March and April 2006
 

 

 

A Logger's Family Album

Many logging families go back three, four, even five generations. Their family histories are full of stories of hardships, forests filled with mammoth trees and bigger-thanlife lumberjacks bringing them down. The VanNatta family’s history is no different, except that Robert VanNatta has placed their well-documented story on the web (www.vannattabros.com). With a click of a mouse, you can follow the Northern Oregon family as the timber industry evolved — from the days when they used oxen to pull their logs to the Columbia River, on through the steam days, and even into the heavy machinery of the 70s. It’s a fun romp through time and bound to bring back memories. Here is small sample:

 

Hard Rubber Tires

Shown here is a photo out of the Olsen family achieves depicting a load of logs on a truck with hard rubber tires. . . . The exact history of this photo or the vehicle is not known, but this writer assumes it is properly dated to the 1920's. Clearly the concept of using a stinger steered trailer was understood even then.

Notice the use of “cheese blocks” on the bunks to hold the bottom logs in place instead of stakes that are used now. Likewise, there is no sign of a chain or cable, or anything securing the logs to the truck. They just appear to be stacked on it. Wouldn't DOT have had fun inspecting this thing?

 

1940’s White Logger

Although railroads predominated as a means of logging transportation in the first half of the 20th century, it occurred to loggers that trucks could haul logs too and improved trucks quickly displaced the railroads after World War II. Typical of the post war truck is this White truck shown working in Tillamook County doing salvage logging after the Tillamook Burn.

If the load on this truck looks like a bit much for the truck, it’s because it was. The truck was a single-axle tractor with a single-axle trailer.

 

The Wagner Skidder

The Wagner Brothers of Portland Oregon (later to be split into FWD Wagner, Scoopmobile, and Wagner Mining Scoop) made several early prototypes of rubber tired log skidders in the mid 1950's. VanNatta Bros. ultimately acquired and used two of these machines for years, though they were quite different.

”This one of a kind machine was made in 1955 and is the larger of the two Wagner prototypes owned by Van- Natta Bros.… Engine was a Cummins H-6. Twin disk Powershift transmission, Clark Axles. Shown here with two winches and an anchor blade on the rear for heavy winching is the Wagner made some early log skidders (the ones owned by VanNatta Brothers were built in 1955 and 1956).

 

Westfall Performer

Featured here is a Westfall Performer— a skid steer before skid steers had been invented. It was purchased new in 1956 by Kondor Lumber Co. of York, Pa., and was still in service in 2001 when these photos were taken. Westfall marketed the concept of skid steer long before the idea was popularized. They made some skid steer farm tractors in the early 1950's. . . . This writer can only claim to know for sure that two of the large machines were built. There is the Kondor example shown here and in about 1965, this writer saw a companion model on a dealer lot in Portland, Ore.

Like today's skid steers, the power train goes back to a 3rd member and has an air clutch and air brake for each side. There is no differential. The front wheels are driven via a roller chain in a chain box. Unlike the skid steers of today it also has a little bit of conventional steering. The front wheels have a joint outside the chain box, which allows a little steering. The Portland version I saw had a Cummins C series turbocharged engine in it (the 1950's variety, likely around 160 horsepower). The Portland model had a front end (or should I call it a rear end) loader on the back with log forks on it. It also had a hydraulic winch and a fairlead in the loader mast so it was both a skidder and a loader. The version that you see here was powered with a classic Cummins NHBI, which we know and love as the classic industrial version of the Cummins 220. Behind the engine was a five speed manual transmission and behind that was a 2-speed transfer case.

The folks from Kondor Lumber have used this machine for 'heavy dragging' and it no doubt serves them well. We evaluated it for use on steep slopes and rough terrain, and our thinking was that on wet hillsides it didn't have a chance.

 

TW

This page was last updated on Tuesday, September 19, 2006