There's so much to talk about here. You're looking at what is variously called a set of "Big Wheels", "High Wheels", "Michigan Logging Wheels", or a "Slip Tongue Log Skidder". They allowed a logging crew to drag a log across steep, rough terrain to a staging area to be loaded onto a logging railroad (hint: check back tomorrow). There is a little more here than meets the eye. As the team moves forward, the tongue advances first pulling down a lever arm which partially lifts the log off the ground for easier skidding. When the team starts to go downhill and the log starts to catch up with them, the lever arm pops back up, lowering the log to act as a brake. I'll bet that was exciting.
This negative came to us in a circuitous way. Matt is also the archivist for the Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Oregon, and it was in their collection in Cove (near La Grande). It was "protected" inside the pages of a catalog of "Asparagus, Foliage Plants, and Palms" from a company in San Francisco. Unfortunately a catalog page had fused itself to the emulsion side of the glass plate negative. After some research, I decided to soak the negative and catalog page in distilled water to see if it would release. After a few days it started to lift. For two days I carefully lifted strips of catalog paper, then agitated to lift the remaining paper fibers. This still left the ink from the catalog on the emulsion, but with some more careful work with a swab I was able to remove almost all the ink without damaging the gelatin emulsion. The result is the beautiful image you see here.
It was a lot of work, but this image deserves to be seen again after a hundred years. The detail is spectacular. You can see the grease dripping out of the hub, and crisp fresh pine cones on the forest floor.
While you won't be able to make it out at this resolution, there is a very faint handwritten legend on the image which says "Weed Lumber Co., Weed Cal." The Weed Lumber Company operated under that name from 1901 to 1926. We have no idea how this negative made it from Weed California to Cove Oregon, but at least you know how it got from Cove to our photoblog. You'll see a few more images from the Diocese collection this week.
Photo courtesy of the Episcopal Diocese of Eastern Oregon.
I don't think I have ever seen "high wheels" before but have often wondered how they were able to skid large timber other than making a skid trail for each log.
Those wheels are beautiful.
Nice horses also.
When I first opened the photo I noticed the one man on the right had the look of a nationality we didn't see much in early HR days.
Weed, California makes more sense.
I don't know how HR was so lucky to get a mayor who loves history. Not only loves history but is able to painstakingly restore old photos.
Thanks Matt and Arthur.
l.e. on 18th March 2014 @ 7:15am
Good picture, with good detail for a picture so old. Definitely looks like the pine country in that part of the sierras. My only contrarian comment would be your referring to the steep, rough terrain. Understand that "steep" is a relative term, but this country would be like logging on a picnic table compared to the coast and alaska. But kudos to these old-timers for figuring out a system that works for the terrain they are working. Never saw anything like this before. Enjoyed it.
Buzz on 18th March 2014 @ 7:27am
if you haven't been, stop by the Collier Logging Museum near Klamath Falls.
spinsur on 18th March 2014 @ 8:37am
WOW Arthur! Thank you so much. Beautiful picture. Good looking big horses. Thank you for figuring out how to restore such an awesome shot. So much to learn from this picture.
nels on 18th March 2014 @ 10:23am
Thank you for "caring" so much. It seems to be rare, these days.
Jill on 18th March 2014 @ 11:44am
The more I look at this photo the better I like it, but the more frustrated I am getting. Can't figure out just how it works. Obviously the horses aren't pulling at all yet, and the log is as far off the ground as it is going to get--it is already up against the axle. So if they start down a little grade how is the front of the log going to drop down? I don't get it. Think I like donkeys and spar trees better. LOL
Buzz on 18th March 2014 @ 4:18pm
Buzz, I had the same question. My suspicion is the lever arm has a "lock down" position which leaves the log suspended, perhaps for hauling on flat ground.
Arthur on 18th March 2014 @ 4:38pm
I also came back this evening to gaze at this photo and try and figure out how the log drops down. I know guys in Canada who horse log, but their logs are toothpicks compared to this one.
The clarity of this photo amazes me.
And don't forget to check out spinsur's link. Lot's of big wheels.
l.e. on 18th March 2014 @ 5:53pm
Cove, Oregon? Just placed an order for the new book The Central Railroad of Oregon, Oregon's Blue Mountain Route" authored by Richard Roth. Matt probably worked with the author. AMAZING photo.
Arlen Sheldrake on 18th March 2014 @ 6:30pm
I think the log is too large for the big wheel to have been used in the traditional manner. Somehow the crew has raised the log and almost fully suspended it from the axle, verses just raising the front of the log. It must have been very tricky taking the team over rough ground when rigged this way as the apparatus would tend to run away on the downhills and overrun the horses.
Longshot on 18th March 2014 @ 10:56pm
I think Arthur is on the right track. The vast majority of time the ground is flat enough that just the tail-end of the log dragging on the ground would keep it from pushing on the horses. But when they needed to they could drop the front end just before they started down a steep pitch. When running rubber-tired skidders, I would sometimes drop a big turn of logs and use it for an anchor. Then let the winch spool out to let myself down over a real steep pitch.
Buzz on 19th March 2014 @ 6:13am
It seems the second team is getting ready to to join the first team- I'm guessing it would take four horses to move that Pine !
More than one face appears to be hiding on purpose behind the wood boom from the wheels to horses.
Wanted or shy ?
Steve on 19th March 2014 @ 6:48am
The operation is explained and obvious at Collier Park Logging Museum, highway 97 north of K Falls.
Kenn on 19th March 2014 @ 5:38pm
I went to Episcopal church summer camps in Cove (I think it was called "Ascension Summer School") and had/has the loveliest little chapel on the west coast, and a spectacular view to the west of the valley around LaGrand. Anyway, that's kind of tandential to this photo, since I can't offer much history before 1971, but Cove does figure significantly in Eastern OR Episcopal Diocese.
Susan Turner on 23rd March 2014 @ 5:24pm
What a stroke of luck to come across this site- I've been going thru my photos that I took in 2012 at my Collier State park visit- these are wonderful memories- and I thank the LORD for you knowing how to save the photo- If any of you reading this get the chance, do visit Collier.
Arlene Castro on 16th May 2016 @ 3:47pm
Beautiful Picture but I do not think they are slip tongue wheels. The log is chained to the tongues in stinger type wheels. I see no sigh of the mechanism that would be used one a slip tongue set. Thanks for posting the picture though. I enjoyed it.
5th Wheel on 7th February 2020 @ 8:05am
The horses' forward movement must first force the lever arm down before it begins to pull forward. This downward force is added to the weight of the log that is in front of the suspension point. This tends to lift the dragging end. It doesn't necessarily lift it clear off the ground. It would be set-to suit the terrain. It could be pretty much self regulating, with an axe stroke for an emergency brake.
Michael S. Moore on 8th April 2020 @ 5:53pm