The Good Old Days
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Have you ever sat down with a couple of truck drivers and heard them start talking about the ‘Good Old Days’? I think that as you get older you only remember the good days-you simply forget the bad ones. On these pages I will share with you some pictures of trucks and sawmills, and let you decide how good they were. The next time you think the company should give you a better truck have a look at this guy from the 'Good Old Days' and be thankful.

Old Truck
Picture courtesy of The Exploration Place

The picture below is of me with a load of lumber on the truck, my first real truck driving job a 1950 3 ton Chevy. I loaded this load by hand.

On this page I'm going to explain the evolution of trucking in the logging industry and sawmills in British Columbia's Central Interior. Please bear with me as these pages are an ongoing labor of love and will change as I receive more material.

Don Doyle Estate

When I started we had to load lumber by hand and it didn't matter what the weather was doing.

loading lumber
Picture courtesy of The Exploration Place

Below, you can see lumber piled on 'Jacks', one of the first innovations for loading lumber. They were rectangular frames made out of heavy timbers. The truck had a roller fixed to the back of its deck, the driver backed into the load, knocking the jack out from underneath it. He then pulled the jack out of the way and backed the rest of the way under the load, rolling it onto the truck deck.

Whoops! Someone spilled a load of 1 inch.

Saw Mill
Picture courtesy of Albert Schwartz

This is the same mill and at the end of the loads on the jacks, you can see the power unit with the skidway that fed the mill behind. From looking at this picture, I would imagine they had some means of putting the logs up on the skidway. Maybe the farm tractor had forks on it.

This next picture shows a truck driver putting on another set of chains so he can get under his load.


Picture courtesy of The Exploration Place

In this next picture you can see that the Jacks have evolved into stalls (at the left of the mill).

A timber was sat on blocks that were fastened to the uprights, you backed into the timber knocking it onto the ground then rolled your load on. Later they had very large chains with slip hooks on them that were fastened to the uprights with a timber on top of the chain. The deck of the truck was cut out at the front and you backed under it rolling, onto the deck. Then you go out and tripped the slip hook ( or Bitch Hooks as they were called) dropping the load onto the deck.

Loading Stalls
Picture courtesy of the Don Doyle Estate

When you got to the planer mill you backed up to a timber lying parallel on the ground. You undone your tie down chains and removed the front one. Then you unhooked the back one from the deck and wraped it around the load and cinched it down so it wouldn't spill when you dumped. You then backed up as fast as you could and hit the brakes. If everything worked right, your load rolled off the back of the truck across the timber. If it didn't and the load hung on the back of the deck, the front end of the truck would go up in the air giving you a good view of the mill yard. Then it was just a matter of pulling the truck ahead and come crashing back down on the ground. You picked up your lunch bucket, thermos and whatever you had laying on the seat, then headed back for another load.

In 'The Good Old Days' (as I write with my tongue firmly placed in my cheek) as technology in the sawmills improved and they became more efficient, they started to saw more logs, the mills got bigger and were harder to move. The distance they had to skid their logs increased and horses were no longer an option, so they started using Cats and then they started using Cat Arches. With these Arches it gave them more capcity as well as more speed. Below you will see a couple examples of Cat Arches.

They would hook the Arch onto the back of their Cat, run the main line up, over the roller on top and hook their choker on the logs and winch them up, taking part of the weight on the Arch.

Cat Arches Cat Arches
Front view of the Arch

Pictures courtesy of The Exploration Place

In this picture you can see a small Cat pulling a sled. The ingenuity of the men of that time is amazing.

Cat

Picture courtesy of The Exploration Place

As the mills got less economical to move and the timber got farther away from them, they devised another means of getting timber to the mills. They put Arches on trucks which were less expsensive and more economical than Cats. The old theory that 'Neccesity is the Mother of Invention' is apparent all through the history of the Logging and Sawmill Industry.

Below you will see one of the earlier attempts; it's an old Army surplus 6X6 from 1953.

Picture courtesy of The Exploration Place

Sometimes, single axle trucks were used.

single axle truck

Picture courtesy of The Exploration Place

In this next picture from 1972, you will see how the Arch truck evolved over the years.

