Down the Loggers Lane

By Eric Andersen
Published: Dec 24, 2015
AN OUTDOOR interpretive trail is taking shape to display and celebrate community history, and our forest industry history in particular. Where? Loggers Lane, of course!
Today’s Loggers Lane, from the Mamquam River near Brennan Park south to the Downtown waterfront at Vancouver Street, has itself quite a story to tell. 
For the most part, its route is that of the Howe Sound & Northern Railway which ran along here from 1910 to 1915. This explains its long straight stretches. Many log trains and also early passenger train service used this route, built on trestles over the swampy floodplain.
Earlier, in the 1870s, as part of the building of the Howe Sound Trail for bringing cattle from the Lillooet and Pavilion areas to coastal markets, about a mile and a half of corduroy road was constructed roughly along the route of Loggers Lane north from the Smoke Bluffs Park parking lot.
At the Adventure Centre, Loggers Lane crosses the old East Branch of the Squamish River. Nearby was the outflow of the Mamquam River, joining the East Branch of the Squamish in two channels wrapping around a triangular-shaped island stretching east-west behind the high school, Capilano University campus and Adventure Centre. The outline of Mamquam Island can still be seen today, hiking through the bush or on a good map.
The flows of both the East Branch of the Squamish and the Mamquam River through here are very much reduced from what they once were. During a 1921 major flood, the main flow of the Mamquam took a new course westward out to where it joins the Squamish today.
Around Mamquam Island was eulachon spawning habitat, since lost to development and roads (and some poorly placed culverts). Here is an ancient village site, Q’ia’xan (meaning stockade), which would have been a very busy place where all people of the Squamish Nation would gather during the early spring eulachon fishery. This is the beginning of the grease trail, an ancient travel and trade route up the Squamish and Cheakamus valleys and beyond, connecting the Coastal and Interior Salish peoples.
The present day Loggers Lane was built along the old abandoned railway grade during 1963-64 by the Squamish Logging and Transportation Association, made up of local logging companies. The Village of Squamish had long wanted to get logging trucks off Cleveland Avenue.
The fill used to build up the new road came from maintenance dredging of the log booming grounds in the Lower Mamquam Blind Channel. The loggers paid most of the costs of grading and paving the Downtown section of Loggers Lane, also, and of widening it to two lanes in 1970.
A few years ago, the Sea to Sky Forestry Centre Society, set up to develop a forestry interpretive centre on Loggers Lane, received a tip from then local Bank of Scotia manager Rob Kirkham that a few thousand dollars were to be found in a long-forgotten Squamish Logging and Transportation Association account. A welcome reminder! These monies left over from the 1960s truck route construction would now be used for a Loggers Lane Interpretive Trail and for Forestry Centre interpretive facility planning.
There will be nearly 20 pieces of vintage logging equipment on display along Loggers Lane. Most were previously on display at the Carling-O’Keefe – I.W.A. Logging Museum which opened at Shannon Falls in 1976. After Shannon Falls became a provincial park in 1982, the Squamish Days Loggers Sports Association became the stewards of this collection, relocated to the Al McIntosh Loggers Sports Grounds.
The Squamish area has seen a very wide variety of logging methods and equipment used over the past 120 years, and has also been an arena for logging equipment testing and innovation. The evolution from animal power to steam and then gas and diesel engines, and from using the rivers to the coming of railways and then trucks to bring the logs to tidewater — all of this history can be very well presented along Loggers Lane.
It was in the area of Brennan Park and the Loggers Sports Grounds that steam power was first introduced to the valley by industrious early settlers the McIntosh brothers (John, Alex and Campbell) and Sam Olesen (after whom Olesen Creek is named). The logging steam donkey had been invented in California and its use spread north to B.C. by the 1890s. Squamish seems to have been among the first dozen or so places in the B.C. woods where steam engine donkeys were used. 
The swampy ground here would have been difficult terrain for logging with oxen or horse teams. A steam donkey to yard the large spruce and cedar to the riverbank was the solution. Which riverbank? Well, we must keep in mind that the Mamquam ran north-south here at that time, parallel to today’s Highway 99. A Vancouver newspaper reported on April 19, 1897, “McIntosh and Olesen have commenced work with their steam logger on the Mamquam River. Mac is a hustler and is making things hum!”
So, it is appropriate that exactly where steam power was first used here in the valley we have two steam donkeys on display today, near the Loggers Sports Grounds entrance. One is from 1911 and the other, owned by the Barr family, is a 1921 model. Further restoration and enhanced displays may be in store for these two steam donkeys.
In the Squamish area, gas and diesel engines replaced steam engines for yarding and loading timber by the time of the Second World War. Included in the Loggers Lane displays is a machine which represented the beginning of the end for steam-driven equipment in the woods — a 1920s Fordson farm tractor engine with a Skagit winch attachment on exhibit near the Adventure Centre.
Although it doesn’t look like much, in its day this Fordson and winch unit was revolutionary in its impact. The first truly successful gas donkey to be used in the woods, its capabilities and low cost permitted individual loggers to harvest timber in competition with major timber companies.
Henry Ford never made any attachments for either the Model T car or the Fordson tractor. This prompted entrepreneurs and manufacturers such as the Skagit Iron and Steel Works company to devise a great variety of mechanical innovations to retrofit onto the Model T or Fordson platforms.
