Freight Car Friday – Logging Cars

16 12 2011

The logging industry depended on railroads for much of the 19th and 20th Centuries – not only to get products to the markets but to get the timber off the mountain. These lines were among the steepest, twisted and roughest rails in the country, and they required special equipment to do the job.


The flatcar, car of choice for moving logs over regular rails, was often more car than necessary in the backwoods.

Mention logging railroads and the first thing that comes to mind is probably the unique and odd geared steam locomotives that trod the forests. But trailing those engines were trains of equipment just as distinctive and unique to the industry. The obvious car of choice for hauling logs was the basic flatcar. The open platform was a versatile vehicle for loading rough logs, or finished lumber.

skeleton car

The skeleton log car was more efficient in mountain operations.

For the backwoods however, even the simple flatcar was more car than necessary. Many companies eliminated the deck all-together. With nothing more than a frame, these skeleton cars were much lighter – allowing heavier loads – and easy to unload. Some roads went even further and eliminated all but the trucks! These little buggies, called disconnects, were placed under the ends of the logs, allowing the tree itself to be the car.

AF log car

Some logging cars were specially equipped to help with unloading.

When trains reached the mill, logs were usually unloaded into a log pond where they could be sorted before cutting. Some cars were equipped with moveable decks to assist in the process. Smaller cars simply required removal of the chains and a push from machinery on the ground.

In the rough and isolated environment of the timber lands, rail cars were often home-built and modified as necessary to keep them running on a dime. They make great modeling opportunities for those who like to add a little extra detail or weathering to their cars. Just because the engine is the star of the show, the train isn’t over when it passes by!




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