TIE DRIVE AND TIE HACKS (RAILROAD THAT IS)

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 6.30.01 PMIN THE SUMMER OF 1927, 700,000 HAND HEWN, LODGEPOLE PINE RAILROAD TIES WERE FLOATED NEARLY 100 MILES DOWN THE WIND RIVER TO THE WYOMING TIE AND TIMBER COMPANY PROCESSING AND TREATMENT PLANT IN RIVERTON. IN ALL, OVER THE 33 YEARS THE PLANT WAS OPERATED, SOME 10 MILLION TIES WERE DELIVERED BY THE SWEAT AND SOMETIMES BLOOD OF A HARDY BUNCH OF MEN WHO BATTLED THE ELEMENTS AND THE RIVER TO CUT, SHAPE AND DELIVER THE CROSS-TIES TO THE CHICAGO AND NORTHWESTERN RAILROAD.  

IT ALL BEGAN WITH THE EXTENDING OF THE RAILROAD FROM CASPER TO RIVERTON AND LANDER, MAKING THE UNDERTAKING POSSIBLE. IN FACT THE RAILROAD HAD MUCH TO DO WITH THE LAND RUSH BEGINNING OF THE TOWN OF RIVERTON IN 1906 WHEN THE RAILROAD WAS EXTENDED. FOLLOWING THE LEAD OF OTHER AREAS IN WYOMING WHERE CUTTING AND SHAPING TIES WAS A BUSINESS, EVEN IN THE LATE 1800S, THE BUSINESS OF PROVIDING TIES TO THE RAILROAD CUT FROM THE FOREST AREAS NEAR DUBOIS BEGAN IN 1914. THE BUSINESS OF PROVIDING CROSS-TIES EMPLOYED MANY MAN, BOTH IN DUBOIS AND RIVERTON. THE SAGA OF THE SEEMINGLY IMPOSSIBLE TASK OF CUTTING AND TRANSPORTING THE STAGGERING NUMBER OF TIES NEEDED IS A TALE OF OVERCOMING THE ODDS, NEVER SAYING IT CAN NOT BE DONE, AND A TESTAMENT TO THE ABILITY OF STRONG MEN TO GET THE JOB DONE AT ALL COSTS.

A SHORT DESCRIPTION OF THE WHOLE PROCESS STARTS WITH THE LOGGING OPERATION. ARMED WITH A BROADAX STRONG MEN ENTERED A STAND OF LODGEPOLE PINE PREVIOUSLY MARKED FOR CUTTING BY THE FOREST SERVICE. AFTER CUTTING DOWN THE TREE, THE LIMBS WERE REMOVED AND THE LOG WAS CUT INTO 8 FT. LENGTHS. THE ROUGH SHAPE OF THE TIE WAS THEN HACKED INTO THE 8 FT. LOG, SOON TO BE A TIE, WITH THE LOGGER’S  AXE. A SKILLFUL TIE HACK COULD PRODUCE 15-30 TIES FOR WHICH HE WAS PAID 10 CENTS A TIE IN THE BEGINNING. LATER THE WAGES IMPROVED AND UP TO  $9 A DAY COULD BE MADE IF YOU WERE STRONG ENOUGH AND SKILLED WITH YOUR AXE.  TIES WERE THEN STACKED AND DRAGGED AWAY TO BE STORED UNTIL TIME TO TRY TO TRANSPORT THEM TO THE RIVERTON PLANT.

A NOVEL WAY TO MOVING THE PILES OF CUT TIES DOWN THE STEEP CANYON ABOVE THE WARM SPRING TO THE WIND RIVER WAS TO PUT THEM IN A WOODEN FLUME AND FINALLY DROP THEM IN THE RIVER. IN SPITE OF BEING TOLD IT COULD NOT BE DONE, THE WOODEN FLUME WAS CONSTRUCTED THROUGH THE IMPOSSIBLE TERRAIN OF THE WARM SPRINGS CANYON AFTER TWO YEARS OF DIFFICULT CONSTRUCTION WITH THE MANPOWER OF MANY AND A COST OF ABOUT $100.000, A MONUMENTAL SUM IN 1928. MORE THAN HALF A MILLION TIES WERE SENT DOWN THE FLUME AT SPEEDS UP TO 50 MILES AN HOUR IN THE OPENING YEAR OF THE FLUME (SEE THE PHOTO). 

