The completion of the Kansas City, Pittsburg & Gulf railroad, the road that is now known as the Kansas City Southern, opened up a stretch of longleaf yellow pine timber lands 200 miles long, and just as wide as it is found profitable to haul logs by the companies operating therein. Prior to the construction of this road there was a good part of the longleaf pine of western Louisiana that could not be reached by river, and was too far from any operating road for any single company to build tramways to it. Consequently the district so justly celebrated for its magnificent timber was only valuable as a possibility. The construction of this road, however, removed all doubts as to the value of the timber of eastern Texas and western Louisiana.
Indications of the efforts made by the companies operating in that section or that had timber holdings therein to reach their timber and get it to a point where it could be cut into lumber are still to be found. Some hauled it by wagon to a water course sufficiently large to float it to either Orange, Tex., or Lake Charles, La., where their mills were located. In several instances these companies went to the expense of putting in tramways which hauled the lumber from the pine forests to the waterways in question.
Among the first of those to take advantage of the opening of this district to the saw mills was the Central Coal & Coke Company. This company secured control of a large, heavily timbered body of land in the heart of the longleaf yellow pine district. In the center of this tract it built a combination circular and band saw mill and has since then built a small town to house its employees. The mill first constructed is still operated and is producing more lumber today than when it was started on the initial run.
The opening of this territory was an epoch making period in the history of western Louisiana. Prior to the construction of the Kansas City Southern railroad the timber lands of that section were practically valueless, so far as being utilized for commercial purposes was concerned. Since that time—and such is the condition today—they are priceless. There is hardly a price within reason that would tempt the holders of Louisiana timber lands to part with their titles to the lands in question. It has all been garnered in by those who are buyers not sellers, and there is not a single body of Louisiana longleaf pine of any consequence on the market that could be purchased at a reasonable figure. The reason for this lies in the fact that the extent of the southern pine forests is known and their probable life has been determined. The result has been to make owners of such property realize the worth of their holdings and the inadvisability of parting with them.
The mill at Neame, or, as the place was formerly called, Keith, has been in operation for about four years. In that time it has cut an average of between 40,000,000 and 50,000,000 feet log scale each year. Owing to the quality of timber obtainable at this plant much of it is being used now, as in the past, in supplying the demand for railway timbers, as well as for building timbers of all descriptions. Of late years a larger part of the product has been utilized to satisfy the railway demands. This has come not only from the roads engaged in building new lines but from repair and construction shops as well. The transverse strength of longleaf renders it especially serviceable when used for car sills. The sales department of the Central Coal & Coke Company is besieged with inquiries for stock of this description. It is obtainable in quantities and of a quality from the longleaf pines of Louisiana that bars competition from other sources. Several carloads of these timbers are made and shipped every day by the Neame mill.
The general outlines of the plant itself bear a close resemblance to those of the big Kennard factory. The saw mill, dry kilns and planer form the three points of a triangle.
THE SAW MILL.
This is a combination circular and band mill, the output being in the neighborhood of 155,000 feet, log scale, daily. The two saws are supplemented by a double edger and trimmer, which takes care of the product of both. Stock destined for the kiln and yard is carried by live rolls and chain conveyors through the trimmer to the sorting shed. That part of the cut which is to be given kiln treatment is placed on Graham lumber stackers. From this time until it is removed from the drying rooms it is handled only in dry kiln car lots.
The yard stock is carried by live rolls a short distance to the west, where it drops on a table of endless conveyors and passes slowly through a shed open on both sides. As the lumber passes to this table it is graded and then loaded on one of the many wagons used to haul the yard stock to destination. In this manner yard stock is handled only once before being piled in place to season.
Back of the dry kiln is the sorting shed, where the stock from the kiln is sorted and graded and from which point it is taken to the rough lumber shed several hundred yards to the rear, to be stored until its time comes to pass through the planer, and there be converted into the diversified forms of dressed product.
