Forest railway

A forest railway, forest tram, timber line, logging railway or logging railroad is a mode of railway transport which is used for forestry tasks, primarily the transportation of felled logs to sawmills or railway stations.

Forest railway operations in Comandău, Romania (Photograph from 1996)

In most cases this form of transport utilised narrow gauges, and were temporary in nature, and in rough and sometimes difficult to access terrain.


Before the railway was invented, logs were transported in large numbers from the forest down rivers either freely or on wooden rafts. This was not without its problems and wood was often damaged in transit, lost in floods or stranded in shallow water. Suitable rivers were often unavailable in mountainous terrain.

Shay locomotive on an American forest railway
Tourist trains and narrow gauge museum at the Kemence Forest Museum Railway.

Simple wagonways, using horses and wooden rails, were used from the 18th century. However the invention of the steam locomotive and steel rails soon led to these being employed for forestry. However the difficult terrain within forests meant that narrow-gauge railways, which took up less space, were lighter and easier to build and enabled tight curves to be laid, were preferred. These were the so-called forest railways. In particularly large areas of forest or forests of unusually large trees, such as in the northwestern USA, extensive forest railways were even built using standard gauge exclusively for forestry tasks. Special geared locomotives such as the Shay and Climax locomotive were developed for high tractive effort on rough track. Some forest railways became common carriers when cleared forest land was converted to agricultural or recreational use.

Perdido, a steam pole road locomotive

In cases where the railway itself was considered very short-term, or the region was extremely difficult to access, logs would often be laid into the ground as a pole road, rather than the cost and logistics of laying steel rails and sleepers. Pole roads could be extensive; several examples in the southeastern United States extended up to 20 miles at the end of the nineteenth century, and used purpose-built steam locomotives.[1]

In addition to steam traction, diesel and petrol-driven locomotives were also used later on. These largely brought animal-hauled transportation to an end on the forest railways. Also common were routes that just used gravity. Wagons loaded with wood would simply roll downhill in a controlled fashion under the pull of gravity. Foresters also travelled on these, at some risk to their lives on occasions – as brakemen. Empty wagons were hauled uphill again by horses.

From the second half of the 20th century forest railways were threatened by road transportation and by the end of the 1960s they had practically disappeared from western Europe. Roads were often laid in their place on the old trackbeds.

In a few Eastern European countries forest railways survived longer, particularly in Russia where there are still some today. In Hungary too there are several forest railways in active service today, some are also used for tourist traffic. The numerous forest railway operations in Romania were closed, with a few exceptions, by the 1990s. In Western Europe there are very few which are even preserved as museum railways.

In Asia and Oceania (Australia and New Zealand) the history and fate of logging tramways/forest railways is similar to Europe, with most lines either converted to motorised truck transport or closing down in the 1960s. Significant numbers of locomotives and other remnants of the former lines are found in museums and museum railways in Australia.

Forest railways in Europe

Germany (selection)

Railway nameRouteRail
Reichswald Forest RailwaySebalder Reichswalddismantled
Ebersberg Forest RailwayEbersbergdismantled
Ruhpolding–Reit im Winkl State Forest RailwayRuhpolding-Reit im Winkl10002319221936/37dismantled
Spiegelau Forest RailwaySpiegelau-Finsterau600100+19091960dismantled
Zwieselau Forest RailwayZwieselau-Buchenau60014,519301958dismantled
BächentalbahnFall750~ 10crosses border (see Tyrol)
Schorfheide Forest RailwaySchorfheide, Döllnkrug-Höpen600
Wasgau Forest RailwayBundenthal-Rumbach60014,519211930dismantled
Muskau Forest RailwayWeisswasser-Bad Muskau60050+1895Museum Railway


