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The Maine Narrow Gauges (Historic & Preserved) => Archives (Other Maine 2ft) => Topic started by: Ed Lecuyer on December 21, 2008, 07:58:12 PM

Title: B&SR Log Trains
Post by: Ed Lecuyer on December 21, 2008, 07:58:12 PM
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B&SR Log Trains has been converted from the pre-July 2008 WW&F Discussion Forum.
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Dana Deering wrote:
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On another thread I mentioned Ernest Ward's description of B&SR logging operations and I thought I'd share it with those who don't have access to his book.
Ward started out as a brakeman in 1901 at the age of sixteen.  He braked on one of the trains that ran only in summer which was then taken off the regular schedule in winter and became the log train.  He says that the log trains were made up of ten flat cars and the caboose.  The crew tried to put the train together such that the ends of the cars with the brake wheel were opposite each other.  This allowed the brakemen to set the brakes on two cars without clambering over a load of slippery logs.
The logs were hauled to various spots along the mainline by the loggers and loaded on the train. The train crew would help load the logs. Note he doesn't say to sidings.  They were loaded with the train standing  on the mainline  Trains ran strictly by timetable so it was up to the log train crew to stay out of the way of scheduled trains.  He claims they never once had a problem keeping the mainline clear.  They utilized sidings at Gravel Pit and Mullens, and other places to clear regular trains.
Once the train was loaded the logs were hauled to Hiram and "dumped in the Saco River".  Maybe in the spring they were dumped in the river but I suspect they were dumped on the bank, perhaps from the high fill at the Junction, onto rollways and then rolled into the river in the spring when the log drives took them to the mills at Steep Falls and Saco.
He also says life as a brakeman on the log train in winter was no picnic with handbrakes and link and pin couplers.  He describes one winter, 1901-02, as "one long nightmare".  When an opening occurred on the Harrison passenger job he quickly took it.
I had the chance to meet Mr. Ward and he was a great story teller!  Even though his railroad career had ended in 1913 and it was in 1969 or 70 that I met him I can remember how his eyes lit up when he talked about the railroad.
I am grateful for his description of log trains on the B&SR because I had once heard or read somewhere that the reason there were no photos of B&SR log trains was because they only ran at night.  From Ward's description we know that isn't so.  Maybe it was just too darned cold to be taking pictures, or the crew was too busy, or some of the loading areas too remote for a photographer to be carting equipment to.  OR, maybe there are photos somewhere that have never come to light!
Dana

Mike Fox replied:
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Thank you Dana. That is one book I don't have. And I don't remember reading anything about log trains. Guess I'll have to try and find his book.
Mike

Wayne Laepple replied:
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About 15 years ago, one of the shortlines I was helping to run was approached by a logger. He had a contract to cut out a site across a river from the state highway and adjacent to the railroad. The state folks wouldn't permit him to build a ford across the river (a high-value trout stream) as he had intended, so he asked us about dragging his logs along the railroad with a skidder to the nearest bridge, a couple of miles away. We had no interest whatever in allowing him to do so, since such activity was guaranteed to damage the ballast shoulders and plug up culverts. Instead, we got hold of a flatcar and got into the log transport business for a couple of months. We put the flatcar on the rear of the outbound train and would cut it off and tie it down at his landing. He would load up the flatcar with a Prentice loader while our train went on to the interchange. On the return trip, we would push the loaded car ahead of the engine up to the bridge, where another Prentice would unload the logs onto a couple of waiting trucks. He got his logs out, the railroad made a few bucks and everyone was happy. The only time we ever had a glitch was when it was too muddy for him to get into the woods, in which case the flatcar went for a round trip ride.

Bruce Wilson replied:
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Wayne,
Luckily log skidding isn't done on the Maine railroad right of ways today, although the damage (soil erosion) done by A.T.V.'s and dirt bikes is really doing a job on out-of-service rail lines such as the Maine Central "Mountain Division" through Bridgton Junction, Hiram, etc.
Before anything heavier than a Fairmont can run through Hiram, the grade will need to be restored in several places on account of erosion.
Bruce

Wayne Laepple replied:
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It's an on-going problem, even on operating lines, in my end of the world. The people who ride along railroad tracks have big cohones, too. When I was in the business, I had people telephone my office and ask for permission, and when they were refused, they wanted to know where they could ride. I also had people tell me they had the right to ride along some rail lines because the track was owned by the state and they were taxpayers.

Bruce Wilson replied:
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Wayne,
Dana has done a first rate job with his posting about the log trains. He has a gift with his recollections and with his ability to write. I hate to break his train of thought in this thread about the damage being done to railbeds by recreational use and (in the past), logging.
But, this damage is something that must eventually be dealt with. Some of the MEC "Mountain Division" grade is laid right through wetlands. When the grade is destroyed, reclamation will need to be done by any agency or private concern attempting to reopen a dormant corridor. If the Maine DOT ever moves to reopen the Mountain Division, we taxpayers will be stuck footing the bill for endless studies and expensive projects to create new wetlands once the railbeds are restored.
As I've done considerable hiking on the Mountain Division, I've seen the A.T.V. guys and witnessed the damage they do and the mess they make.
These guys aren't just hurting themselves, they are going to be hitting all of us where it hurts, in the wallet.