The railroad and other timbers, ties, etc., are allowed to pass out over the live rolls until the swinging cut-off saw at the tail of the mill is reached, where they are reduced to the desired length. If the stock is to be shipped in the rough it is then allowed to proceed to a point on the timber platform where the car is in waiting and is taken from the rolls and transferred to the car. When it is necessary to furnish sized or dressed stock the timbers are passed through a Fay sizer located at the tail of the mill. This sizer is capable of receiving any timber up to 14x30. After passing through this machine other rolls carry the timbers to the place of embarkment.
The dry kilns at Neame are the same type as those in use at Kennard—Globe kilns of the Graham patent. They are three in number and have a combined daily capacity of 125,000 feet. Each kiln has two tracks on which the lumber for the planer rests during the drying process. The story of how the lumber fares after leaving the kilns has been told.
There is a fascination about the process of manufacturing lumber that is irresistible. So many different sizes, even different grades of lumber, are cut from the same log that the ultimate destination of each piece is of absorbing interest. A huge pine log, straight as an arrow, without flaw of any kind, is loaded on the carriage. Cut after cut is made, the boards passing over the conveyors to the edger and on over the various routes until their final destination is reached. Part of one cut is sent to the dry kiln and from there to the planer, where it is made into flooring or ceiling or finish. Another part is sent directly to the yard, the fate of each being determined by the relative amount of sap and knots each piece contains. One, 2 and 3-inch stuff is cut from the same log, the heart of which may be made into a special stick of timber. It is like observing the scattering of a brood of checkens, the different paths of members of one family, the ultimate destination of a group of passengers, to watch the various purposes to which lumber cut from one log is diverted. It is all lumber and all very much alike—that of one grade—yet a part of one tree may be sent to Europe, another part be used to finish some mansion, still another to bridge a chasm over which trusting passengers are carried at high speed, and yet another part of the same tree help to bar the cold winds from the cottage of one of the lowly.
Following this perfect specimen of the pine in a warped and crooked member of the same family. Short work is usually made of these logs. One side is laid bare, another cut and the erstwhile log is given two parallel flat surfaces, and—if the log be small—the third cut reduces it to two 2-inch strips with uncertain edges, which are given a turn through the edger and emerge in a finished condition, so far as the work of the saw is concerned.
Where a band and a circular saw are used in the same mill the better class of logs are given to the band saw, while the longer and poorer grades fall to the treatment of the circular. The reason for this disposition is due to the fact that the width of a cut made by a band saw is only about one-half that of the circular. Naturally in cutting high grade logs the band saw is preferably used.
Most of the timbers cut by the Neame mill, especially the extra long pieces, are the product of the circular saw, which is due in a measure to the length of the carriage used and also to the fact that timbers can be cut much more quickly by the circular than by the band saw.
In discussing the individuality of the band and the circular with respect to cutting ability, the test runs made at Neame, showing the capacity of the saws in question, is interesting. On September 30, 1901, a test cut was made with the band saw used at this mill. In a run of 11 hours, using 453 logs, this saw cut 113,519 feet, log scale, or 130,546 feet of inch and 2-inch lumber. The total cut for the day of both average extension was less than 500 feet to each log.
The records of this mill show that during the fiscal year of 1902—ending June 1—the mill was operated a total of 292-3/4 days and made an average cut of 153,038 feet, log scale, the total cut for the year being 51,511,249 feet. For the fiscal year ending May 31, 1901, the mill was operated 285-3/4 days, producing an average of 139,881 feet. The industry of the new management is seen from the foregoing figures, as the record for 1902 was made under the administration of H. H. Folk.
The Neame mill supplied a large part of the 14,000,000 feet of railway timber and lumber furnished to Mexican railways last year. In addition to this, the Central Coal & Coke Company shipped to Liverpool 3,000,000 feet of lumber cut by the Neame plant.
About 40 per cent of the output of this mill is timber for both export and domestic consumption. A large part of the lumber and timbers used by the ’Frisco road in making the extensions to that system has been furnished by the Central Coal & Coke Company from the Neame plant. The extension of the ’Frisco system in Indian Territory and Oklahoma during the past few years has been on a grand scale, and the amount of timbers used in building these additions to that road system has been enormous. This road has 700 miles of additional construction on hand at the present time, and the Central Coal & Coke Company will fill a large part of the orders for the bridge and building timbers. The company makes a specialty of taking large contracts for timbers of this description, most of which are produced from Louisiana longleaf pine.