Railway nameRouteRail
Dörfl Forest Railway (WbD)Dörfl60019,419241933WbD
Großmürbisch Forest Railway (WbG)(Alsörönök-) border Großmürbisch - Reinersdorfer Bach7601~7,519351937WbG4 km in Hungary, dismantled
Großpetersdorf-Rumpersdorf Forest Railway (WGR)Großpetersdorf - Rumpersdorf7601~13,51920~1933WGR
Güssing - Rohr im Burgenland Forest Railway (WGR)Güssing - Rohr im Burgenland7601~27,019131921WGR
Güssing - Neuberg im Burgenland Forest Railway (WGN)Güssing - Neuberg im Burgenland7601~14,019131921WGN
Lockenhaus Forest Railway (WbL)Lockenhaus600114,919261956WbL
Punitz Forest Railway (WbP)Punitz - Punitzer Gemeindewald6001~9,0Horses1905~1933WbP
Lower Austria
Haselbach Forest RailwayNähe Fahrafeld: Forsthaus - Hochwiese6001~2,5Gravity, oxen, petrol-driven locos19151918BMFdismantled
Forest Railway im Klauswald (WbK)Klauswald, near Puchenstuben600 ?14,519301937WbK
Langau - Lackenhofer Höfe Forest Railway (WbLL)Langau-Lackenhof10001~ 6,7Horses~18451867WbLL
Lunz-Langau-Saurüsselboden Forest Railway (WbLL)Lunz am See - Langau - Saurüsselboden700112,2Diesel19201974WbLLForest railway with limited public passenger services, dismantled
Lunz-Langau-Saurüsselboden Forest Railway (WbLL) branchLangau - Lackenhofer Höhe7001~6,6Diesel19201974WbLLForest railway with limited public passenger service, dismantled
Forest Railway NasswaldSchwarzau im Gebirge, Nasswald6000,6Diesel, accumulator1985Museum railway, new line
Wastl am Wald - Hühnerkogel Forest Railway (WbW)Wastl am Wald6001~ 3,919341945WbW
Forest Railway im Weinsberger Forst (WWF)Martinsberg-Gutenbrunn - Berglucke7601~35,919201933WWF
Upper Austria
Offensee Forest Railway (WbO)Offensee, Steinkogl - Steibachl800113,918991954WbO
Offensee Forest Railway (WbO)Steibachl - Obere Moosau80011,618991954WbO
Reichraming Forest Railway (WbRr)Schallau-Maieralm-Hansigraben760116,519201971WbRr
Reichraming Forest Railway (WbRr)Maieralm-Unterweißwasser760113,019201971WbRr
Reichraming Forest Railway (WbRr)Reichraming -Hintergebirge760132,7Diesel19201971WbRrForest railway with limited public passenger services, dismantled
Zinkenbach Forest Railway (WbZ)Zinkenbach, Lagerplatz Hundsleiten-Königsbachalm70016,7Diesel19211967WbZno passenger traffic, dismantled
Deutschlandsberg Forest Railway (WbD)Deutschlandsberg - Freiland bei Deutschlandsberg76019,9SteamWbDno passenger traffic, dismantled
Deutschlandsberg Forest Railway (WbD)Kupper-Bärental60018,5SteamWbDdismantled, link between Freiland and Kupper with 3.1 km long cable car (dismantled)
Deutschlandsberg Forest Railway (WbD)Kupper-Hofbauer60019,4SteamWbDForest railway, no passenger traffic, dismantled
Frauenwald Forest Railway (WbF)Steinhaus am Semmering- Rettenegg600122,0Steam19021958WbFForest railway with limited public passenger services, dismantled, with two inclined lifts
Frohnleiten Forest Railway (WbF)Frohnleiten-Traninger- Rossstall760112,419251951WbFdismantled
Frohnleiten Forest Railway (WbF) branchTraninger- Dionys76015,619251951WbFdismantled
Gundersdorf Forest Railway (WbG)Gundersdorf, Dampfsäge- Höllein76014,0WbGdismantled
Ingering Forest Railway (WbI)Ingering -Seeboden7201~10,5~18851938WbIdismantled
Radmer Forest Railway (WbRa)Hieflau-Radmer-Neuhaus8301~14,019201967WbRa
Radmer Forest Railway(WbRa)Hieflau-Radmer-Neuhaus9001~14,01200 V DC19671979
Trieben Forest Railway (WbT)Trieben - Lager Seyfried8001~ 10,81900~1939WbT
Klammbach Forest RailwayAchenkirch7606,619141960Klammbachwaldbahn
Bächental Forest RailwayBächentalbahn75010,219301956see also Bavaria


