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Book Review: Minnesota Logging Railroads
 Moderated by: W C Greene
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 Posted: Mon Mar 16th, 2015 09:50 pm
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jtrain
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I figured that rather than hijacking 97fordrunner's thread from about a year ago about this book, I'd throw my own two cents in a new thread.

But here's the original:

http://freerails.com/view_topic.php?id=5945&forum_id=60&highlight=Minnesota+Logging

This is one of those books I had to wait for. I ordered a copy about a month after the previous thread started and wa waiting for it, but it never came. Turns out the book went to my old address at the other end of the state. Someone turned in the book to the Post Office who promptly sent it to the school my mother taught at a while back. I happened to be going through the area when I stopped into that school to say hello to a few former teachers and low and behold, there's the book, ready for me, when I show up. All this took place over about a year, and I just got the book in December.

Anyways, here's my review:

Minnesota Logging Railroads by Frank A. King is perhaps one of the most complete sources about Minnesota's legendary logging past. While many sources exist that talk about the horse drawn sleds, the lumber mills, the lumberjacks, camps, town life, and the unique strategies employed by workers in the deep snow of the frozen north, there never existed a complete book (to my knowledge) about the part we like to study, the railroads. So this book immediately fills a much needed gap in chronicling the lumber industry of the north.

Overall, the book is well written, has a complete Bibliography, and does an excellent job of capturing the operation of the railroads. One of the best features, in my opinion, is the locomotive rosters for every known railroad as well as the many photographs that show exactly what these locomotives looked. The real only shortcoming I can find with this book is that there simply exists too much information to go into extreme detail with just one book. Realistically, if King had included all the sources in the Bibliography, the book would be well over 1000 pages in length. however, I can't hold that against the book or the author, you can only put so much into one document.

The book itself consists of 10 chapters:

Beginnings in Minnesota, the Logging Camp, The River Railroads, North of Lake Superior, Along the Iron Range, Rainey Lake County, Red River Logging, Loading the Cars, The Great Saw Mills, and Iron Horses in the Woods

The book jumps between history, operation, and detailed explanation throughout the chapters, so in some places it may be hard to get all the information at once, yet the information and stories provided are still interesting, at least to me. Besides this, there's really not much else I can say other than this is a book that is necessary for those of you who have a collection of midwestern railroad books, or books on logging, especially about railroads in the north.

Personally, 'Minnesota Logging Railroads' has given me a new perspective on how I see the Great North Woods. There are still trees that stand in the forest that are over 100ft tall and easily 12ft in diameter. Back in the day, there may have been white pines nearly as tall as the famous Redwoods along the West Coast. That being said, the majority of the trees in Minnesota, both present and past (based on the photos) appear to be in the 30-50 ft range.

Like I said, I would have put this post in the old thread, but I didn't want to hijack it with my opinions. Anyways, that's my two cents on the book, it's worth every dollar you might have to spend on it. I'll be reposting this to my blog as well.

Thanks for reading and feel free to post your thoughts on this book.

--James:java:



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James W.

See progress on the Western Logging Railroad:

http://westernloggingrr.blogspot.com/

Other Blogs:

http://apartmentrailroad.blogspot.com

The workbench blog of projects on going in my life.

http://rapidcityrr.blogspot.com

A blog
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 Posted: Mon Mar 16th, 2015 11:00 pm
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W C Greene
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http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?sts=t&tn=minnesota+logging+railroads

Abe Booksellers has copies of this book...While I am a mining modeler, I love logging and this book looks to be a sure winner. Thanks for the great review.

Woodie



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 Posted: Tue Mar 17th, 2015 12:27 pm
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Thayer
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I snapped one up based on the previous discussion/recommendation and agree whole heartedly. This is a keeper.

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 Posted: Tue Mar 17th, 2015 05:58 pm
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jtrain
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Thanks for the input Thayer. Woodie, I definitely recommend to you, you'll like it I'm sure.

One interesting that I've figured out is that by our cabin the the north woods is a clearing that was an obvious logging camp about 100 years ago. I have no information on it, but using the map on the books' cover as well as Google maps, I've pieced two and two together. By the looks of it, a branch of the Virginia and Rainey Lake Lumber Company railroad went to the camp as from Google maps I can make out a possible railroad grade. Also,being familiar with the terrain, I generally know where I train could and could not go.

Then there's a legend about a steam locomotive buried in a marsh near Brainard, MN. Someone tried sonar scanning the area and didn't get any sign of a locomotive specifically, but they did get an image of a very large piece of metal. Could be part of a bridge that was torn down years ago, or a sunken barge, but many locals like to believe it was that locomotive.



____________________
James W.

See progress on the Western Logging Railroad:

http://westernloggingrr.blogspot.com/

Other Blogs:

http://apartmentrailroad.blogspot.com

The workbench blog of projects on going in my life.

http://rapidcityrr.blogspot.com

A blog
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 Posted: Tue Mar 17th, 2015 06:29 pm
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jtrain
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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:java:



____________________
James W.

See progress on the Western Logging Railroad:

http://westernloggingrr.blogspot.com/

Other Blogs:

http://apartmentrailroad.blogspot.com

The workbench blog of projects on going in my life.

http://rapidcityrr.blogspot.com

A blog
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 Posted: Wed Mar 18th, 2015 06:20 pm
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Keith Pashina
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James:

Did the book copy you purchased have a large foldout map in the back? I recall reading a library copy in the 1970s, which had the map. When I bought the reprint from U of M Press, it unfortunately came without the map. It was larger scale and I think more detailed than the newer reprint.

Keith

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 Posted: Thu Mar 19th, 2015 02:00 am
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jtrain
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Keith,

Nope, no fold out map, but the inside cover was a map of Northern Minnesota. It would be nice to get my hands on a larger and more detailed version of a map like what you describe. Perhaps the original prints of this book had it? My copy is the newer one with the split photo and normal font for the title. I believe the older issues had a more artsy look to it like this:



My copy is like the one above, and below is the older cover:



There were at least two printings of this book, and those are the two covers. But you know what they say, don't judge a book by it's cover. It's unlikely that an original map is present with many of these used books, though you may find the map separately somewhere else. I'l keep a look out for one since Minnesota is close by and that would be the best place to find a map.

--James

Last edited on Thu Mar 19th, 2015 02:03 am by jtrain



____________________
James W.

See progress on the Western Logging Railroad:

http://westernloggingrr.blogspot.com/

Other Blogs:

http://apartmentrailroad.blogspot.com

The workbench blog of projects on going in my life.

http://rapidcityrr.blogspot.com

A blog
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