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Allison Logging Video


Allison Logging Video Text

Allison Logging

Logging on British Columbia’s Central Coast

I am Angus Allison, grandson to AP Allison.  I am a graduate forester and I will be providing comment for the film you are about to view.

This large Sitka Spruce is being felled in the Queen Charlotte Islands

The fallers having chopped out the undercut with axes then established the back cut with long crosscut saws.  Steel wedges are then driven in with sledge hammers tip the tree over completing the falling process

1:34 Once felled the trees were cut or bucked into manageable lengths appropriate for cutting in a Vancouver sawmill

1:55 Here the wood scaler tallies the volume of timber felled by each falling set as the fallers were paid by volume rather than by the hour.

2:19 Prior to the arrival of logging trucks logs were often transported to tide water by rail car.  The road beds necessary for the construction of a logging railroad was built by using a steam powered grade shovel.

2:46 The crew surveying the roads location would identify areas where ballast material or gravel could be easily excavated.

The key to AP’s successful railroad construction in the Charlottes was the establishment of a sound roadbed.  The ground was extremely wet and the scarce ballast often had to be moved great distances.

In the wet swampy areas AP had a gang of men go ahead on the roughed out rail bed where they would cut hemlock bows and layered them on the rail bed up to two feet thick. When the ballast was applied over this mat it was prevented from mixing with the rail bed material. This crude form of geotech style minimized the amount of ballast required to build the rail road.  Using this method AP drove a logging railway from Cumshewa Inlet up past Mosquito Lake.

Due to the soft nature of the soils on the coastal valley floors, the heavy steam shovel often had to work off mats.  These mats were made of small logs lashed together with steel cables.  The shovel, by swinging each mat around itself in turn could provide its own portable solid footing allowing it move over, otherwise impassable ground.

5:16 The road bed, for the logging railroad was made sound by placing a layer of ballast on the road bed and between the railroad ties.  Suitable material, preferably broken rock, was excavated and placed in a gravel car.  The bottom of the gravel car was opened up allowing ballast allowing the gravel to be placed evenly between the ties.

5:55 Railroad ties from the Charlottes were hand hewn from the weed species Hemlock.  Ties made from old growth under story Hemlock could weigh up to 200 pounds each.

6:23 Horses were used to move the heavy ties. AP was heard to say on more than one occasion “Logging is a good life for women and dogs but just hell on men and horses”.

6:38 Here we see the ballast being spread using a railroad tie as a blade.

Spar trees were made from the taller straighter trees in the stand.

8:18 These trees, once topped, were then rigged with steel cables to allow the felled trees within a thousand feet or so to be yarded or pulled to the spar tree with steel cables called chokers.

8:39 This spar tree is being topped at over 120 feet.

8:50 Timber adjacent to the ocean could be yarded to tide water by using a main line which was elevated on a floating A-Frame to achieve adequate lift.  The steam pot was mounted on the A-Frame float and the logs were yarded directly into the water.

9:58 By rigging a block, effectively a huge pulley, at the top of the spar tree and running the pulley line, main line, through it, the cables used to move the logs gain significant lift. This allows the logs, when pulled, to clear stumps and other obstacles which might otherwise prevent efficient yarding of the logs.

10:45 In this case logs are being yarded to a spar tree on a hill overlooking tidewaters.  The logs once yarded to the spar tree is then unhooked from the spar tree rigging and hooked up to the A-Frame mainline.  These logs can then be swung off the hill into the ocean using the A-Frame.

11:15 My father, Arthur Allison, at age 15, is the whistle punk seen here.  The whistle punk sent signals to the yarding engineer or donkey puncher, using a long electric cable. The steam whistle signals could be heard over the racket of an operating steam pot.  Blowing Whistles was, for many years, was the prime entry level job for those pursuing a career in coastal logging.

13:04 The steam powered yarding machine, or steam pot, consumed large quantities of wood in order to fire their boilers.  The firewood had to be cut from straight, knot free logs.  Wood logs next to the steam pot could be bucked using a steam powered drag saw. 

This firewood cutter is producing fuel for the steam shovel without a steam powered drag saw he would have to buck and split all the firewood by hand.  Like the other loggers he was paid $2.50 per day and was in turn charged $1.25 per day for room and board.  AP was known to say, “Hire two men, if they are wearing belts get four”.  This man had his pants held up with a belt and he is doing just fine.

15:55 Here we see a log hung up while being yarded.  The logger sets a roll on the log with the choker.  When the main line pulls on the choker the roll will spin the log out from behind the stump.

17:25 These loggers are swinging spruce logs from a cold deck pile.  This pile was created as a result of yarding a heavily timbered stand to the spar tree.  These trees can be re-yarded or swung to tide water or another spar tree adjacent to the railroad where they can be loaded onto railroad cars.

17:45 AP’s contract with the Powel River Company called for Allison Logging to deliver marketable spruce logs to Vancouver for $8.00 per 1,000 board feet.  Without inflation that contract stood from 1936 to 1942.

18:00 The Northbend yarding system being used here multiplies the power of the steam pot.  The power of steam and the size of these logs dictate the use of 1¼ inch choker cables for this yard and swing operation.

19:50 With 8 yarding sites and 5 locomotives and 200 men, Allison Logging produced 70 million board feet of logs annually for the Power River Company between 1936 and 1942.

21:00 This is early bulldozer or cat logging in the Douglas Fir/Cedar country of Bute Inlet.  This was new and very modern and a new fangled way of doing things in 1934.

21:35 You get a quick glimpse of another contraption called a logging truck.

22:10 Here we are building a trail with a bulldozer equipped with a blade so the yarding cat and arch can get through and yard out the felled logs.  This bulldozer had neither rollover protection or even a rain hood.

23:25         Loading railcars in Bute Inlet with a duplex loader. The lines from the tongs are fastened to two winch drums of the same diameter by applying power to one or both of the drums, the loader operator can lift the yarded logs onto the rail cars.

24:09 If the logs were too big for the tongs, or in the case of soft cedar, steel straps were hung on the tong points in order to cradle lift these logs.

24:38 It is noted that the loggers of 1933 practiced their own form of retention line, some would call is high grading.  It would be most interesting to visit these old logging sites today to see what the stands would look like 70 years after the initial logging took place and see the new forest established without the benefit of replanting.

25:09 This train is transporting Bute Inlet cedar to tide water.

26:06 Here the rail cars are having their loads lifted off and dropped into tidewater for booming and culling for Vancouver.

26:48 Here the loggers are building the floor of a Davis Raft which was necessary in those days to move logs over the rough waters of the open ocean.  When the floor or base is assembled and knit together with chains and heavy steel cable, many more heavy logs could be piled on this floating mat to form a large sausage of logs, this was then a Davis Raft suitable to towing logs between the Queen Charlottes Islands and the sawmills of Vancouver.

28:50 The spruce logs with the double splotches, marked by the scalers, are the highest grade of log then recognized.

With coastal logging of big timber in remote locations production, then as now, is the name of the game.  Sayings like “don’t walk, don’t run but fly and if you must fall, fall towards the rigging “has been passed on from father to son, from rigging slingers to chokemen.  I remember being told on my first day on the rigging “the grave is the place to rest”.  These expressions conveyed the work ethic and the pride of those logs wrestling logs out of the coastal forest.  So, when you are warm and safe indoors on a wet west coast rainy day and the wind is blowing southeast, raise a glass and drink a toast to the way they logged on the BC coast.


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