Luodong Forestry Culture Garden

I learned a lot of stuff when I was in Taiwan during this past trip. For example, there’s a Taiwanese douglas-fir!

It’s supposedly pretty rare. But rather than expand on how much I like douglas-fir, let’s talk about one of the little trips we took.

The Luodong Forestry Culture Garden is a relatively new combination park and museum. Luodong was a busy hub of activity for logging in the early 20th century, and this park represents the elements that comprised the industry.

The log pond, fed by a natural spring, was a storage facility for logs. Today, you can find a kingfisher perched on the driftwood if you look closely:

It is also the location of the terminus of the former narrow-gauge logging railway, including several museum and workshop buildings, six steam locomotives, and rolling stock that were in use on the line.

Such large-scale logging was made possible the by the railway. The Japanese had attained much experience at rail construction by the end of the 19th century. Now in control of Taiwan, they were quite interested in its vast forest resources, and completed the Yilan line (from Taipei) in 1924, though logging operations were well underway before this time. Luodong is where the narrow-gauge line met the Yilan main line, and the park is the site of the station.

Below, you can see a partial reconstruction of a ramp that was used to roll the logs into the pond:

There’s a photo in one of the buildings that shows a larger-scale ramp. That white speck to the right of the log is a person. These are big logs–we’ll see more of that later.

The forests are located in the mountains, which are quite rugged in Taiwan. One method used to get logs off the hill was the slide (notice the large sculpture in the rear; there are several at the park):

The sled was used for dragging logs across horizontal surfaces where the railway didn’t go:

So far, it was an interesting place, all right. But then, in the Forestry Exhibition Hall, we hit galoot pay dirt. It took a lot of self-restraint to refrain from jumping up and down like a kid in a candy shop upon seeing this:

I’d been wanting to see one of those large saws for a long time. It was as large as I expected, but one thing that took me by surprise was just how big the handle was. Compare the handle size with the one below it–this sawyer must have had large hands. Another interesting note is that the larger teeth don’t end in points; they’re flat at the top. I would suppose that this is to provide extra strength.

The labels say 大剖鋸, for big rip saw. Below, there are a few more saws, including some crosscut saws, with the label 五齒孔鋸, meaning five-tooth hole saw. Basically, that means there are five teeth, then a gullet for raking out the sawdust.

Check out the rake angle of second saw! The saw below the large one also featured progressive rake along with the progressive pitch commonly found on a saw of this type. Here’s a close-up–the rake changes from positive to negative.

In this building, there was a timeline of when various operations were done by hand versus machine. Doofus that I am, I didn’t take a photo of it; all I can say is that I was surprised at how long things were done entirely by hand, even ripping logs into boards. It was well, well into the 20th century.

Also included in the display is a handy diagram of how the tools are used. There are no surprises here–the hewing axe (鉞斧) is used for hewing, the crosscut saw is used for crosscutting, and the big rip saw is used for ripping:

Now, you might think that the log above might be a little large for that fellow to handle. That is, until you get to the “mountain life building” and you see a photo of this veritable he-man getting to work:

Notice how he has a second, smaller saw at his side. I’d guess that he started the cut with this thing. What’s particularly fascinating about the way these guys worked and their saws is that they could do it as a single-man operation–no pit saw needed, no pit needed! It’s remarkable how the saw did not need to be wider than the log. I’m going to speculate that they’d saw from one side, then the other, then back, all the way down the log.

There is “DIY” building in the park where they apparently let people mess around with wood and tools, but it was closed when we went there. Too bad.

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