McCloud River Railroad: McCloud River Lumber Company McGiffert Loaders


Once railroads became an integral part of logging, a means of loading logs onto railcars had to be developed. A number of different machines to accomplish this task were invented. One of the more successful types of loaders in the pine woods of the Intermountain West was the McGiffert Loader. The McGiffert loader was invented by John R. McGiffert, and the machines were manufactured by the Clyde Iron Works of Duluth, Minnesota.

The McGiffert was a large, somewhat awkward looking machine. The boiler and spools were mounted on a platform that was elevated over the tracks. The entire machine sat on legs that rested on the ground on either side of the tracks. The McGiffert was self-propelled, as it had a chain-driven drive axles that moved the machine along the rails. The wheels were retracted up against the botton of the platform when the machine was set up to load cars. When set up to load cars, the McGiffert straddled the tracks, and empty log cars were shoved underneath the loader. The log cars would then be rolled through the loader, with logs loaded onto the cars by a boom off of one side of the loader.

The first McGifferts appeared in the woods around 1902. Nearly a thousand of these machines would be built between then and around 1930, when production ceased. According to a roster compiled by John Taubeneck, the McCloud River Lumber Company owned four of these McGiffert loaders. They were as follows:

• McGiffert #678, built for McCloud River Lumber Company in 1906. Sold to Kesterson Lumber Company, Dorris, CA, in 1925 or 1926; to Weyerhaeuser Timber Company, Klamath Falls, OR, 1929; to Collier Memorial State Park, Chiloquin, OR, circa 1961. Currently on display at the logging museum at Collier, one of only four known surviving McGiffert loaders.

• McGiffert #1205, built 1917 for A. Guthrie & Company, Casway, Washington. To Cascade Lumber Company, Cle Elum, WA, 1918; to Forest Lumber Company, Pine Ridge, Oregon; to McCloud River Lumber Company, Bartle, CA, circa 1942. Seen in use on the McCloud as late as the mid-1950's.

• McGiffert #1223, built 1918 for Brooks-Scanlon Lumber Company, Bend, Oregon. To McCloud River Lumber Company, Esperanza, California.

• McGiffert #1282. Reported in use on the McCloud River Lumber Company at Burney, California, in 1927? (Cannot be completely correct...Pondosa is far more likely).

The use of McGifferts in the McCloud woods appeared to have ceased by the mid-1950's. As noted, only four of the machines are known to exist today. Two of them are on display at the logging museum in Collier Memorial State Park at Chiloquin, Oregon, one more is on display at a museum in Duluth, Minnesota, and the fourth rests upside down and buried in a lakebed in British Columbia.



An early McCloud McGiffert loader, most likely the #678 from above. The early McGifferts such as the one pictured were known as stiff boom loaders because the boom did not swing. Later models allowed the boom to be moved up to 15 degrees either direction. Photo from the Marc Reusser collection.



Another shot of the early McGiffert. The horse drawn "big wheels" were used extensively in the first phases of McCloud operations to skid trees from the cutting zone to the landing, where the logs were loaded onto the railcars for the trip to the mill. Photo from the Marc Reusser collection.



One of the later McGifferts crossing a trestle in transit to a new landing site. Note that the running gear is down, allowing the loader to propel itself along the rails. Photo from the Jeff Moore collection.



A McGiffert loader in the process of loading logs onto some cars. Note the empty car underneath the loader. Photo from the Jeff Moore collection.



Another shot of a McGiffert loader working in the woods near Pondosa. Photo from the Jeff Moore collection.



Another shot of the McGiffert near Pondosa. Jeff Moore collection.



A color shot of one of the McGifferts loading log cars near Burney in 1958. Photo by and courtesy of John West.



Heritage Junction Museum of McCloud, Inc. has the builders plate from NcGiffert #1286 in its collection. Photo by and courtesy of Norman Linn.