In the movies the locomotive crew at every stop are seen moving around the engines, with oil cans. the need for hand oiling was true with all early machines. they did not have grease fittings or hand guns to sustain moving parts for a long time.
There were oil cups, and these had to be filled, because the system was made so they dripped oil on every part that rubbed another. On a train locomotive these cups were about quart size. On my 1920 Studebaker they held a few ounces.
The large bearings on the train axles had some doors under the engine. these could be packed, but they were packed by hand. in all of Red River Lumber’s old log camps that had rails, you will find a service pit so the men could get under the locomotive. these can be 8 feet deep, and a few such as on the top of Blacks Mountain Camp still have some rotten lumber hiding these pits.
The smaller branch lines were all narrow gauge in the early years. the engines were often bought used and then kept running as best they could. many logging engines were small and designed for mining, but logging was close to the needs of a mine.
They were built for power not speed, and for their size they needed weight. the water tanks were built over the boiler, which kept the engine short and the weight over the driver wheels. Engines made for a strong slow pull had very small drivers, the flatland engine made for speed had large circumference drivers.
In Hewitt Park Oroville has a Lima or Shay logging locomotive. they were geared down so they could haul a great weight over mountain grades. Looking down the right side the gears and shafts make every wheel a power unit. the other thing about them is how low they built them, this helped to keep them on the tracks. a Shay did not look like a Caddy, but to a logger they were as good as they came.
Running log trains was not a safe job, but nothing in early logging was safe. Trains turned over on curves, perhaps going too fast, or a log shifted on the trucks, and then the logs went over, bringing the train to a sudden stop.
A common problem was a wheel locking up, then they would turn red hot, setting the logs above on fire, and still flipping the truck. This required that every set of wheels (trucks) had to be greased and inspected.
There were no log cars, just two sets of wheels held to timbers by bolts, then at the far end of the logs, another set. the logs themselves were the body, so when one end came apart, the only question was which direction the logs and trucks were going to leave the tracks.
To add to the thrill, on steep grades they had “hoisting mechanisms.” these a winches with a long cable to pull or slow a train as needed. Steel rims on steel track can only handle about a 6 percent grade. Hoists needed more grease and oil, another operator, and a Dolbeer donkey and three more men.
The trains and movement of logs all required miles of cable. When these broke under a strain, they could cut a log in half with a speed a man would never know what had come his way.