One of the more neglected layout themes in S gauge is logging. Few have done extensive logging sections on their layout, or at least a portion of a large layout. This is partly because it is not a widely known theme in S, and partly because everyone equates logging with geared locomotives such as the Shay, Climax, or Heisler engines. These were available only in brass some time ago and quite expensive.
The geared locomotives were very popular in the timber industry during the steam era due to their high power to size ratio, ability to take sharp curves, and operate on poor track. They could be found from the Sierras to the mountains of West Virginia trundling long trains of Skeleton log cars or flatcars converted for timbering uses.
The vision is well known and accepted by most people as the way logging was. Without a Shay and a string of brass log cars, most folks feel that they can’t do logging on a portion of their layout, let alone develop a whole layout around such a theme. But that is just plain wrong!
There were several logging operations that used side rod locomotives to get timber out of the woods. Probably the best known of these was the Rayonier Company which used large (for short lines) 2-6-6-2 articulated locomotives and low drivered 2-8-2 Mikados. There were several other “side rod loggers,” and these used steam well into the diesel age. In fact, these side rod logging engines survived to go on to second (or third or fourth) careers on tourist railroads and in motion pictures, including lots of screen time in “Emperor of the North.”
Where distance and terrain made geared engines much too slow, side rod steam locomotives ruled! And they weren’t always big engines. Locomotives as small as the 8 ton Porter 0-4-0 tank loco found use in smaller operations. And the Porter Locomotive Company built a huge number of side rod type locos for the logging industry, many tank engines and heavy 2-6-2 and 2-8-2 tender types with very small diameter driving wheels for power and traction. Many lower budget loggers snatched up whatever used motive power they could buy from mainline railroads.
The second problem most folks run up against to portray logging is the lack of log cars, particularly the Skeleton Log cars, so named because they are a center beam with cross arms at 90 degrees to the center line. They take their name from their look of a human back bone and ribs.
Skeleton Cars were built in length as little as 22 feet long to 36 and 40 feet. The numerous Car Builders not only made complete cars, but supplied trucks, couplers, and various other parts to logging outfits who built their own cars. Generally the earlier cars were wood, and timber companies saw little reason to change when they could build as many cars as they needed from wood they already were cutting!
Another way to get log cars was for these companies to buy used mainline flatcars and convert them for their own use. There were hundreds of well worn 36 foot wood cars on logging roads all over America. In later years companies bought the sturdier steel frame 40’ flat cars.
Flat cars were often modified with Log Bunks near both ends and evenly spaced in the middle. In this way, odd shaped logs could ride without having to be loaded flat to the car’s deck. These could be removed to use the car for other purposes such as hauling various supplies, or equipment like a “Donkey Engine” (a steam powered winch on skids) so named because they replaced animals for dragging logs to the railhead.
Usually, cabooses were not used on log trains due to the lack of switching and little real need for them. However, some operators built shacks on flat cars and there were others built on a four wheel frame called “Outhouse” cabooses because of their similar appearance to that well known “facility” of the day.
In this series, we’re going to build log cars and an Outhouse caboose to depict the timber industry in S gauge. For motive power, you could use a 2-6-2 Prairie similar to the one we recently built in STUMPY’S STATION, or a Gilbert 0-8-0, a Flyonel 2-8-2 or Docksider, the SHS 2-8-0, or any of the older “hood unit” diesel switchers, to bring the timber out of the woods and to the sawmill.
You don’t even need a huge sawmill or a thousand trees. I built a 34×48 inch S gauge Mini layout with 15” radius curves several years ago that depicted a logging line in between the actual tree felling area in the woods and the sawmill. I used only a few smaller “new growth” sized trees and several tree stumps because the line would naturally pass through areas where the timber had all been cut! The few structures were small wooden ones. A Putt Trains 0-4-0 Dockside, and 2-4-4 Suburban worked the line pulling scratch built Skeleton cars.
In this series we won’t “break the bank” to bring timber “out of the woods!”