  • Abreschviller Forest Railway, remains of a once extensive forest railway networks in the Vosges, museum railway
  • also the Voies Ferrées des Landes a group of short lines built primarily to serve the forestry industry in the Landes forest
  • The Forest Railway Welschbruch, built and used while the German Empire ruled Alsace, was used to carry wood logs down to the valley of Barr


(all lines on the Polish eastern border from north to south)

  • Forest Railway from Płociczno - Bryzgiel (from 1923)
  • Forest Railway from Czarna Białostocka (from 1919)
  • Forest Railway Hajnówka, Museum Railway
  • Bieszczady Forest Railway


  • Hronec – Čierny Balog Forest Railway (Schwarzgranbahn), museum railway
  • Vychylovka Forest Railway, museum railway
  • Považská lesná železnica


  • Ohsabanan, Värnamo, Småland, active forest railway and tourist trains


Ticket vending at a station on the Nagybörzsöny Forest Railway
Romanian forest railway loco on the Steyrtalbahn
  • Almamellék Forest Railway, tourist trains
  • Csömödér Forest Railway, active forest railway and tourist trains
  • Debrecen Forest Railway, tourist trains
  • Felsőtárkány National Forest Railway, tourist trains
  • Gemenc State Forest Railway, active forest railway and tourist trains
  • Mátravasút, (Gyöngyös) tourist trains
  • Kaszó Forest Railway, tourist trains
  • Kemence Forest Railway, tourist trains and narrow gauge museum
  • Királyrét Forest Railway, tourist trains
  • Lillafüred Forest Railway, tourist trains
  • Mesztegnyő Forest Railway, (forest railway ceased 1999) tourist trains
  • Nagybörzsöny Forest Railway, tourist trains
  • Pálháza Forest Railway, tourist trains
  • Szilvásvárad Forest Railway, Szilvásvárad, tourist trains


  • Viseu de Sus, Wassertalbahn, active forest railway used for forestry and tourism
  • Covasna - Comandău Forest Railway, with cable car, museum operation under construction


Russian loco TU6A with a log train on the Udimskaya Forest Railway
  • Alapayevsk narrow-gauge railway, passengers and tourist trains
  • Apsheronsk narrow-gauge railway, active forest railway used for forestry
  • Belorucheiskaya narrow-gauge railway, active forest railway used for forestry
  • Kobrinskaya narrow-gauge railway, active forest railway used for forestry
  • Konetsgorskaya narrow-gauge railway, active forest railway used for forestry
  • Kudemskaya narrow-gauge railway, passengers and tourist trains
  • Loyginskaya narrow-gauge railway, active forest railway used for forestry
  • Nyubskaya narrow-gauge railway, active forest railway used for forestry
  • Lundanskaya narrow gauge railway, active forest railway used for forestry
  • Oparinskaya narrow-gauge railway, active forest railway used for forestry
  • Pizhemskaya narrow gauge railway, active forest railway used for forestry
  • Sharya Forest Museum Railway, passengers and tourist trains
  • Udimskaya narrow-gauge railway, active forest railway used for forestry
  • Zelennikovskaya narrow-gauge railway, active forest railway used for forestry

Logging railroads in North America

A logging railroad describes railroads, pole roads, tram roads, or similar infrastructure used to transport harvested timber from a logging site to a sawmill. Logging railroads vary in gauge and length, with most forested regions of the world supporting a railroad of this type at some point.

While most railroads of this variety were temporary, it was not uncommon for permanent railroads to take their place as a complement to logging operations or as an independent operation once logging ended.

British Columbia

  • Englewood Railway



  • Shaw Logging Railroad

Nova Scotia

  • Springfield Railway[4]
  • Weymouth and New France Railway[5]


