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Before Chainsaws: Tree Trunk Tiny House on Wheels

This is an incredible tree trunk tiny house on wheels created before chainsaws existed! Tiny House Talk reader, Kerry, shared some great pictures and commentary with us about this incredible “blast from the past.” Tiny House living has always been a great idea!

Before chainsaws were invented, the logging industry in the United States & Canada was a seriously challenging occupation and we are only talking about 125 years ago. In the Pacific Northwest there were forests full of monster trees and cutting them down was done by hand. A friend sent me these photos and I had to share them with you.

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Before Chainsaws: Tree Trunk Tiny House on Wheels

Images via Kerry

Look at the length of the two-man hand saw and heavy duty axes above that they used to drop these tremendous trees. It is almost inconceivable to think of cutting down a tree this size with a hand saw.

The work required very strong men (and horses) working long days for minimal pay. Could you imagine doing this to earn a living?

After a tree was finally felled, it took a week or more to cut it up into sections that could be managed (somehow) and transported by train to a lumber yard.

Maneuvering the logs down the mountain to the train was a complex job. I didn’t do any research on this, but I would be willing to bet that many men lost their lives doing this dangerous work. One slip and a hunk of wood as big as a hotel is rolling your way! The other question that begs an answer is how did they get those logs up onto the flatbeds of that train?

Hollowed out logs became the company’s mobile office. Can you imagine stacking such logs to build a log home? Two courses would produce a 30′ ceiling. Maybe that’s why it was easier to hollow out a tree.

Related: The “Original” Tiny House on Wheels.. Douglas Fir Log Motorhome?

A long time before anyone ever thought of a mobile home or RV, hollowed out logs were also used to house and feed the logging crews.

Images via Kerry

We are accustomed to our modern conveniences like electricity and gasoline powered chainsaws, and it is always such a mind-boggling experience to see how such monumental tasks were performed before these conveniences appeared on the scene. Remember that the picture above shows a hollowed-out log made into a travel trailer.

Share this with your friends. Even those who don’t live in a log home will enjoy this blast from the past!

Our big thanks to Kerry for sharing!🙏

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Natalie C. McKee

Natalie C. McKee is a contributor for Tiny House Talk and the Tiny House Newsletter. She's a wife, and mama of three little kids. She and her family are homesteaders with sheep, goats, chickens, ducks and quail on their happy little acre.

Latest posts by Natalie C. McKee (see all)

{ 23 comments… add one }
  • Arnie Sherman
    December 15, 2016, 2:58 pm

    Man, I love that house truck.

  • Deb Thomas
    December 15, 2016, 3:34 pm

    I agree with you but as with most things man does, hindsight is 20/20. People at the time thought they were doing good and the big trees supply would last forever. also, even with modern chainsaws, there is no way it’s going thru shit, i mean trunks, like that without breaking quite a few of them.

    • Simply Me
      December 15, 2016, 3:51 pm

      You’re complaining like they recently went to your local park and cut every tree down for no reason. This was 125 years ago. The explorers and settlers had to use natural commodities for basic shelter and survival. Wood was necessary to build cabins for shelter and that wood comes from trees. Don’t apply your first world problem/complaint to our ancestors’ necessities to survive.

  • Mary Handel
    December 15, 2016, 3:41 pm

    I agree with Lisa E. It’s unbelievable that trees could grow so large and then someone comes along and cuts them down. Ohh, look at all that wood! But your grandkids will never see the like! I do appreciate the opportunity to see the pictures of these giant trees. Wish we could go back to the good old days, even the 1950’s were heavenly compared to the world condition now. Ah well.

  • December 15, 2016, 3:48 pm

    What for foolish seems crazy, actually is glossy tenacity to make the impossible, possible. This is the ” indelible enamel” of the American People!

  • Anthonie
    December 15, 2016, 9:12 pm

    What’s inconceivable is cutting down a tree this size. How very sad.

    • Eric
      December 15, 2016, 10:27 pm

      In New Zealand we lost over 90% of our world famous Kauri tree’s due to man’s “ingenuity.” Chopped down mostly for sailing ship masts, and when that went out of business due to steam ships, turned to making wood for houses and furniture. What’s incredibly sad is there is now some sort of fungus or virus which is attacking many of the remaining Kings of the Forests. So we may end up losing all of them ultimately anyway. Sad, sad, sad.

    • rachel
      December 17, 2016, 8:13 am

      …i ALSO am a huge fan of BAMBOO wood for floors –and elsewhere in a tiny home. (it is a MUCH more renewable resource than the excessive TONS of live tree wood i see filling so many of the insides of these tiny homes)….r

      • Eric
        December 1, 2019, 7:26 pm

        Technically, bamboo is a grass. A very fast growing and hardy grass, but grass nevertheless. And yes… I like bamboo, especially for flooring.

