Manufacturer: Little Railways, 1621 Cherry Street, Williamsport, PA 17701. Price: 18 minute black-and-white VHS videotape, Number XV-001 $15.00 plus $2.50 shipping. Pennsylvania residents please add 6-percent sales tax.
HERE'S A SURPRISE. Little Railways, the 1:20 scale model company, is offering a product in 1:1 scale. A videotape. The title is From Woodchips to Sawdust and the catalog sheet accurately and concisely describes it as "a silent chronicle of hemlock lumbering (circa 1927) in Pennsylvania's north woods".
Little Railways' owner, Tony Ferraro, obtained permission to release old archive footage of Pennsylvania logging. So the tape is about lumbering, as opposed to logging railroads. It does show a couple of scenes of a Climax geared locomotive and a moderate amount of logging railroad equipment. But it also shows a lot of logging activity having nothing directly to do with railroads.
And it is fascinating. We see lumberjacks chopping down trees, and those guys worked fast. We see them butting the trees into logs and skinning off bark, then using horses and various other means to skid the logs to the railhead.
We wonder how any loggers lived longer than a week as we watch them load log cars. A long scene shows loggers ducking out of the way as an American Loader swings skeleton log cars through the air from one track to another. Things get even more dangerous when the loader drops logs onto the cars. That segment alone is worth the purchase price.
Another frightening scene shows intrepid loggers unloading the lumber into the millpond. Take it from Uncle Russ, those guys had to move fast or they would lose a limb!
The tour through "a modern sawmill" was also revealing. Not only was the equipment interesting; the wood was almost as dangerous as the machinery. At least the men pushing around the logs wore gloves.
The final segment, showing horses pulling hardwood logs through the snow, reminds us how the lives of loggers were little better than those of their animals. No wonder animal rights groups are a fairly recent phenomenon.
From Woodchips to Sawdust is worth every penny of its price. It is one tape you are likely to watch more than twice.-RR