Wednesday 10 September 2014


One of my acquisitions years ago was an extensive yet incomplete set of TRACK PROFILES for the Princeton Subdivision through the generosity of a friend of a friend who knew someone...  I also had an incomplete set for the Coquihalla Sub from another source and then there were my own visits to the CPR Engineering Department that I mentioned a while ago.  These PROFILES are most valuable resources for the prototype modeler and I share a bit of one here.  (More to follow as occasion warrants.)  These are huge rolls measuring sometimes more than 20 feet in length by 12" or so high.  They are drawn at a scale of 400 feet to the inch horizontally and 20 feet to the inch vertically.  These different scales show the gradients better.  A mile is theoretically 13.2" long and a roll usually covers 12 to 20 miles.

Here is a section from one Princeton Sub roll that includes the log spur at Mileage 99.6.  (Normal map orientation with North to the top.)  Near the top is a straight line which is the plan or bird's-eye view of the
track with the switch and spur.  The little diamond and the P.S. indicates Point of Switch (aka Headblocks).

Otter Creek is shown as well with a bridge and its road opposite  "Farm Crossing".

The sloping dark line is the grade profile at this location which is 0.50  percent rising to the west.  The wiggly line is the actual ground contour at the centreline of the track as mother nature made it. This suggests that the track is built on a substantial fill.

The lower solid horizontal line indicates the track is tangent here.

 A few years ago, using Google Earth and detailed maps, I identified the location of this spur, the creek with bridge and other landmarks including the barn.  Then with a friend we visited the site, finding the bridge, some old switch ties and taking many photos.  This is an overall view, taken from the right-of-way which is part of the Trans-Canada Trail, looking East.  We are standing where the road crossed the track.  The switch to the landing was somewhat beyond the leaning tree trunk and would pass through the fence line on the right.  Close on the left in the bushes is Otter Creek.

I was very curious about the purpose of this spur.  "Penticton Sawmills" provided a clue but there was no actual sawmill here.  It turned out to be a landing for loading logs to be shipped by rail to Penticton Sawmills. Eventually, I met a gentleman who possessed an extensive knowledge of the area's economy having worked as a truck logger among other industrial occupations in the region.  This wide experience with very clear memories of his time in the bush are just what a modeler such as myself would need to construct accurate models.  He freely shared his memories and very specific details.  One day he took me into the hills to see the well-worn truck he used to drive.  Not long afterward he rescued the truck and began a major restoration which is well on its way to completion.  It is a 1952 GMC with custom log bunks seen here in her working days and in model version.  This is a Sylvan cab & mirror; Military truck wheels; Boler? chassis (extended).  Styrene bull-board and brass log bunks were scratch-built.  Load was made removable.

"So, how were the logs loaded?" I asked my new friend.  By an "A-frame" was the answer and for this he provided a description but there were no photos to be found.  As the saying goes, one picture is worth a thousand words and that was a truth I well knew as I began to think of how to build one.  Fortunately, a year later on holiday, I was able to visit the Museum and Archives at Oliver BC where I found the photo I needed. They graciously provided a copy and here it is.  The staff there were enormously helpful in providing information and photos.  I do not know who took the photo but we believe it to be the spur at mileage 10.2 of the Carmi Sub. 

Loading operation.  The A-frame was portable and moved itself along the string of flatcars by a cable from the drum which was run out to the last car in the rear.  This cable is just visible.  After all cars were loaded, it sat on the last flat car in the string while the way-freight engine pulled them out - 10 or so log flats.  The loads were cut into the train except for the one with the A-frame which was placed on the head of the string of empties being switched back into the spur - in this case on the left.  After the train had left, the loading crew moved the A-frame into position so it could load the first half of the first log flat.  It bridged two flats as seen above and below.  Two or more skids were placed into position at the side of the flat car and the first logs dragged up the skids onto the log bunk.  After the load of logs was about half-way high, a wood stake was inserted into the stake pocket and tied to the permanent steel stake on the other side of the car.  In later years, chains with a ring were permanently fixed to the steel stakes and the rings looped over the wood stakes.  More logs were then loaded onto the pile to the required height pressing down on the wire or chain, drawing the stakes tight and secure.  The A-frame was then moved half a car-length rearward in order to load the second bunk.

From this photo and the verbal descriptions, I was able to construct a reasonable model of it by scaling and imagineering. Our rigging is little uncertain but otherwise it is a good guess - good enough for me.  Here we see our friend in the '52 GMC has finished dumping his logs and reset his stakes.  The crew has started to load the first bunk of the log flat.  Soon they will have to drive their wood stakes into the stake pockets and set up the wire ties.  The A-frame is seen bridging the two flats with loads to the front and empties to the rear.

Turning back to the prototype, we note that there were two A-frames in existence through the 40's and 50's being quite similar in construction.  One worked for Penticton Sawmills and the other one (as above) for Oliver Sawmills.  It was a labour-intensive process as can be seen from the fact that there are five men in the prototype picture: two manning the tag lines, one with cant hook at the end of the car, one running the gas-powered engine and drums and one tying his boots!  There were numerous log spurs on the Princeton Sub in particular, but Carmi and Merritt as well.  These log loaders would travel to where the logs were piling up and their respective crews would travel with it to do the loading.  The A-frame itself and the boom were lowered into position on the skids and metal bars and then secured for travel on the flat car. Sometime in the late 50's or early 60's, the efficiency of the new-fangled fork-lifts put these A-frames out of work.

For further information and photos of the prototype logging industry try here:
Here is an interesting story of 50's logging posted by the the same source:

This post is unusually long so we will continue our presentation on this most interesting operation next week with some additional information on the models and the prototype.  Timberrrrrr!

Coquihalla Man


  1. Fascinating Anthony...thank you for presenting. In your travels and readings have you heard of whether these types of A frame loaders were sued to the East especially on the Kootenay lines?


    1. I only heard of the two mentioned above. There were early versions powered by steam cranes mounted on flat cars. It seems reasonable to assume that the Kootenays had similar loaders. More common were Gin Poles about which we will post eventually. See the photo of one at Lemon Creek on the Slocan Sub: page 210 on The Crow and The Kettle. GTC Collectibles has a photo: CPR-LEMONC-1