The Work : TRANSPORTATION
Oxen pulling logs from the water
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Transportation in the Cowichan logging industry, in fact, in the whole British Columbia coastal logging industry went through three major phases: horse and oxen logging, railroad logging and finally truck logging. These phases were not necessarily sequential; in fact, in the 1920's logging operations existed in BC that had all three - horses, railways and trucks in play at the same time.
The first loggers in the Cowichan were hand loggers that harvested the trees growing near the lake or river that could easily be dragged to the water. As the supply of these trees was exhausted, loggers started moving inland and began to use oxen or horses to move the timber.
The team might consist of 8 animals, driven by a bull puncher. A log would be dragged from the spot it fell by the straining team of animals, around stumps and adjacent trees to the skid road. This was often on rough terrain and could be very time-consuming. The skid was usually made up of ten feet long sections of logs buried half in the ground. The team, after a barker stripped the tree of bark to reduce friction, would drag the logs along the skid road to their destination.
The bull puncher held an important role in the camp and his wage would be comparable to a foreman's. He would be in charge of not only directing and cajoling the sometimes stubborn animals along the skid road, but also ensuring that they were healthy.
post card, righting a fallen engine
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In 1897, the first steam engine came to the Cowichan and slowly the animal teams were replaced. The steam engine offered more power, didn't need to be fed and wasn't temperamental.
In 1886, the E & N Railway was completed from Victoria to Duncan and railroad took its place in the camps. As logging companies moved further inland from the coast, logging railroads were built. Railway could operate over terrain too rough for horses, regardless of weather and independent of elevation. In 1913, the E & N Cowichan Lake Line opened and in 1925 Canadian National Railway provided a second line to the lake.
The cost of building rail was not cheap and this encouraged larger logging operations to enter the valley, which, along with growth in the market broadened Cowichan logging considerably. By 1912 there was 365 kilometres of logging track built by 22 logging companies on the British Columbia coast.
Loggers rode the lines to work on a crummy. The crummy was a covered railway car, most often very spartan, with hard wooden benches, an oil drum heater and a smokestack through the roof. There were sawboxes on the outside where fallers and buckers would store their razor sharp saws. A logger described the crummy as a sauna; coming home at the end of a long day, packed with other loggers in the hot compartment, steam would rise from the wet wool underwear and fill the car.
2 men standing beside logging truck and tree
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Derailments were common and if it were a railway car that went off the track, it could easily be dealt with. A locie wreck was another matter. A derailed locie might take all the cars off the track. There are stories of locies out of control careening down a hill.
By 1939, trucks were beginning to replace the railroads in logging. Initially, they were used in place of the steam donkey to get logs to the main railways. Later, as they were cheaper than trains, they were used to access the high elevation timber. Trucks are agile and can get close to where the timber is felled; this shortens the time spent on rigging and hauling the logs from the forest.
The invention of rayon coupled with the bulldozer set truck logging up for success in the forest. In the early days of truck logging cotton was used in the tires and cotton wasn't strong enough to support heavy loads or to survive the rough logging roads. The invention of the bulldozer allowed companies to construct roads into the forests easier and cheaper than with a crew.
Many companies couldn't afford to move completely over to trucking during the lean economical times of the 30's or 40's. In the 50's most operations moved over to trucking and in 1954, the last logs were hauled out of caycuse on rail.
As soon as the companies changed over from railroads to trucks, the camp was really doomed. There was little reason to live in an isolated camp, when you could live in a community.