The era of the logging railroad was synonymous with the great era of logging. Each was dependent the other. The versatility of the railroad made it possible to tap the most inaccessible tracts of timber. Only the railroad could carry away the great logs as fast as the loggers could cut them down.

Last run of the day

The logging railroad was a thing apart. Beyond making use of a locomotive to haul cars with flanged wheels along steel rails it bore little resemblance to the common conception of railroading. It was a highly specialized operation requiring specially developed equipment and it was manned by a special breed of men. The logging railroad was made up of light rail tacked to flimsy ties and laid on scanty ballast. It had grades of six, of eight or ten per cent grades up which it worried the monstrous logging machines with the aid of geared locos. And having set these machines in production, unending trains of logs were dropped down the grades on hand brakes. It handled cars of logs eighty feet long, snaking them around thirty degree curves on disconnected trucks. It carried many trains operating on a single track and often without the aid of a dispatching system.

The railroad men were not bound by railroad tradition or experience. They made their own rules, established their own methods and created their own equipment. They knew but one driving force – the challenge of the growing timber just beyond the area currently being cut. No job was ever impossible. There was always a way to get the next tree – and the next, and the next. It was only a case of developing the right technique for accomplishing it. It was a hard and dangerous life. The men griped about their jobs, about the living conditions, about the cooks and they cursed the bosses and each other and themselves. It was a place where careless men died easily.

The logging railroad was the outstanding characteristic of the great days of logging. It was the symbol that marks and era – an era that can never come again.

Railroads in the Woods by John T Labbe and Vernon Coe
Published by Oso Publishing in 1961 ISBN#:9647521-0-7

This book is an an excellent comprehensive look at the men , the machines and the methods at work during logging’s “glory days”. The book contains over 450 photographs of the locos, the steam donkeys, the awe-inspiring bridges and trestles, the logging camps and an amazing array of equipment.

Property of Club Member Deb Smith

Logging Railroads of Humboldt and Mendocino Counties by Katy Tahja
Published by Arcadia Publishing in 2013 ISBN#:978-0-7385-962-1

If you are a Railroader and are interested in this neck of the woods, the Mendocino Coast of Northern California there is nothing better than this book. Katy has assembled a superlative cross section of pictures of the early days of logging in Humboldt and Mendocino Counties and peppered them with very informative text.

In working on our website I have looked at many hundreds, if not thousands, of pictures looking for those which will be the basis of the dioramas and locos we have on our layout. If Katy had published this book three years ago I would have been saved a LOT of effort!!!! I enjoyed reading every page.

I got my copy at the Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino. Katy works in the store and if she is there she will willingly autograph your copy.

Construction and Maintenance of Railway Roadbed and Track by Frederick J. Prior.
Published by Frederick J. Drake of Chicago in 1908.

If you want to build a standard guage track (4 foot 8 1/2 inches that is) then you can’t do much better than this 100 years plus book. It is small, 4 ¾ inches by 6 ½ inches, and boasts 568 pages of small type. It is beautifully written and a cornucopia of information.

The book has illustrations which are printed on foldout pages which are very fragile and seem to be made of a form of tracing paper. The many illustrations are beautifully drawn the “old fashioned way” on a drawing board.

Locomotive by Brian Floca

What is ostensibly a kid’s book would seem out of place in our website. It has been included because it vividly tells what a journey aboard a train in the late 1800’s was like.

Locomotive is a very welcome addition to the best in train books for kids and adults alike. Whilst “Locomotive” tells the story of a family’s 1869 journey across America on the newly completed transcontinental railroad it could equally be the story of the journey from Tiburon to Eureka. A mother and two children serve as our surrogates on this trip, but they are essentially extras in a book whose star is the train itself, from steam engine to caboose, along with everyone and everything that keeps it thundering down the track toward Californ-eye-ay.

Locomotive” incorporates many dollops of technical detail about 19th-century railroading. Whilst younger readers might get bored by, say, the digression on braking protocol and older children might find the clang-clang business babyish everyone — parents, too — will be thrilled to learn how a train toilet worked in 1869. (It sat atop a simple hole; not polite to use while in a station).

Floca’s illustrations are brilliant. He’s an exacting draftsman; he also knows how to give his pictures a cinematic energy, especially in the way he “cuts” from page to page. A spread showing the train crossing a rickety wooden bridge uses a funny visual trick to jolt your eyeballs along with the passengers.