The success of its gas donkey unit introduced in 1921 gave the Skagit company its start toward leadership in the manufacture of logging machinery, worldwide. Other later model Skagit yarding and loading winches once belonging to Squamish small logging operators of the 1940s and 50s are on display along the Loggers Lane route.
The Loggers Lane vintage equipment displays present, then, an evolution of logging machinery and methods. In this evolution, developments after the railway logging era were not toward doing things bigger, but toward machines with greater flexibility and more affordable and practical for the smaller operator — and less damaging to the forest than railway logging methods often were.
Another topic of interest in the Loggers Lane equipment collection is the origins of the machines, and our relationships to machinery technology and manufacturing centres in other regions of the continent: Bay City and Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Prentice, Michigan; southern Ontario; and Sedro-Woolley, Washington.
A few years ago, a delegation came all the way from Michigan to look at one of the vintage equipment pieces — a 1914 steam crane made by Industrial Works of Bay City. It was purchased new in 1914 by ‘Lumber Lion’ Mayo Singh, a renowned coastal lumber industry pioneer and celebrated figure in the history of the Sikh immigrant community of British Columbia.
The crane is one of the oldest of its type preserved anywhere. It was featured in the 1980s Disney film shot in the Squamish area, The Journey of Natty Gann (which also featured several local loggers in cameo roles).
A beautifully restored 1942 International logging truck is on display across from the Adventure Centre and, according to plans, will soon have a nice protective shelter.
There is some community social history we can be reminded of with this truck. In the days of the big 200-plus men railway logging camps, like the Merrill & Ring camps at Valleycliffe and Edith Lake in the 1920s and 30s, there was no family life.
Transient workers came up to Squamish from hiring agencies on Vancouver’s skid row, and mostly kept to the bunkhouses (and, indeed, were encouraged to, by the fathers of the community!) and 
disappeared back to ‘Big Smoke’ soon again.
In addition to its many 
advantages for forest management, truck logging changed the social life of Squamish and for the better. Loggers could return home to their families every night.
When we hear about the contribution of the forest industry in building the community of Squamish, it is really truck logging we should have in mind. As for the railway loggers, they did show off their engineering skills and left some good stories, but they mostly came and went.
There are many stories to be told along Loggers Lane — from the lady whistlepunks and lady logging truck drivers of the 1940s to the one about the steam donkey lost in a poker game to those fun-loving French-speaking boys who liked to play the fiddle, organize community dances, and play baseball.
And did you know that the 1920s Wehr ‘One-Man Power Grader’ parked in front of the Loggers Sports Grounds entrance was once used to grade the road up the Stawamus and behind The Chief up to the Gondola Summit?
There are also plenty of other themes besides logging history to be featured along the route, such as natural history, the story of the Mamquam River changing course, and the Squamish Watershed Society’s Mamquam Reunion Project to bring some of the old water flow back to benefit fish and wildlife habitat.
Geology is a theme also deserving attention along the Interpretive Trail,  and not just as the setting for great rock climbing. Did you know that some of the finer buildings on Georgia Street in Vancouver and on the Victoria Inner Harbour waterfront have facades of granite from the Loggers Lane quarries?
A trail loop winding around the large veteran sitka spruces just north of the Adventure Centre is a planned ‘Floodplain Forest’ interpretive trail project in collaboration with local naturalists. Nearby Rose Park, dedicated as ‘A Place to Remember Our Pioneers’ – has so many trees and shrub species, both natural and planted, it could genuinely be considered an arboretum.
Rose Park and Lily’s Garden are perhaps still undiscovered or underappreciated as places for relaxation and enjoyment. The trail through here was once River Road and was earlier a section of the original valley wagon road and the Pemberton Trail. There were several homes along here until fairly recently.
From here, one can look across to old pilings installed during the long ago days of log drives down the Squamish and Mamquam rivers, and to the old site of the railway’s powerhouse which supplied the town with electricity. More stories to tell here!
Over the past year, the Forestry Centre Society has managed to raise private sponsorship monies to install the Log Book sculptures owned by the District of Squamish that had been stored away for too long. These Log Book pages tell the story of forests and forest management from time immemorial in fabulous carved panels by Glenn Greensides accompanied by text from the noted historian the late Ken Drushka.
Future plans for the Loggers Lane Interpretive Trail involve building partnerships among community groups with installations and stories to tell along the route, various improvements including up-to-date storytelling technology, extending the project into the Downtown, and seeing it incorporated into a bigger lower valley circle route (‘Laughing Turtle Trail’) tourist attraction for Squamish.


  1. zoltan says:

    where is loggers lane and where is the Natty Gann steam crane? I thought it had been junked

  2. John Taubeneck says:

    I am glad to hear the steam crane is going to get some attention. Here is what I have on its history.

    Industrial Works C/N 2527 5 tons steam 1914 4-wheel
    Mayo Brothers Tbr. Co. Paldi, BC
    Grainger Taylor Duncan, BC (here 1969)
    BC Logging Museum Shannon Falls (Squamish), BC 1977
    Loggers Sports Grounds Squamish, BC 1986