Dana Deering replied:
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Hey Guys,
I was doing some more research on B&SR log trains and found these interesting figures for the winter of 1901-2.  The B&SR hauled over 1.5 million board feet of long logs and 650 cords of hardwood.  I got to wondering how many loads that might represent so I did some estimating.
I chose an average log diameter of 16 inches at the small end, with a lenght of 16 feet, which is what most mills wanted for length.  Of course some would be shorter, some bigger around, some smaller, but I am using an average.  A log of the above dimensions contains 192 board feet according to my grandfather's Saco River Log Rule, which are not used anymore, but would have been used during the time period we are looking at (My grandfather left this log rule to me when he died two years ago and it is one of my prized possessions). 1.5 million board feet translates into 7,813 logs of this dimension.  Looking at some Sandy River log train photos it looks like their loads consisted of 10-12 logs each.  Since the B&SR didn't use log bunks there was a lot of wasted space on even the 28 foot flatcars but using 10-12 logs, due to weight factors, this is approximately 650 to 781 flatcar loads of logs.  Since there were ten flatcars in a B&SR log train that's 65 to roughly 80 log trains.  From my own experience I am guessing they could load, haul, and unload one train a day so that is a good winter's work.
Then you have the 4 foot hardwood and pulpwood.  Due to weight factors I am guessing that the most a 2 foot flat in that era could carry would be 3.5 - 4 cords.  At 3.5 cords that's another 186 carloads.
Where did the wood go?  As we know, some of it went to the Saco River to be driven to the lumber mills in Saco, some of it was hauled to Hiram Lumber right on the RR line, and the softwood pulp would have also been driven down the Saco River to the Pulp Mill at Steep Falls.  Hardwood would have been sold for firewood or pulp but hardwood bolts would not have been dumped in the river because they tend to sink!  Maybe they were transhipped on the MeC to Westbrook and the pulp mill there.
Dana

Mike Fox replied:
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That's a fair amount of wood to move considering they loaded on the main and only move when it was close to a sheduled train. I wonder where the landings were. The easiest place for them to be would be in a cut to get above the car height. Or a side hill.
Mike

Dana Deering replied:
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Mike,
There were landings all along the line but two I know of specifically were at Perley's Mills, where the siding could have been utilized, and one at Chessey's, which would have been right on the mainline not too far from the Gravel Pit siding, which the train crews would have used to clear regular trains.  The road from "Back Nippin" still meets the old RR ROW at Chessey's.  Back Nippin was a little farming area that also had a small shook mill and cooper shop and a small shovel handle mill.  I have been told that they made barrels there and shipped them out (broken down so they were compact for shipping) on the railroad.  The shovel handles, too.  I would like to find an old shovel handle mill machine.  I've read about them but never seen one.  I like to buy the old shovels with the old wooden grips because they are more comfortable for my hands.  I'd like to be able to make my own.
Something else I wanted to mention to you is if you ever come across references to the "Rafting Grounds" in your B&SR reading, that is a location near the head of Barker Pond (near where the little bridge is).  Logs were hauled to the Rafting Grounds and "rafted" across Barker Pond.  The dam at the outlet (remnants of the old one can still be seen) was used to build a "driving head" so that logs could be driven down Hancock Brook to Rankins Mills.  Hard to believe looking at the brook but it was done for years.  Look at one of the photos of Hancock Brook Arch and you'll see logs floating in the brook.
Dana

Mike Fox replied:
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I noticed the logs by the arch before and figured there was a reason. Now I know. And by the volume of water that goes through that brook, I would think the railroad would have been more reliable. Rather than wait for spring freshettes.
Mike

James Patten replied:
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This would make a great material for an article in the newsletter.  If our newsletter was about the B&H.  It could be snuck in, I suppose, under Ellis Walker's Musings article.

BM1455 replied:
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It is strange that you do not see many (any) pictures of B&SR log trains.  You see plenty of SR&RL picures.  Perhaps they ran at night or by the time most people had cameras,(1920's and up) the logging in this area of Maine was all done?
Eric.

Glenn Christensen replied:
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Hi Dana,
Thanks for your post!
I had the privilege to tour B&SR coutry with the late Bob Outland some years ago.  He showed me the Rafting Grounds, the log loading area at Chessey's and the location of Back Nippin', but over the intervening years I had forgotten the locations of the two latter sites.  When Bob passed away, I was afraid the exact locations had been lost with him.
Thanks to your efforts, I'm very pleased to know that they haven't.
Best Regards,
Glenn

Dana Deering replied:
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Glenn,
I have an old photo from my grandmother's collection that shows Back Nippin' from a distance and you can see the farms.  I went up through the Back Nippin Road a couple of years ago on my mountain bike and found a lot of cellar holes, the foundations for the mills, and a nice littll cemetery.  The road comes right out to the B&SR ROW at Chessey's.  My great aunt married a Chessey so I have Chessey cousins and all kinds of connections in that area through my mother.  I'm busy passing the history on to the next generation so I'm hopeful that someone will remember in the future.
I was fortunate to have the connections, to spend a lot of time (and I still do) in the area when I was young, and from a very young age I was interested in history and I was able to ask questions of many many old folks.  They were always delighted to have a youngster who was so interested in what they had to share and they always opened right up.   And when you are "one of them" they aren't as stand-offish.  It was great.