugs would round up the logs and haul them to the mills in Ashland, Duluth, Washburn, and Superior.

Finally, I also have a picture of a logging trestle in Elephant Lake, MN (nearest town is Orr, 12 miles away)

From what I can tell in the book, this trestle (which is not directly mentioned in the book) was used to load logs coming in from the surrounding area. The trestle was most likely built by the Virginia and Rainey Lake Lumber Company:

Just thought I'd add that.


James W.

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