  • Ferrocarril Cazadero la Torre y Tepetongo
  • Bosques de Chihuahua


  • Almanor Railroad
  • Arcata and Mad River Railroad
  • Bear Harbor and Eel River Railroad
  • Boca and Loyalton Railroad
  • Bucksport and Elk River Railroad
  • California Western Railroad
  • Camino, Placerville and Lake Tahoe Railroad
  • Caspar, South Fork and Eastern Railroad
  • Diamond and Caldor Railway
  • Diamond Match Company
  • Feather River Railway
  • Fort Bragg and Southeastern Railroad
  • Goodyear Redwood Company
  • Lake Valley Railroad
  • Madera Sugar Pine Company
  • McCloud Railway
  • Mendocino Lumber Company
  • Metropolitan Redwood Lumber Company
  • Michigan-California Lumber Company
  • North Pacific Coast Railroad
  • Oregon and Eureka Railroad
  • Pacific Lumber Company
  • Rockport Redwood Company
  • Santa Cruz Lumber Company
  • Sugar Pine Lumber Company
  • Usal Redwood Company
  • West Side Lumber Company railway
  • Yosemite Lumber Company


  • Carson and Tahoe Lumber and Fluming Company

New England

Railway nameRouteRail
Bald Mountain RailroadJackman143519151926dismantled
Calais RailwayCalais - Woodland1435331835Pan Am Railwaysfreight only
Carry Pond and Carry Brook RailroadMoosehead Lake - Seboomook Lake610319141916horse-drawn flat cars; dismantled[6]
Eagle Lake and West Branch RailroadEagle Lake - Umbazooksus Lake143521[7]19271933transferred log drive pulpwood between river basins; dismantled[6]
Franklin and Megantic RailwayStrong - Bigelow6104818841935Sandy River and Rangeley Lakes Railroaddismantled
Phillips and Rangeley RailroadPhillips - Rangeley6104618901932Sandy River and Rangeley Lakes RailroadVictorian resort passenger service; dismantled
Ray Lumber CompanyBowerbank Township143519121929dismantled
Rumford Falls and Rangeley Lakes RailroadRumford - Kennebago14357518941936Maine Central Railroaddismantled
Seboomook Lake and Saint John RailroadSeboomook Lake - Baker Branch Saint John River14352919191929dismantled[8]
Somerset RailroadBingham - Moosehead Lake14358118901933Maine Central RailroadVictorian resort passenger service; dismantled
Wild River RailroadGilead - Hastings14351618911904dismantled
New Hampshire
Saco Valley RailroadMount Carrigain14351118921898dismantled
Sawyer River RailroadSawyer River14351418771927dismantled
Success Pond RailroadBerlin - Success14354218931906dismantled

New Mexico

  • Alamogordo and Sacramento Mountain Railway


  • Oregon, California and Eastern Railway
  • Oregon, Pacific and Eastern Railway
  • Sumpter Valley Railroad

South Carolina

West Virginia


  • Chehalis Western Railroad
  • Siler Logging Railroad
  • White River Lumber Co

Forest railways in Asia


  • Cepu Forest Railway



Forest railways in Oceania


  • Powelltown Tramway, Victoria
  • Tyers Valley Tramway, Victoria
  • Timber railway lines of Western Australia

New Zealand

  • Ellis and Burnand Tramway, Ongarue
  • Brownlee Tramway, in operation from c.1881 through to 1915

Other railways for the transport of goods


  1. "Pole Road Locomotives of the Early Days," Trains magazine, February 1948
  2. "Sudbury Area Mining Railways". Old Time Trains. Retrieved 28 November 2020.
  3. "Remember This? Did you know there was a railway on St. Joseph Island?". 15 January 2017. Retrieved 22 November 2020.
  4. "Category:Springfield Railway - HSWwiki". Retrieved 14 April 2021.
  5. "Remains of Nova Scotia's New France". Retrieved 14 April 2021.
  6. Rice, Douglas M. Log and Lumber Railroads of New England (3rd edition) The 470 Railroad Club (1982) p.2
  7. "Eagle Lake & West Branch Railroad". Richard N. Symonds, Jr. Retrieved 2012-12-20.
  8. Pike, Robert E. Tall Trees, Tough Men W.W.Norton & Company (1999) ISBN 0393319172 p.164


  • Manfred Hohn, Waldbahnen in Österreich, Verlag Slezak 1989, ISBN 3-85416-148-4
  • L.Reiner/H.Beiler/R.Sliwinski, Die Spiegelauer Forest Railway, Ohetaler Verlag Riedlhütte 2005, ISBN 3-937067-14-0
  • Friedemann Tischer, Die Muskauer Waldeisenbahn, Verlag Kenning, Nordhorn 2003, ISBN 3-933613-63-9
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