Arch truck

Picture courtesy of The Exploration Place

Cats would skid the tree out to a wide spot in the road and drop them over a log laying parallel to it. The trucks would back up to the logs and hook onto them with the cable chokes (hanging from the Bull Hook on the end of the main line) and winch them up over the apron on the back of the truck, into the hoop. The trucks in the last two pictures are 6X6's, but most of the Arch trucks were tandem drive. The driver, after hooking up his drag, would have to get it going and with most of the wieght dragging behind and friction doing its thing, the front end of the truck would have a tendency to lift off the ground. Quickly shifting gears to keep the front end in the air until he got enough momentum to keep the drag moving, trying to keep the front end up, using the weight of the truck as leverage. These drivers were some of the best damn gear jammers I have ever had the privilege of knowing, because if they missed a shift the front end would come down and everything would stop. Then they would have to start all over again.

A drag leaving the landing, with the front end almost down and rolling.

drag leaving the landing

Picture courtesy of The Exploration Place

The beauty of a 6X6 was no tire chains.

Not all mills used Arch trucks; some used deck trucks to haul the logs to the mill. This next segment will show you how as the logs had to be hauled farther and the Arch truck became less efficent (they were efficient up to a 15-mile range). In these next pictures you will see how the long logger or pole trailers evolved.

Don Doyle Estate   Don Doyle Estate

Pictures courtesy of the Don Doyle Estate

At times they would use the ice on the lakes to save the expense of building roads and as you can see in the left hand picture, someone was pushing the season. Now that is a load for a single axle on the right.

The next picture shows Don Doyle standing behind a load with a local mill owner, Clint Geddes. If you look carefully you will see that the load , like a lady of the night , has very little means of support.

Don Doyle and Clint Geddes

Picture courtesy of the Don Doyle Estate

In these days before Front-end Loaders or Heel-booms in the north the loggers had to be very innovative to get their logs on the trucks. With the absence of stakes on the truck in the above picture, I would suspect they used an A-frame (or a 'Jammer' as they were called) to load it. At some bush operations they made a side cut on a hill, built their landing above it and rolled the logs down a skidway onto the truck parked in the cut.

The loggers in the 50’s were very innovative in figuring how to get their logs on the truck and sometimes there wasn’t a lot of money to be spent or equipment available to by that would do the job so they made their own. In the next three pictures you will see a loading sytem that looks a little primitive, but it worked.

 

In the next picture are two 'Jammers' on barges pulled up on shore at the S.B. Trick mill, just east of Aleza Lake on Hansard Lake. In the fall of the year they would tow these barges across the lake to where they would be logging that winter, anchor them off shore and let them freeze in. When the ice was in they would run two cables ashore, one main line and one haul back line, to where they would be unloading the trucks.

When they started logging and a loaded long logger would come in they would throw a bridle (two cables) over the truck and hook the main line to the top of the bridle and the bottom to the haul back. Then they would trip the stakes facing the Jammer and using the power winch in the shack on the jammer, skid the load off the truck and up on the log deck on the lake. When spring came and the ice melted they would boom up the logs and tow them to the mill. You will find that a lot of the bigger mills were built on a lake or a river so they could use these waterways to transport their logs.

waterways

Picture courtesy of the Bud Cox collection

You can see the old D-7 Cat (on the left) that was used to drag the barges out of the water.

This picture is a very old picture taken some time in the late 30's or early 1940's at one of Eagle Lake Sawmills' logging operations. You will see one of their old Super Power Whites loading at a Jammer.

Super Power Whites

On the left you can see the back of the winch truck, the line from the winch on it runs to the bottom of the A-frame, through a block up to the top, through another block and down to the ground. At the end of this line is attached two lines that have hooks on them. Attached to these hooks you have ropes. The Bull Roper, one of them you can see in the foreground, jams the hooks into the ends of the logs, the winch man takes up the slack and then winches the log up off the skid way over the angled logs and sets it on the bunks. One of my first jobs in the bush was Bull Roping.

In the spring of the year the roads could get a little slippery and in this next picture you can see two empty trucks pulling a loaded one up an incline in the 40's.

1940's trucks

That is quite a load for a single axle, but as you see in this next picture, a tandem axle Hayes. This early Hayes was diesel-powered and you can almost imagine the driver probably thought he died and went to heaven with all the power he had in this truck.

tandem axle Hayes

A Westcoaster International long logger. By the looks of the mud and the chains on the grill guard, it was the spring of the year.

Westcoaster International long logger

Picture courtesy of The Exploration Place