How to use a logging arch

Creston Museum Logging Arch, News & Articles, What We're Up To Now Leave a Comment

Seriously, getting to work in a museum is the best thing ever. I mean, where else do you get to talk to all sorts of fascinating people, get transported back in time through old newspapers and photographs, and play with century-old log skidders – all in the same day?

A miniature logging arch, backed by its big brother, on display at the Creston Museum

Today, we created a little video to demonstrate how a horse-drawn logging arch worked. We didn’t use the full-sized arch we have in the collection – it’s in not nearly good enough condition for that. Instead, we used a quarter-sized replica made for us by the Remington Carriage Museum.

The logging arch in use, circa 1913

We also made a little video about the full-sized logging arch and our plans to restore it, but if you’d like more details than we could fit in a two-minute video, read on!

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Logging arches, also called Michigan wheels and a variety of other names, were first used in Michigan 1875, having been made by Silas Overpack at the request of a local farmer. The large wheels, up to 10’ in diameter, made it easier to skid logs over soft ground. Prior to this, logging operations were often carried out in winter when frozen ice and snow made for easier roadways; the logging arch helped extend the logging season year-round. Following Overpack’s example, there were several other companies that also made similar machines, with a number of variations to improve their functionality in steeper terrain or specific situations.

The Creston Museum’s logging arch is of the Overpack style and was likely made in Michigan. It was brought into the Creston Valley by the Canyon City Lumber Company, a number of whose directors were from Michigan. The Company, under the leadership of C.O. Rodgers, had at least two logging arches in the Creston Valley by 1913.

Newspaper photo from April 1913 showing two logging arches at the Canyon City sawmill

We do not know for how long the logging arch was in use. C.O. Rodgers was pretty innovative when it came to adopting new technologies, and was the first to use a mechanised tractor in local logging operations. That was in 1917, so it stands to reason the logging arch wasn’t used much beyond that. The fact that very few in-use photos of it exist, and the arches were not mentioned in local newspapers, suggests that its use was limited. The Canyon City Sawmill burned down in 1923; Rodgers subsequently moved his entire operation into downtown Creston. It seems highly unlikely that the logging arch would have been used after this. Certainly by 1952 it had been all but abandoned on the Lyons Ranch in Lister, near a large barn that had once stabled the horses used in early logging operations.

The logging arch at the Lyons Ranch in Lister, 1952

In 1951, the logging arch was entered in the Blossom Festival parade. According to a 1960 Creston Review article, that was “the first time [the wheels] had been seen by the public.” This further supports the idea that the arch had short-lived use in local logging. In 1960, the logging arch was purchased by the owners of the Yahk Pioneer Park Museum. It remained in that museum’s collection until it declared bankruptcy in 1979, and the collection was bought by the Creston & District Historical & Museum Society.

Today, the logging arch is one of the few large industrial artifacts in the Creston Museum’s collection, and the only one that’s exclusive to horse logging.

Support the logging arch’s preservation

It’s also fairly rare; although not the only one in existence by any means, not many of these magnificent machines have survived to the present day.

The logging arch at the Creston Museum about 1985

Now, wouldn’t it be just the coolest, most impressive thing ever if we could put the full-sized one in the Blossom Festival parade? Imagine those ten-foot-diameter wheels rumbling down Canyon Street, hauling a 50-foot log! That’s a sight neither you nor your children and grandchildren would ever forget.

The logging arch is in pretty rough shape after spending most of its life exposed to the weather. To put it in the parade – and keep it around so generations to come can marvel at its sheer size and the determination of the people who used it – it needs to be rebuilt. You can help with that!

Help rebuild the logging arch!

Rebuilding the logging arch will cost approximately $30,000. Remington Carriage Museum in Cardston, Alberta, will do the work, using historic wheel-wrighting methods and authentic materials. They’re the ones who built the scale model for us, and their workmanship is second-to-none. The end result will be a fully functional log-skidding machine – and yes, we do intend to put it in the Blossom Festival parade.

Canfor Wynnwood has donated $5,000 towards the restoration project, and we’ve received $1,000 from Creston-Kootenay Foundation. In addition, we’ve applied for a grant of nearly $16,000 from Columbia Basin Trust. That leaves less than $10,000 to raise – and with your help, it’s absolutely possible!

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