Timber extraction in coastal British Columbia has evolved from simple hand-logging to the highly mechanized machinery of today’s forest industry. Manual labour has been reduced and production has increased. Current technologies must take into account environmental concerns.

The coastal forest industry has been 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 B.C. that had all three - horses, railways and trucks in play at the same time

In the earliest days, men, using axes and manual saws, extracted timber. Newly cut logs were removed from the forest by horses and oxen using skid roads, which were roadways, made of smaller logs buried half in the ground and greased with oil. The timber could then be pulled and pushed more easily out of the forest and into the water. Logging operations were established near rivers and oceans to so waterways could be used to transport logs.

American John Dolbeer invented the steam donkey in 1882 in California. This steam powered winch revolutionized logging by repla Read More
Timber extraction in coastal British Columbia has evolved from simple hand-logging to the highly mechanized machinery of today’s forest industry. Manual labour has been reduced and production has increased. Current technologies must take into account environmental concerns.

The coastal forest industry has been 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 B.C. that had all three - horses, railways and trucks in play at the same time

In the earliest days, men, using axes and manual saws, extracted timber. Newly cut logs were removed from the forest by horses and oxen using skid roads, which were roadways, made of smaller logs buried half in the ground and greased with oil. The timber could then be pulled and pushed more easily out of the forest and into the water. Logging operations were established near rivers and oceans to so waterways could be used to transport logs.

American John Dolbeer invented the steam donkey in 1882 in California. This steam powered winch revolutionized logging by replacing animal power and brought the industrial revolution to coastal logging. A wire or cable attached to the steam donkey would haul-in a log that was attached at the other end. The steam donkeys increased the speed of work and volume of extraction, but also increased the danger to the workers. The increased speed allowed the loggers less time to be careful. Originally fuelled by wood, by the 1920's, steam donkeys were fueled with crude oil, and in future years powered by diesel and gasoline engines.

Eventually steam trains were used to remove timber from the forests. By the 1920s, trucks began to replace the railways. In the late 1930's, a growing wartime market for lumber coupled with a shortage of fallers caused an explosive rise in the use of chainsaws in the forests.

The technologies used in coastal B.C.’s early forest industry were the beginnings of large-scale, mechanized clear-cutting. Although, clear-cutting methods are still used today, sustainable forestry practices insist that extraction technologies also consider the sensitive ecosystems they are working in. Partial cutting systems, like selection logging, can cause less soil disturbance and require less road building. Helicopter logging is another form of extraction technology that is expensive, but easier on the forest.

© 2006, British Columbia Forest Discovery Centre. All Rights Reserved.

Method:
Students research, interview, document and present a piece of their local history.

Procedure:
As a class, brainstorm people or places in your community that were associated with logging or the forest industry in the past and have not already been remembered or recognized formally (eg. retired loggers or neighbours, friends, relatives who worked in the industry, or closed mills, or other worksites). Students can use local museums, archives, government or forest company offices for sources of information.

Have students work in small groups. Each group selects one person or place to research, document and present. If a place is selected, be aware of any legal or safety issues to check out first.

Students embark on primary research about their subject. They should assign roles within the group. Some can write the questions for an interview, others can be involved in documenting or presenting the work. Students can use photography to document artifacts, equipment or people. Videotape or digital recording equipment may be used if available.

On Read More
Method:
Students research, interview, document and present a piece of their local history.

Procedure:
As a class, brainstorm people or places in your community that were associated with logging or the forest industry in the past and have not already been remembered or recognized formally (eg. retired loggers or neighbours, friends, relatives who worked in the industry, or closed mills, or other worksites). Students can use local museums, archives, government or forest company offices for sources of information.

Have students work in small groups. Each group selects one person or place to research, document and present. If a place is selected, be aware of any legal or safety issues to check out first.

Students embark on primary research about their subject. They should assign roles within the group. Some can write the questions for an interview, others can be involved in documenting or presenting the work. Students can use photography to document artifacts, equipment or people. Videotape or digital recording equipment may be used if available.

Once their research is compiled, students should work on presenting their research. For example, they could build a website, a report, an exhibit. Students could also prepare a theatrical presentation. If applicable, copies of projects can be displayed or donated to local museums, history or heritage organizations, libraries, municipal halls.

