Marcel’s Pulpwood

One of the key features that will be incorporated into the Louisiana Central is a pair of ‘loads in-empties out’ scenarios.  On the Willis end there will be a plywood plant that will generate a significant amount of wood chips.  Behind the plywood plant will be a pulpwood dealer (Marcel’s) where loading of pulpwood onto railcars will take place.  Most of these chip and pulpwood loads will travel down to Monterey, where they will be consumed by a kraft paper products plant.

Marcel’s will generate 8-10 cars of pulpwood per day.  I will need this many loaded cars, along with an equal number of unloaded cars for this operation.  I have a nice fleet of Atlas pulpwood cars (known as woodracks on the Louisiana Central) that need loads built (the cast plastic loads are just terrible looking IMHO).  Earlier this year, while at Lou Schultz’s C&O Railroad, I was admiring the loads on his woodracks.  These were built up by Bill Williams using Azalea bush clippings, a slow and tedious process I’m sure, but one that produces an outstanding looking load.

Last weekend I was raking up a zillion River Birch branches that had fallen during a recent storm.  I noticed that the reddish-grey color of the tiny twigs wasn’t that far off from the color of the pine trees in this region, and from which my pulpwood will be harvested.  I clipped a few “logs” using a Chopper and was pleased with the resulting pulpwood it produced.  I spent a couple hours gathering small branches for this future project.  Actually, I have estimated that a woodrack will likely hold 1200-1400 logs, so if I’m going to fill 8-10 cars, plus a couple big piles on the ground, I’d probably be wise to start building these loads very soon.  It should make a nice leisurely project that can be done in evening spurts, utilizing a TV tray  while watching the tube.

If you’d care to chime in on any of the ramblings I present here, please feel free to do so.  I’m hoping this new blog will generate some conversation.

Regards, Jack

5 thoughts on “Marcel’s Pulpwood

  1. Jack
    I appreciate your comments on my pulpwood loads at Lou’s. It was a slow process but not hard to do. After re-staging i have little to do over there since Johnny and, sometimes, mike do the scenery and there is no way I would ever touch any of that wiring.
    So I had the time to do the loads. Lou provided the twigs and I used his old Chopper I to cut them. Over several weeks I got the loads done. My only regret on going back to 1949 is that my nice pulpwood flats will go into storage since the C&O used boxcars and excess stockcars to carry pulpwwod then.
    However, I don’t understand your estimate of 1200+ logs per car. maybe you meant for the total and I misread your comment. If you check your Atlas plastic load and count the logs I’m sure you will get a better count of the logs you will need.

  2. Hi Bill,

    It sounds like you need to get busy adding visible loads to the stockcars for 1949. Maybe a boxcar also, (permanently) spotted on a siding somewhere with the door opened, and a couple guys loading the car by hand.

    Regarding my estimated log count, I arrived at that as follows:
    First, the size of the logs on the plastic Atlas loads are way too large. From my reading, pulpwood logs tend to range between 4″ and 12″ diameter (though I’m certain some may have been a bit smaller or larger). The Atlas car is about 38′ wide between the bulkheads. Assuming an average log diameter of 8″, that gives us 57 logs in a single row. I don’t know off hand the exact height of the stacked load, but I guessed it to be 8′, therefore giving us 12 stacks high. There are 2 sets of these stacks on the car, so that gives us a total of 1368 logs (57x12x2).

    Where am I going wrong?


  3. Looking at a couple of pictures of woodracks in the book “Kansas City Southern Lines” by Paired Raill RR Publications, LTD, I would say Jack was correct in figure 57 by 12 high using 8″ diameter logs. But some of the pulpwood in one of the pictures taken in 1973 were definitely much larger than 12″ some looked to be of a much larger diameter, I would guess in the 24 to 48 inch range. I wouldn’t make my loads too even.


  4. Hey George,

    That’s an interesting observation. I’ve been looking at pictures from as early as the 30’s, through these last couple decades. In the early pictures the loading was typically done by hand. The pulpwood was loaded in boxcars, stockcars and sometimes gondolas. Later pictures showing the “new” pulpwood style bulkhead flat show the cars being loaded either by hand, or with a crane utilizing slings. Then finally things evolved into the front end style loaders using the overhead grapple. I would assume that the logs were able to increase in size (and weight) as the abilities of the loaders improved. And remember, even if the yard had a mechanical loader, the truck bringing the load to the yard may have been loaded by hand.

    My operation will typically be set in 1964, and I’ll be in the deep south where labor is abundant and most of the short wood will be hauled in by privately owned trucks. These are usually older trucks with the body behind the cab removed and a simple frame built up to contain the logs that are stacked parallel to and directly on the truck frame. Most were loaded by hand though a few had (what appears to be) homemade cranes to assist with the loading/unloading.

    The photos I have of these old trucks show pulpwood ranging in size (by my best estimate) from 4″ up to about 12″. I would imagine a 5′ long x 12″ diameter log would be a real hand full for most people.

    Realistically, I’ve cut several samples in this size range, and they look awfully small. I will likely go slightly larger just so they look “right”, maybe a range of 6″-7″ up to 18″. I’ll just have to fit one up, then compare it to photographs to see if it looks right.

    We missed you at the last session at Lou’s.


  5. Growing up in a rural parish, one of the major industries was pulpwood. Most of the trucks that I saw had a crane on them. This was probably as must to pull the logs to the truck as to lift them up. I know that I wouldn’t want to spend my day lugging pulpwood up and throwing on the truck. Also loading onto a woodrack at the top must have been a fun job with out some type crane or lift. The problem of size will be that ours eyes will not see a realistic size log as being proper, requiring us to over size items.

    Well, I did miss getting together with all of you last Saturday, but from the comments I didn’t miss a good session.


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