The On-Line Magazine of Rideable Model Railroading

  NUMBER 142


© November 30, 2009   

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Surry-Parker Log Loader in 1:8 scale


by Rick Henderson

The future long-range plans for the Eagle Point Railroad call for a lumber camp with several camp structures, logging donkeys and a log loader. Initially it was going to use a spar tree and steam donkeys to do the loading. Since the tracks will not reach the planned site for that camp for some time, I decided to build a different log loader, one that could be moved on flat cars, which also makes a very interesting load, especially for our card-order sessions.

After Gerd Ziller's article about his Decker style log loader ran in February 2009, it reminded me of a somewhat different Surry-Parker style log loader in O scale I had seen done in the past and I decided to do a similar version in 1:8 scale. I also thought it would make a great load for flat cars.

First flat in a short string being loaded

Loader on siding with new J&S Railcar's 2˝" scale Climax, battery powered.

This style of log loader was used in logging camps around 100 years ago and mainly in the U. S. southeast. Once a track was laid to a new site, the loader is brought in on a flat car(s) and then the loader was raised above the car with the six heavy support legs (some smaller versions had just four legs) so that the loader straddled the track and empty flat cars could roll under it. The main boom was raised to about 75° and anchored to the ground or large trees by guy wires on both sides. This tall boom was the one with the long drag cables extending into the woods that was used to drag the fallen timber to the loading site. The lower and smaller boom was used to do the actual loading.

Log trains were typically loaded from front to rear and were unloaded rear to front. To load a train of either flat cars or disconnects, the train is backed under the loading boom until the closest car to the locomotive is under the end of the loading boom. That car is loaded and the train pulls forward to load the next car. The clearance under the platform of the loader was just enough for a flat car or other log cars to pass under. If the cars had side stakes, they had to be removed and laid on the deck until the car was pulled forward under the loader to be loaded with logs.

Along with the loader came the camp structures, all built on skids and moved from site to site on flat cars. These would include a saw filers shed, cookhouse/dining room, several bunkhouses, blacksmith's shop, a general office and storage. I have already built the saw filers shed and the others are on the 'to-do' list.

Loader straddles track so empty flats pass underneath

Loader with saw filers shop beside rig


While designing the loader, it worked out to be just over 7' long when folded down for movement. When set up for car loading operations, the top of the main dragline boom is over five feet tall. With the six legs in the lower position, supporting the loader while straddling the track, flat cars, log cars or logging disconnect may pass under the loader. At the railroad where it is stored on the upper level of a car-barn, it has to go through a small door so it could not be over 30" tall; including the flat car it rides on. Luckily I have a 9½' depressed center flat car that gave me a couple of extra inches in height.

The under-framing, deck and legs were built first to make sure the concept of sliding legs would work to support the structure. Then I worked out how the large boom would clear the loading boom's support structure as well as where all of the cables would go when raised and lowered. After I had all of the booms installed I could move on to the accessories like boiler, wench drums and a roof. During construction I consider adding a lot of extra detail, however, reality won over when I realized that it was potentially going to be handled and possibly inadvertently damaged by several people.

The major framing pieces are standard 2x2 dimensional lumber. The six support legs are trimmed down 2x2's and the rest of the lumber was ripped on a table saw. All of the parts such as the winch drums are odd parts found around the shop or while browsing a few hardware stores. The gray cable is actually screen window beading while the boiler is from PVC pipe fittings. All in all, a very low budget project. It could get a lot more details after I see how it holds up during usage over the next year or two.

After building the loader, I needed something to balance the look of the loaded car so I built another very necessary model for a logging camp; a saw filers shed on skids. This shed was built from all leftover or scrap parts from other projects, except for two blades that were purchased new to make the two-man cross-cut saws seen hanging on the outside.

The next step is to build the several additional camp structures on skids to complete the camp scene (below). These will mostly be about four feet long and 15" wide so they can also ride as flat car loads. By the time the track reaches the intended location of the log camp, an entire operation will be ready to move in and set up camp.

Main framework of loader

Loader roof, cable drums and boiler started

Rigging and other details added

Base for saw filers shed

View through window of filer's shed

View during construction process

Loader broken down for transport

Note: I made this loader from looking at photos of the O-scale model and some quick concept sketches I made. Sorry, but there were no detailed plans available.


Article and photos by Rick Henderson

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