"Do you want a stop over at Lufkin?" is a question frequently asked by conductors on either the Cotton Belt or the Houston, East & West Texas railway, when nearing the latter point. "You see, so many of our passengers stop over there in order to make a trip over the Eastern Texas railway to Kennard to see the mill plant of the Louisiana & Texas Lumber Company. It is the largest in the world."
There are scores of sightseers who visit this mammoth plant every week, drawn thither by the reports of its colossal proportions, its seemingly animated machinery and its wonderful capacity for cutting lumber and storing it after it is manufactured. Even the lay brethren are amply repaid for a visit to this plant.
There is only one term that can be used to describe the mill plant: It is the largest in every respect of any mill in the south. From the endless chain log haul-up to the dressed lumber shed wherein the product of the planer is stored, the justification for this term is in evidence. In order to avoid the repetition of it, it is to be understood at the outset that it applies to everything not otherwise designated. As large as the plant is, however, there is no sense of clumsy bulkiness in evidence. Everything has been built on a gigantic scale, yet symmetrical proportions have been maintained.
Kennard is located twenty-seven miles west of Lufkin, on the Eastern Texas railway. This road was built for the purpose of opening up the country in that section and for the development of its timber resources. The road traverses a tract of country to the west of Lufkin that bears on its surface some of the finest shortleaf pine timber to be found anywhere in the south. The company owns 170,000 acres of this land. The timber map of Texas shows this point is only a short distance from the western boundary line of the pine district. At the point indicated the pine forests are lost in the heavy growth of hardwoods, comprising oaks, pecan and similar woods.
The construction of this line of railroad opened up a section of country rich in timber resources, but which was beyond the reach of the manufacturer prior to its completion. It is the intention of the company to complete the road to a junction with the International & Great Northern at Crockett. When this shall have been done it will form an outlet for the product of the Kennard mill to the north and west. The road itself will form an important connecting line between the southeastern and the northern portions of Texas. It has not been a great while since there was a saying in effect that it was necessary in "making” Texas towns to go and return on the same road, but that day is rapidly passing. The short connecting cross lines now being constructed are rendering it much easier to go from point to point. Especially is this true of the line just mentioned, which will form one of the most important lines in the network of railroads now passing through the Lone Star state.
The Eastern Texas railway was completed in December, 1901, and the first train from Lufkin reached Kennard on the 21st day of that month. The mill was about half completed at that time, and most of the machinery now used was installed after the date mentioned. After the completion of the Eastern Texas railway work on the mill progressed rapidly and on May 20, 1902, the trial run of the mill was made. The material for the mill buildings was manufactured by the builders on or near the mill site. A brick kiln was started which furnished brick for the dry kilns as well as for the foundation of the mill proper, the supports for the boilers and for other purposes. The lumber and timber used in constructing the saw mills, planing mill and other necessary buildings were cut by a portable saw mill, as was considerable of the lumber used in constructing houses for workmen.
THE MILL PLANT.
The mill is the property of the Louisiana & Texas Lumber Company. The officers of this company are the same as those of the Central Coal & Coke Company with one or two minor exceptions. The output of the mill is handled by the sales department of the Central Coal & Coke Company in connection with the lumber from the latter’s plant at Neame and the stock left from the Texarkana mill.
The logs are hauled from the woods to the log pond by the Eastern Texas railway.
Spurs are built from the main line to the point where the log choppers are at work, and cars are placed and removed by the railroad company as desired. There are three standard gage engines assigned to this work and they are kept employed supplying the mill with the requisite amount of logs. The logging crews live at the mill plant and ride to their places of employment each day on the logging trains. The spurs mentioned penetrate only a short distance into the heavily wooded country, but are being extended as fast as the timber is cut in their immediate vicinity. At present these spurs, four in number, which branch off from either side of the main track, aggregate only 6-1/2 miles after four months’ operation.
The log pond is large enough to store logs sufficient to operate the mills for five or six weeks when filled. There is usually enough kept in the pond to run the mill three weeks. The switches run on either side of the pond and logs can be dumped from two trains at the same time. The pond, covering 160 acres, was formed by damming a small stream, and this insures a plentiful supply of water throughout the year. Four to six men are employed in keeping the mill supplied with logs and these men also keep the bottom of the pond clear of "sinkers"—logs whose specific gravity is greater than that of water and which in consequence sink to the bottom of the lake—for this body of water should be termed a lake and not a pond.