THE STORY DOES NOT END THERE. ONCE THE ROUGH TIES FELL INTO THE WIND RIVER A WHOLE NEW STORY BEGAN. HOW DO YOU FLOAT THOUSANDS OF TIES DOWN A RIVER WHICH IS ONLY NEAR FLOOD STAGE FOR A SHORT TIME IN THE EARLY SUMMER?  LOG JAMS WERE A DAILY HAPPENING. IT WAS THE JOB OF ANOTHER GROUP OF YOUNG MEN TO GUIDE THE TIES DOWN THE RIVER, SOMETIMES REQUIRING BLASTING TO BREAK UP A JAM. EXPENSIVE HOBNAIL BOOTS (ABOUT $19 IN THE 30’S IMPORTED FROM SWEDEN) WERE A REQUIREMENT FOR THE RIVER RATS AS NEARLY 100 MEN WERE REQUIRED TO KEEP THE TIES MOVING DOWN THE WIND RIVER. THE RIVER RATS BECAME SKILLED AT WALKING THE TIES TO GET TO A JAM AND OFTEN SPENT MOST OF THE DAY IN THE RIVER TRYING TO PUSH AND PULL THE TIES INTO THE FLOW. A TOUGH AND CHALLENGING JOB FOR THE $4.50 PER DAY (GOOD PAY IN THE 30S FOR SURE).  BEAT UP BY THE TIES, SOAKING WET AND TOTALLY SPENT AT THE END OF THE DAY, THIS JOB WAS NOT FOR THE WEAK OR LAZY. FINALLY THE ROUGH TIES ENDED UP AT THE TREATING PLANT IN RIVERTON AND WERE TRANSPORTED AWAY AS NEEDED BY THE RAILROAD.  TODAY WITH ALL OF OUR POWER EQUIPMENT AND MODERN TRANSPORTATION METHODS, IT IS HARD TO BELIEVE THAT LESS THAN 100 YEARS AGO, MILLIONS OF TIES WERE “HAND CUT”  MOVED DOWN A RIVER BY THE MUSCLE POWER OF HARD WORKING MEN.  THIS PART OF THE TIE DRIVE IS WHERE OUR FATHERS (AT LEAST AS FAR AS WE KNOW, BEING VERY YOUNG AT THE TIME) ENTER THE PICTURE. I HAVE A VAGUE RECOLLECTION OF MY FATHER COMPLAINING ABOUT THE COST OF HOBNAIL BOOTS AND ALSO ABOUT ALL THE ACHING MUSCLES AND JOINTS AFTER A DAY SPENT AS A RIVER RAT.

OUR UNCLE MARK GOODMAN WAS INVOLVED IN SEVERAL PHASES OF THE TIE DRIVE AND IN HIS LATER YEARS WROTE A BOOK ABOUT THE TIE DRIVE THAT IS THE SOURCE OF MUCH OF THIS BLOG. STOP IN DUBOIS AT THE WIND RIVER HISTORICAL CENTER NEXT TIME YOU ARE UP THAT WAY. MARK’S BOOK IS NOT AVAILABLE NOW, BUT YOU CAN TAKE A LOOK AT IT THERE ALONG WITH MANY DISPLAYS ABOUT THE TIE DRIVES. CLEARLY THE TIE DRIVE WAS AN IMPORTANT PART OF THE HISTORY OF FREMONT COUNTY AS IT PROVIDED WORK FOR MANY MEN IN THE DAYS WHEN JOBS WERE NOT EASY TO FIND. REFERENCES TO MARK’S BOOK CAN BE FOUND AT THE END OF THIS BLOG. WHILE IT ALL SEEMS A BIT ROMANTIC NOW, IT WAS BACKBREAKING, DANGEROUS WORK AND SERVED TO KEEP A RAILROAD RUNNING BEFORE TRUCKING AND MODERN SAW MILLS WERE DEVELOPED.  THE PHOTOS INCLUDED ARE FROM MARK’S BOOK. THE TIE HACKS, MEN WHO WORKED ON THE TIE DRIVE, HAVE BEEN HONORED WITH A MEMORIAL (SEE PHOTO ABOVE) JUST ABOVE DUBOIS ON THE ROAD TO TOGW0TEE PASS. IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO READ MARK’S BOOK, A PDF FILE IS ATTACHED TO THIS BLOG.Broadax to Tracks  

