Museum manager Tammy Bradford and wheelwright Brian Reynolds pose in front of restored logging arch. (Photo by Kelsey Yates)

Museum manager Tammy Bradford and wheelwright Brian Reynolds pose in front of restored logging arch. (Photo by Kelsey Yates)

114-year-old logging arch returns to Kootenays after special restoration

The giant wheels have a colourful history in the logging industry

The Creston Museum has restored a piece of history with the return of the logging arch.

On April 6, the impressive piece of equipment was unloaded and put back on display after a long journey home from restoration in Manitoba.

Originally built in Michigan, C.O. Rodgers brought the logging arch into the Creston Valley sometime between 1908 and 1913 for use in the logging operations at Canyon City Lumber Company.

The wheels were pulled through the forest by horses. (Creston Museum)

The wheels were pulled through the forest by horses. (Creston Museum)

A logging arch is a horse-drawn skidding machine featuring two giant wheels – 10 feet in diameter – joined by a massive axle in the centre. After chaining a large log or stack of logs to the axle, the simple device would raise one end to make it easier to be dragged out of the bush by horses to the nearby sawmill.

This specific logging arch was only used for a short time because Rodgers turned to using a mechanized tractor for logging in 1917.

By 1952, after a stint in the Blossom Festival Parade the previous year, the logging arch had been all but abandoned on the Lyons Ranch in Lister.

The logging arch pictured at the Lyons Ranch in Lister in 1952. (Creston Museum)

The logging arch pictured at the Lyons Ranch in Lister in 1952. (Creston Museum)

In 1960, the logging arch was purchased by the owners of the Yahk Pioneer Park Museum. It remained in that collection until the museum declared bankruptcy in 1979, when it was purchased by the Creston Historical Society.

Today, the logging arch is one of the few large industrial artifacts in the Creston Museum’s collection, and the only one exclusive to horse logging.

A few years ago, museum manager Tammy Bradford noticed that the wheels were in dire need of repair.

“It was really, really wobbly and near collapsing,” she said.

“It’s 114 years old, so it was in pretty rough shape after spending most of its life exposed to the weather.”

Not many logging arches have survived to present day, so Bradford was motivated to restore the rare piece.

She contacted Jeremy Masterson of Remington Carriage Museum in Cardson, Alta. as a technical consultant. He then put her in touch with wheelwright Brian Reynolds in Rapid City, Man.

It cost approximately $35,000 to complete the project, made possible with funding from Columbia Basin Trust, Canfor Wynnwood, and a number of other donors.

After securing funds, the logging arch was dismantled and sent east for a facelift in July 2020.

Over the past year and a half, Reynolds spent 540 hours working on restoring the wheels in his full-scale commercial machine shop – Celtic Power.

Restoration

“We got the history right back to the original manufacturer with a patent date of 1883 under Silas Overpack,” said Reynolds, who has a background in mechanical engineering.

“We even found some of the original brochures, so it was a matter of building the wheels to Overpack’s specs. I had to go back to school days to figure out the geometry behind it.”

Most of the original steel work was kept, but the wood had rotted and needed to be completely replaced.

“It was a really complex project, with some hiccups along the way,” said Reynolds.

“But it’s lovely to see it finished, and there’s a feeling of satisfaction to see it done.”

Now that the logging arch has been restored to its former glory, the Creston Museum is making plans to hopefully bring it to the Blossom Festival Parade once again this spring.

Tammy Bradford demonstrates how the logging arch was used on a miniature model. (Photo by Kelsey Yates)

Tammy Bradford demonstrates how the logging arch was used on a miniature model. (Photo by Kelsey Yates)

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