The Spencer Logging Operation

One of the featured industries on the layout will be the logging operation of the Spencer Lumber Company.  Spencer’s mill will be located at the town of Oneida (on one of the layout’s peninsulas), and will be patterned somewhat loosely on the real-life mill of the former Crowell Long Leaf Lumber Company.  The Crowell facility still lives as a museum here in Louisiana and I wrote a little piece about it in the blog post The Southern Forest Heritage Museum back in June of 2011.

The Crowell property has all the pieces in place for one to photograph and study, and while I can’t model the facility literally due to space constraints, it will at least allow me to include the vital infrastructure necessary for a lumber mill.  Once you understand the work-flow and the function of the various buildings, planning a “correct” model should be much easier.

However, the other part of the operation – the actual harvesting of the timber – had me scratching my head.  I have a nice run from the mill up to the logging area, which even includes a double switchback, and I have a loading area at the top.  But the space is so limited, especially in depth, that I just didn’t have any idea how I was going to model any sort of reasonable logging activity.  A few weeks ago I spied a copy of Kalmbach’s book, The Model Railroader’s Guide to Logging Railroads, so I purchased it.  In general it is a nice book, with a good description of all the various facets of the logging industry.  Admittedly if falls far short of being the definitive volume that one needs to pull off such a modeling endeavor; that would take many volumes to accomplish.  However there was one short section in the book that provided me with my salvation.  In short, it was the “reload” operation.  This was a situation where trucks were used to haul the logs out of the woods, and to a reloading point where the logs were transferred from the trucks to the railhead.  This became very common in the later years of railroad logging operations (which I will be modeling in 1964) as trucks and equipment were better able to penetrate into the forest.  In fact, this method often became more economical than re-laying track to all the various cutting sites.  This idea will be perfect for my line.  All I need do is add some kind of loader at the high end (a McGiffert or a Barnhart) and I’ll be in business.

While the logging operation won’t be the biggest traffic generator on the layout, I think it will be the most interesting, and I look forward to actually building it.


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