  • Melinda
    December 16, 2016, 12:03 am

    When I was a kid, one of the redwood trees turned into a house was often brought to the county fair as a side show. They would charge a couple of dollars for us to go through it. I always wished that I had one of those…

  • Annette
    December 16, 2016, 9:03 am

    What a heartbreaker. I wonder how old these trees were – talk about the forest primeval!

    I wonder what in the next century they’ll be wishing we hadn’t done today in shortsightedness.

    • Cyndi ann
      December 17, 2016, 7:30 pm

      I wonder also Annette, I am still in awe because of those photos.
      I really love the idea of bamboo, always liked this and would like it if I ever get to Tiny House building. Smaller footprint and as much of the natural resources as this senior can handle.

  • Claude
    December 16, 2016, 11:33 am

    We had the same catastrophe in Canada when for more than a century the British cut most of our giant oak trees in order to supply Great Britain for the construction of their ships….Now you can’t find a single one.

  • Large Marge
    December 16, 2016, 2:42 pm

    After the 1861-65 invasive wars of Northern Aggression against the sovereign Confederacy, the Federalists repaid their war loans to New York and Chicago bankers by turning the forests of Georgia and Alabama and Tennessee into stump farms, exceeding several square miles per day, hundreds of thousands of acres a year.

    Thoreau wrote of “…the war on the wilderness…”

    In Marsh’s 1864 masterpiece MAN AND NATURE, he condemns “…our ridiculous and doomed attempts to civilize our wild home and our innate wild nature…”

    Talk about carbon loading! How much longer before the column collapses?

    • Rev
      December 16, 2016, 3:03 pm

      LM, your analysis reminds me of Jenga, the game of withdrawing a stick from a stack, delicately placing it on top, and hoping the inevitable crash happens during somebody else’s turn.

      Sticks. Stocks. Is there an analogy here?

    • rick
      December 3, 2019, 1:42 pm

      ” wars of Northern Aggression against the sovereign Confederacy ” ha ha! I think you mean the Civil War…

  • Gigi
    December 16, 2016, 5:52 pm

    We can be sad and bemoan the actions of people in days gone by. I prefer, however, to look forward with great anticipation to the marvelous things that will come from mankind’s drive and ingenuity. Somewhere out there are kids growing up who will positively impact our planet. Exciting!

  • Bigfoot
    December 16, 2016, 6:58 pm

    That log cabin truck is way cool! If I had trees that size on my property, I’d cut one down & make me one or two. Maybe a log truck to pull a log tiny. Just kidding, but—–
    Trees are one of our few renewable resources. I wonder how many complainers (everywhere) have helped grow, plant, or manage trees or are involved with conservation programs & donating time, labor, or money? There are many great conservation efforts going on so get involved if you are really concerned. One such example is the Kauri 2000 trust in New Zealand, aimed at restoring the Kauri tree population. There are numerous programs here in the US as well. There are also a great deal of invasive species that are damaging the ecological balance of native forests all around us so you can even be a good steward of the land by cutting down some select trees. Also, many valuable/useful trees are very easy to propagate (oaks & maples for example). Be part of the solution !

    December 16, 2016, 9:15 pm

    I’m not saying nothing…! That was a great achievement for back then…

    • Eric
      December 1, 2019, 7:34 pm

      Ah, but Zachary, you did say something… lol

      Couldn’t do that nowadays with chainsaws. They aren’t flexible enough, let alone long enough. All handsawn with very flexible handmade saws. Ingenious, but a terrible travesty to the wonders of nature. Happened here in New Zealand too. Now we have the obscenity of many millions of acres of pine forest plantations. Not only are they ugly they are an environmental disaster. Pine needles litter the ground and act as a dry lubricant that causes litter to be swept down in heavy rain. That caused a disaster in Paekakariki, New Zealand in late 1998.

  • Gwen
    December 30, 2016, 7:29 pm

    What is this, a production of The Lorax?

    Geez, people, over a century ago, there weren’t any Ikea stores or condos. People made their homes with their own hands, especially in the wilder areas. This wasn’t “sad” back then, it was triumphant.

    And like has already been said, it’s not like the entire planet has been paved over or something. There’s more forest growth now than there was back then, and that’s a verifiable fact.

    • Barnie
      December 31, 2016, 10:31 pm

      Another verifiable fact is that there will NEVER be another magnificent tree like this one ever again… We can be sure of that! It’s futile to take sides on this, but I can certainly appreciate why people are uneasy remembering this kind of “ingenuity”. Perhaps hindsight is one of our most valuable resources now!

  • Marcy
    December 1, 2019, 12:25 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this fascinating piece of history!

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