The logs are taken from the lake by a rapidly moving endless chain conveyor. There are three log decks to be kept supplied with cutting stock—one for each band saw and one for the rosser which prepares the stock for the big gang saw. Keeping the directions to the right and left as the logs enter the mills, the machinery is located in the following manner: On the right is the long log carriage for the band saw, with its usual equipment; on the left is the rosser used in preparing the logs for the gang saw and also the short carriage band saw. After passing through the rosser the logs are conveyed by live rolls to a stationary platform where they await their turn at the gang saw. The smaller band side, or the saw used in cutting the shorter logs—logs not over twenty feet long—is placed directly opposite its mate, as is customary in a double band mill. There are two 12-saw edgers used to care for the side cuts of the band saws and these also are brought into service in trimming the sap boards from the gang saw.
The edgers are located just inside the line of live rolls that carry the slabs to the conveyor and are also used in caring for the timbers from the band saws. The trimmers, two in number, are to the left and at the side of the buildings. They cut from 8 to 40 feet, and are operated by levers from a cage placed over the line of live conveyors.
The scene is one of great animation. The long lines of live rolls and swiftly moving conveyors give the impression of a huge animated monster. There is a never ceasing stream of lumber flowing from each band saw, and this is augmented by the output of the gang saw, which is capable of cutting three logs at a time. A large part of the lumber for the latter passes directly from the gang saws to the trimmer, and from there is carried on and on until it is finally deposited in the cars for the dry kilns. One is never certain just what direction a piece of lumber is to take. A touch on a lever has the effect of diverting it from a certain course to one in an entirely different direction. The lumber passing through the edgers strikes a table of swiftly revolving live rolls, which give it impetus sufficient to carry it to the conveyors which pass under or through the trimmers, and by this route out of the building to the first sorting shed. The saw mill building proper is 90 feet wide by 486 feet long, and every foot of this immense space is necessary to care for the product of the swiftly revolving saws. The band saws have a capacity of about 75,000 feet each and the gang saw is capable of producing 100,000 feet of inch lumber daily, which gives this mill a daily output of 250,000 feet, log scale, now. After it shall have been in operation a while longer this will be increased materially.
The gang sawed lumber is given automatically first to one edger and then to the other. This is done so that a congestion shall not result from an endeavor to make one edger take care of the product of the gang saw in addition to that of the band.
The trimmer for the band saw that cuts the short logs is equipped with ten saws, each of which moves downward at the touch of a lever, while the trimmer for the long side has fourteen saws operated in the same manner. The ends cut from the lumber drop directly into the refuse conveyor and are carried to the burner.
As stated, after passing through the trimmers the finished product is conveyed to the sorting shed. Up to this time, except by the men who feed the trimmers, the lumber has hardly been touched by human hands. As it comes from the trimmers that part of the cut destined for the dry kilns is transferred by men stationed for that purpose to the second set of conveyors, which carry it to the car to which it is assigned, where it is automatically stacked and, as soon as the car is full, is conveyed to the dry kilns. The yard stock is allowed to drop into a different set of transfers, which carry it out into the sorting shed, where it is graded and from which it is hauled to the yard and stacked.
THE DRY KILNS.
Three dry kiln rooms have been completed and are now in operation, and two more are in course of construction. These rooms are built of brick throughout, and are Globe kilns, of the Graham patent type. The rooms are without floors, the cars being run in on skeleton tracks. Heat is supplied by large sheet iron drums, the furnace part of which is lined with fire brick. There is one of those hot air producers under each line of track, which gives three to each room. There is a furnace at each end of the drums and this enables the firemen to keep an even heat day and night.
The kilns are protected from fire in the main by a wide fire space which separates them from the other buildings. As an additional precaution they have been equipped with steam pipes and perforated water pipes so that a blaze could be extinguished almost instantly should one occur. After being taken from the kilns the cars containing the lumber are left standing on an open fire space which separates the dry kilns from the second sorting shed, where the lumber is carefully graded and loaded on hand trucks. After the second inspection the lumber is taken to the rough sheds and stored until it is needed at the planer.
There are now two of these rough sheds in service and a third is being built. They will hold 1,000,000 feet of rough stock each. They are 60 feet wide by 400 feet long. The lumber is stacked between uprights which hold it in place and prevent warping.
The planing mill is in keeping with the remainder of this mammoth plant. Matchers, resaws, planers and molding machines are each given separate places in the huge shed which protects them from the weather. The various machines operated at this plant are capable of turning out 300,000 feet of finished material daily, and that without crowding the capacity of a single machine.
There is a bank of matching machines, ten in number, which take the product of the resaws located at the northern end of the building and reduce it to finished ceiling or flooring. At the opposite end of the building are located the matching and molding machines, as well as several auxiliary resaws.
