With Kirby at Silsbee (Gulf Coast Lumberman, 1939)  
  "With Kirby at Silsbee", Gulf Coast Lumberman, March 1, 1939. Bound in a scrapbook in the collection of Lester Haines.  
Kirby Lumber Company at Silsbee, Texas  
The roundhouse for Kirby's logging railroad is located at Silsbee. Here you see two of Kirby's locomotives being prepared for a scheduled run.  
  With Kirby at Silsbee  

Logging headquarters and commissary headquarters of Kirby Lumber Corporation are all at the above-average sawmill town of Silsbee, Texas, located about 20 miles north of Beaumont.

Of course there's a large yellow pine sawmill there too, but we've told about that in a back number of THE GULF COAST LUMBERMAN, SO this visit we'll cover the logging operations and tell something about the electrification of the mill.

In Kirby's general policy of modernization and improvement of electrical equipment, which was begun about two and a half years ago, new equipment of every description has been replacing out-dated machinery at all the Kirby mills.

At Silsbee the newest addition is in the power house life source of the mill. A new steam turbine was installed some months ago to generate electricity for the entire operation, and to replace steam power for many of the machines. The planer now has electrically driven resaw and blower fan. In the sawmill the re-edger and drop sorter operate on electric power.

They dry all 1" and 2" stock at Silsbee and it's a neat kiln drying operation. End circulating Moore kilns, automatically controlled, do the drying. All the timbers and that's plenty, because Silsbee cuts a world of fine short leaf timbers-are dipped in Lignasan. All yard stock not put through the kilns is also dipped.

A big mill Silsbee. About 350 men are on the payroll in the mill alone, not counting those who work for the railroad, logging, and commissary departments. Its head rig is a single band followed by a bull edger, and right now, cutting around 100,000' board measure a day which, in case you don't know it, is a good deal of lumber for a Texas sawmill. The production of the mill is short leaf, with small cuttings of Long Leaf now and then.

The logging operations of Kirby are under the able leadership and direction of a man well schooled in that important division of sawmilling. His name is C. F. Young, and he had this to say about Kirby's logging operations:

"The greater extent of our logging is selective cutting. We log according to the usually accepted standards set up by general forestry practices. I n other words, we cut our fee timber with an eye to the future. We're much interested in reforestation and have for several years been training our logging crews in economical forestry practices with the view of holding down waste to the minimum.

"All crews co-operate with the state forestry departments in keeping down fires not only on our lands but on adjoining properties as well. Our general logging procedure is to cut the kind and quality and character of timber to be made into stock which is in demand. This enables us to get the most value from every tree harvested. It means that we have to go over the same tract of timberland several times during a period of years, cutting only those gees suitable for the current market.

"About 60% of our total pine and hardwood timber is logged with trucks and tractors. Right now our logging operations are about 25 to 30 miles from the mills. Trucks and tractors have replaced skidders on all of Kirby's logging operations. This change has been made for several good reasons. First, truck and tractor logging is more flexible, more economical, and better adapted to present day logging conditions. Then too, with our present policy of selective logging, the use of the skidder is impossible because of the destructive nature of such an operation. It's too expensive, besides.

“In our tram road logging, we use teams and log wagons altogether. With the improvement of truck equipment, we're gradually getting away from trams.

"Our logging is a highly mobile organization. At the present time we're logging in several counties: Hardin, Jasper, Newton, Polk, Tyler in Texas; Beauregard and Vernon Parishes in Louisiana. The logging includes three tram loading operations and eight different truck logging jobs.

"No tract of timber is assigned to any particular mill. Timber is sent to the mill where it can be used to the best advantage. For instance, we might send Polk County logs to Bessmay or Jasper County logs to Silsbee. This working makes all timber available to all mills a very flexible arrangement."

Mill manager for Silsbee is a man who has seen sawmilling as it should be done in many states and two countries. He has been with Kirby for over 12 years. His name is W. A. Brownlee, and he says Silsbee's the finest sawmill in Texas, and by looking at the dolly of stock he's displaying in the accompanying photo, you almost have to believe him. Anyway it is a mighty operation andthe lumber that comes out of the sheds is the kind that makes people ask, "Honest, is it as good as Kirby's ?”

Text and images were digitized and proofread from the original source documents by Murry Hammond. Contact Murry for all corrections, additions, and contributions of new material.