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High-lead Logging on the Olympic Peninsula in the 1920s-30s

As the rigging crew often worked out of sight of the donkey punchers who controlled the motion and speed of the mainline, orders where communicated via a series of whistle blasts controlled by a whistlepunk who pulled a thin cable connected to the whistle on the donkey engine. The whistlepunk would indicate whether the chokers had been attached to the logs and if it was safe to pull the log to the cold-deck. It sometimes wasn’t and the risk of injury or death in the forest was high.

Despite the use of high-lead yarding, groundlead yarding still had a place. As the technology advanced, however, groundlead yarding became the province of gasoline or diesel-powered tracked tractors that would drag the cut timbers to the landing using a variety of techniques. Three of these are illustrated in the Young Ironworks catalog (Figure 26).

Figure 26: Young Iron Works Catalog, P. 16 (more info)

In the brush, the tractors could move large logs in often-challenging conditions (Figures 27-30).

Figure 27: Logger using Caterpillar tractor and arch yarder, Simpson Logging Company, camp no. 1, ca. 1925 (more info)

Figure 28: Logger with tractor and yarding arch, Simpson Logging Company camp no. 5, ca. 1940 (more info)

Figure 29: Crew at loading site with donkey engine and tractor fitted with arch and winch for yarding logs, camp 1, Simpson Logging Company, Mason County, ca. 1924 (more info)

Figure 30: Tractor fitted with winch and arch for yarding logs, Polson Logging Company, near Hoquiam, n.d. (more info)


On the Olympic peninsula, as elsewhere, logging technology was never static. The timber industry always sought to develop new ways to harvest timber and move the logs to market. High-lead logging is a good example of this trend. It both sped up how quickly trees could be yarded as well as made it technologically possible to log areas—such as steep hillsides and ravines—that were inaccessible to more conventional groundlead yarding. Combined with the extension of railways it now became possible to harvest timber from large areas of the Olympic Peninsula and fuel the economic growth of the region for more than fifty years.

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