Assessment:

Observe the group discussions and work and assess for:
Group participation
Fair delegation of tasks
Creativity in the pursuit of primary research (i.e. where do students search for information, how many sources are investigated?)

Assess final presentations for:
Conveying information accurately
Conveying information in a logical and interesting way

(Alternatively, students may decide beforehand how they wish their work to be assessed. Prepare a list of criteria that students agree on. As a class, or within groups, students assess group documentation and presentation.)

© 2006, British Columbia Forest Discovery Centre. All Rights Reserved.

It’s been a monumental change.

Ken McKinnon: It’s been a monumental change, when I was working for the Timberland Appraisal Office, one of my jobs was plotting all the timber sales of crown timber for that particular year. I could see them all scrunched up in different areas like Desolation Sound and whatnot. That was the little guys, primarily the first year of their sales and they are simple to get, they could stake out an area of crown land, and apply to cut it and the Forests Service would send someone out and they would make a deal where they would pay so much for each thousand board feet – at that time not cubic or metric. The huge difference that has happened since then is that the huge companies have taken over. The little guys are the dead men other than doing little contracting jobs – that float camp we saw up there wouldn’t exist today. The outfit would have sent another contractor and it was cut and go. The equipment has changed so much that you can take the E and N (railway) from here to Courtenay and see where they have logged alongside the tracks. It’s a shambles. Track machines going by to snip the trees and everything else. I was never there during the time of hand fallings, but there certainly wasn’t the mess that there is today. The irony is that what I cruised in the 50’s and 60’s has now grown up again and cut a second time. That’s a bit hard to swallow. Liz Crocker: What’s the quality of the timber on the second growth? Ken McKinnon: It’s not there, it’s very limey. If it was left for another 150 years it would be a different story.

BC Forest Discovery Centre
BC Forest Discovery Centre; Ken McKinnon
c. 2000
British Columbia, CANADA
© 2006, British Columbia Forest Discovery Centre. All Rights Reserved.


There were several changes that started about that time

Ken McKinnon: There were several changes that started about that time. The main one, that I ran into around 1961-62 was a self-propelled, steel spar tree. It was an invention of Madill here in Nanaimo and it was a wonderful thing. It was a donkey mounted on top of a surplus tank chassis -- an army tank. It had a massive diesel on it and an operator could move from spot to spot and at the same time very quickly set up the yard and logs and cable. Just a hydraulic ramp, and the spar would go up. They could run the guy wires out in a few hours. The big difference was that the wooden spar tree and the steam required about 20 men to run one set up -- we called it one "spar tree set up" -- the steel spar was 9. So it made a huge difference

British Columbia Forest Discovery Centre
British Columbia Forest Discovery Centre, Ken McKinnon

British Columbia, CANADA
© 2006, British Columbia Forest Discovery Centre. All Rights Reserved.


Tree Hoist

Work at the Cathel's and Sorenson Log Company Camp at Port Renfrew in the late 1920s

British Columbia Forest Discovery Centre
British Columbia Forest Discovery Centre, Ken McKinnon
c. 2000
From the collection of Ken McKinnon
© 2006, British Columbia Forest Discovery Centre. All Rights Reserved.


Cutting Slabs on Buzz Saw

Men cutting slabs on the buzz saw, Jones Camp, Malahat, 1936

British Columbia Forest Discovery Centre
British Columbia Forest Discovery Centre, Ken McKinnon
c. 2000
British Columbia, CANADA
From the collection of Ken McKinnon
© 2006, British Columbia Forest Discovery Centre. All Rights Reserved.


Steam donkey with man in front

Shawnigan Lake Lumber Co., this was 9 x 10 Washington Donkey, men unidentified

British Columbia Forest Discovery Centre
British Columbia Forest Discovery Centre
c. 2000
British Columbia, CANADA
fdc 40330
© 2006, British Columbia Forest Discovery Centre. All Rights Reserved.


Oxen pulling logs from the water

Oxen pulling logs from the water

British Columbia Forest Discovery Centre
British Columbia Forest Discovery Centre
c. 2000
British Columbia, CANADA
fdc 14290
© 2006, British Columbia Forest Discovery Centre. All Rights Reserved.


Learning Objectives

After using this object students will be able to:
- describe methods of harvesting timber
- identify at least one nation that has shaped extraction technology in coastal B.C.

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