The planer is located to the west of the saw mill at a distance of about 150 yards. While it is not so large nor so well equipped as the plant at Kennard, it is capable of handling on an average of 175,000 feet of lumber daily. The planer is equipped with three Fay matchers with a daily capacity of 10,000 feet each; two Woods matchers which will produce 18,000 feet each; two Woods molders with an average output of 9,000 feet a day; two sizers; two resaws and other auxiliary machinery. Power for the planer is furnished by an Allis-Chalmers engine, fed by three tubular boilers 48-inches by 24 feet. The fuel used at both the saw mill engine and the planer is the shavings and sawdust which are collected by exhaust fans and fed to the flames as needed. The engine which drives the saw mill machinery is of the same type but of greater power, having a 24-inch stroke by 36-inch drive.
The spur leading to the timber platform passes near the platform in the rear of the planer, and a track has been built close to this so that the car floor is on a level with the platform. This enables the loaders to handle the stock from the machines with the least possible expenditure of time. The length of the platform enables the company to load six to ten cars at one time. The dressed lumber sheds are situated at a distance of several hundred yards from the planer building and in close proximity to the yard, where a reserve stock of about 15,000,000 feet is kept on hand constantly.
The mill is in charge of H. H. Folk, whose ability and experience as a saw mill manager are attested by the increase in the output of this plant since he has assumed control of its workings. The detailed operations are in charge of Mr. Folk’s lieutenant, A.C. Somers, who came to the mill with his chief. The work of finally preparing the stock for shipment from the planer is looked after by J. W .Hobby, who has been with the company at Neame for several years.
The commissary at this point is in charge of A. B. Finke, while J. W. Penfield acts as agent for the company.
The pictorial representation of the village and manufacturing plant at Neame is the best evidence of its completeness, as well as a tribute to its greatness.
Neame is a splendid type of the towns that spring up along a railway line through a southern pine forest. These villages are built primarily for housing the employes of a company operating at places similar to the one in question. After a town of this character has once been started, it forms the nucleus of the settlement of southwestern country. From the very nature of things the settlement of the southern pine lands is a matter of slow progress. Each mill point, however, is the. center of a permanent community which will, as its population increases, turn the cut-over lands into well-tilled farms.
Heretofore but little attention has been given this subject, but influential interests are now at work and the results of their labors are slowly becoming manifest. One hindering factor is the demand for labor from the mills. The remuneration given is greater than would now reward the same amount of toil on the part of the agriculturists, for as in all new countries, it requires the expenditure of considerable labor and capital to put the lands in condition to yield a proper and adequate return. A saw mill community, however, is itself a large consumer of farm products.
THE LUMBER ILLUSTRATIONS.
The pictorial representation of the two mill plants—Kennard, Tex., and Neame, La. —is perhaps the most complete of anything in this line ever attempted. The birdseye views are especially good at both points, and were secured from the top of the respective water towers.
One of the most unique photographs here reproduced is that of the car sills at Neame, La. The American Lumberman artist who took the picture was stationed on the water tower. The angle at which it was taken was very acute, as will be seen from the shadow of the man standing in the center of the timbers. It is perhaps the nearest approach to a birdseye ever attempted under such conditions.
Another especially fine view is that given of the saw mill plant at Neame. The picture apparently throbs with life and activity. Escaping steam and smoking stacks tell the story of strenuous life among the manufacturers in the south.
From an artistic point of view the pictures of the big plant at Kennard are not equal to those at Neame, but they portray the magnitude of the latter plant in a life-like manner. The saws, lumber conveyors, dry-kiln cars, and lumber sheds are reproduced in a manner that has seldom been equaled. Those devoted to the planing mill are especially fine and there is perhaps not another plant in the south that could furnish an opportunity for pictures of a like nature. The bank of matching machines offered an especially good subject.
A detailed description of each picture would involve a discussion too voluminous to find a place in this article. The merits of the different views are left to the critical judgment of the reader.