The planer has not yet been equipped with all the labor saving devices that the company intends to install. The back of the building is to be fitted up with a sorter much on the order of the one now in use at the saw mill. At present there are ten swinging cut-off saws immediately back of the principal machinery, and it is the intention of the company to install the sorting tables and conveyors just back of these saws. Under the present arrangements the finished lumber is taken from the machines, loaded on hand trucks and carried by these to the dressed lumber shed, which is located just back of the planer building proper, with a track for loading cars between the two buildings. The work of transferring the lumber from the planer to the shed will be done by machinery as soon as it can be put in.
The planer building is 150 feet wide and 450 feet long. The dressed lumber shed is capable of holding between 6,000,000 and 7,000,000 feet of lumber. The pictures of this shed show an immense amount of unoccupied space, although there was over 3,000,000 feet of lumber in it when they were taken.
Six large exhaust fans are used to take the shavings and sawdust from the machines. Three of these are single 8o-inch fans, two are single 50-inch and the other is a single 60-inch. After supplying the furnaces which are used at the planer the remainder of the shavings and sawdust is driven through a blow pipe to the edge of the forest, nearly a quarter of a mile distant, where it is burned. The "cyclone" with connecting pipe forms a veritable network of pipes, closely resembling a still. There are, of course, individual pipes to each machine which collect the shavings, etc. This collection is gathered in the cyclone, from which are two exits, one leading to the furnaces with a percentage valve which controls the amount of fuel to be supplied the boilers, and the other a blind trail which returns the dust and shavings to the cyclone, where it again passes through the pipe leading either to the furnaces or the woods. This pipe is put in as a safety precaution, to lessen the possibility of clogging the main exhaust.
The power provided to run the machinery is in keeping with the general character of the plant. The engine used at the saw mill is a 1,200-horse power Corliss with 38-inch bore and 60-inch stroke. Steam for running this monster is furnished by nine automatically fed tubular 60-inch by 22-foot boilers. The band or drive wheels are 27 feet in diameter, one of which has a 46-inch and the other a 60-inch face. This power is used to operate the saw mill only.
That in use at the planer, while not so large as the power just described, is entirely ample. Five boilers, of the same type as those mentioned, are used to furnish steam for the 800-horse power Corliss engine, of Filer & Stowell make, as is all the power machinery used at this plant.
The refuse burner used at Kennard is constructed of sheet iron and measures 40 feet in diameter and 85 feet from the bottom of the burner to the screen. The fire screen on top is 15 feet above the top of the solid sides. It is hardly necessary to specify that this is the largest in existence, but large as it is it is kept going at its full capacity when the mill is being operated. This does not necessarily imply, however, that there is any unnecessary waste of cutting stock at this mill. Such is not the case. The fuel for the dry kilns is picked from the refuse conveyor after the slabs have passed through the slashers, and this is conveyed by mule propelled cars from the point where it is sorted out of the refuse conveyor to the place where it is used.
A 50,000-gallon water tank is located in the center of the mill site. The ground on which this is built is 21 feet above the saw mill floor. The bottom of the tank is 100 feet above this level and this gives a pressure on the first floor of the mill of over 50 pounds to the inch. The tank from the ground has the appearance of a very ordinary affair indeed, but is really 24 feet in diameter by 16 feet high, although one’s first impression is that its height is greater than its width.
This plant is equipped with an electric lighting plant, power being furnished by a Chuse directly connected engine and dynamo, giving a voltage of 220. This is used to light the saw mill and planer and also to furnish light in the stores and the office building. Steam for the engine is furnished directly from the planer boilers.
The company has a machine shop in operation at Kennard which, in addition to doing all the repairing for the company, attends to work of this nature for the Eastern Texas Railroad Company.
A new office building is being constructed. This building is 40x40 feet, with wide verandas on all sides. The lower floor will be used for offices and the upper part of the building utilized as rooms for officers.
A commodious store building is also being constructed which will replace the present small affair and add much to the comfort of both customer and storekeeper.
The company built a substantial school house which is donated to the county for school purposes. Should this building be diverted from the purpose for which it was erected it will revert to the company.
A complete city system of water works is in use at Kennard. In addition to the pressure from the water tank the company has a pump near the lake with a capacity of 900 gallons a minute, which can give a pressure of 180 pounds on short notice. The piping, so far as it has been installed, has been tested at a pressure of 285 pounds.
The work of erecting and equipping this monster plant has been done under the personal direction of W. H. Carson.
Edward C. Allen is in charge of the mill operations at Kennard.
The store at Kennard is under the management of J. H. Bester. John Kennedy is agent of the auditing department at this point. The present store and office quarters are very inadequate, but as soon as the new building shall be completed the men will have room to handle the big business they transact every day.
Interest never flags at Kennard. One could watch the mill in operation day after day and each time discover something new and interesting. There is a brilliant future before this southern giant, and those who are guiding and controlling its actions are fully capable of providing for the needs of the monster as they materialize.