No, loggers did not crawl, but their tractors sure did. Seeing photos of early Caterpillar tractors in the woods is what first caught my attention to the remarkable evolution of crawler track technology and its early use on farms and by the military during WWI. Quite a story and no less important to northwest loggers. Without doubt, the arrival of steam donkey engines and high lead logging technology revolutionized the northwest logging industry, but at a cost. It cost money in both equipment and time and was not always the most efficient nor safest way to go. Yarding areas were limited and relied on rail or road access - also expensive. An early answer to these problems was the use of Big Wheels pulled by teams of oxen or horses.
Photo courtesy of Bygone Days of Logging
The advantages of this approach were many - investment in roads was minimal, flexibility was inherent and big wheels kept logs off the ground and easier to drag along. Gosh, that's what crawler tractors do.
Photo courtesy University of Washington Libraries, CKK0756, Clark Kinsey photographer, circa 1925
The above photo shows an early caterpillar tractor with an "arch yarder" being used to drag big logs suspended off the ground. How would you like to drive this bucking bronco? Looks to be steam powered. Note the large barrel mounted on the tractor likely used to carry water. Logging yards were soon transformed into "cat yards".
Photo courtesy University of Washington Libraries, CKK01630, Clark Kinsey photographer, circa 1927
You could also move some pretty big logs with cat power.
Photo courtesy University of Washington Libraries, KIN0009, Darius Kinsey photographer, n.d.
Simpson Timber Company located in Mason County was an early adopter of crawler tractors and transformed many of their logging operations to take advantage.
Photo courtesy University of Washington Libraries, CKK0768, Clark Kinsey photographer, circa 1940
These tractors could haul some darn big logs.
Photo courtesy University of Washington Libraries, CKK0487, Clark Kinsey photographer, n.d.
As equipment increased in capability, so too did hauling capacity. Despite their market share dominance, Caterpillar did not have the logging market all to themselves. Pacific National Lumber Co. who logged near Elbe and had a sawmill located just 7 miles from the entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park used tractors made by Cletrac Tractor. I haven't heard of them before.
Today, we have crawler tractors "snipping off" second or third growth timber at the base and neatly placing it in a haul pile or directly on a truck all in a matter of minutes. What's next?