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THIS BLOG WAS PUT TOGETHER BY A JOINT EFFORT WITH MY COUSIN, CLARKE GOODMAN.  WE SHARE MANY OF THE HISTORIES OF OUR FATHERS WHO WERE VERY CLOSE, ESPECIALLY IN THEIR DAYS AS YOUNG MEN SEEKING TO FIND THEIR WAY THROUGH LIFE.

HOW ANGELS FLY (A new post with a friend)

THIS POST TAKES A DIFFERENT DIRECTION TO RECOGNIZE THE OUTSTANDING WRITING OF A FRIEND FROM MY FORMER DAYS AT COLORADO STATE UNIVERSITY (CSU), JANET MONTERA, WHO WAS EXECUTIVE SECRETARY FOR OUR RESEARCH PROJECTS FOR SEVERAL YEARS.  SINCE RETIRING FROM HER CAREER AT CSU SHE HAS BEEN EXERCISING HER LOVE OF WRITING. SHE HAS HELPED MANY PEOPLE  WRITE THEIR LIFE STORIES AND HAS BRANCHED OUT AS A SPEAKER ON THAT THEME. SHE IS NOW FINALIZING A NOVEL ENTITLED, “THE RESPITE” AND RECENTLY PUBLISHED A WONDERFUL SHORT STORY ENTITLED, “HOW ANGELS FLY.”  

NOT ONLY HAS JANET COMPLETED PUBLICATION OF A WONDERFUL STORY, THAT OFFERS A NEARNESS OF ANGELS IN OUR LIVES, WITH THE HELP OF TALENTED ARTISTS SHE HAS ALSO PRODUCED “POSTCARDS FROM GOD.”THIS COLLECTION OF EIGHT INSPIRED POSTCARDS IS A GREAT WAY FOR YOU TO EXPRESS YOUR FEELINGS TO THOSE YOU LOVE AND CARE FOR. TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THESE RECENTLY PUBLISHED WONDERS AND FOR PURCHASE YOU MAY GO TO JANET’S WEBSITE AT http://jlmsgarden.com/  (IF YOU PREFER AMAZON OR OTHER BOOK SITES YOU WILL FIND THESE PUBLICATIONS THERE TOO)

I AM PLEASED TO SHARE MY BLOG WITH JANET ABOUT HER WONDERFUL WORK. I KNOW YOU WILL BE ENRICHED BY THESE NEW OFFERINGS. OH, AND DO WATCH FOR PUBLICATION OF HER NOVEL, ” THE RESPITE.” THE NOVEL’S STORY TELLER, ROSE EVA THISTLE, REFLECTS ON THAT BREATHING SPACE INSIDE EACH OF US THAT HUNGERS TO KNOW THE INTENTION OF THE LIFE WE ARE BORN INTO:

I Rose Eva Thistle, invite you to walk with me through my life’s garden, a place where the seeds of hope, cast on the winds of time, altered the very mysteries of my life. Call it circumstances or fate if you so choose. In the 1931 coal fields up the Del Agua Canyon near Trinidad, Colorado where I was born the seeds that blew in on the wind were onerous labor and misplaced fidelity.”

THANKS FOR VISITING MY BLOG AND HAPPY READING. WATCH FOR NEW POSTS SOON, JIM

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