National Geographic : 1903 Aug
GEOGRAPH: St Louis and San Francisco, the Mis souri, Kansas and Texas, the Northern Pacific, and the Burlington in the South and West. The scarcity of valuable timbers is felt by no class of consumers more keenly than by the railroads, which use every year i io,ooo,ooo ties merely to renew those worn out and decayed. The price of timbers has risen in some instances to a figure which makes their use prohibitive ; in other cases the sup ply is so nearly exhausted that the roads have been compelled to look about for new timbers. The Bureau of Forestry has been called on to assist in solving the diffi culty, and has come forward with the very practical and simple suggestion that the railroads, instead of continuing to use expensive, high-grade timbers for such a low-grade purpose as that of railroad ties, shall use the cheaper woods. For example, to the complaint of the New York Central that it finds it more and more difficult to secure longleaf pine ties from Georgia at the price it can afford to pay, the Bureau suggests that the road use the beech, maple, and birch of the Adirondacks. The complaint that the timbers rot very quickly when laid in the ground is an swered by the suggestion that they should be seasoned and preserved, just as beech is seasoned and preserved in France. The Great Eastern Railroad of France has succeeded in making beech ties last 35 years by impregnating them with tar oils. The unseasoned longleaf pine ties used by the New York Central last only five years; and the beech, if laid green, without seasoning or preserving, would in many cases last no more than three years. The substance of the proposal which the Bureau has made to the railroads, and which the railroads have thought so well of as to adopt, is that experiments be made to determine whether cheaper timbers may be treated with preserva- IC NOTES 329 tives at a cost so low and be made to last such a long time that it will pay to substitute them for the more expen sive timbers now employed. The railroads have thought so well of these ideas that they will not only carry on under the Bureau's direction the nec essary experiments in seasoning and pre serving, but have engaged the Bureau's help in learning where cheap timbers for ties may be obtained. In other words, the railroads have decided that if they can be convinced that it will pay to sea son and preserve cheap timbers for ties, they will acquire large areas of timber lands on which they will grow their own trees, cut their own ties, and thus be assured of a steady supply. This means that some of the great railroads of the country are in a fair way to practice for estry on a very large scale, and to em ploy a great many foresters. Work of a similar nature to the rail road experiments is being carried on for the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, which used last year 150,ooo telephone poles and 3,000,000 feet of tim ber in cross-arms. Seasoning experi ments are being conducted on chestnut telephone poles near Harrisburg, Pa., and on cedar poles near Wilmington, N. C. Important and valuable as this work is to the railroad and telegraph compa nies, it is of far greater importance and value to the country at large. The use of cheaper timbers for railroad ties is in several ways an economic saving; it re lieves the high-grade timbers of a part of the heavy demand that is being made upon them, opens a market for timbers for which there is now little sale, and affords splendid opportunities for con servative management of timber lands. The work is being prosecuted accord ing to the regular cooperative system of the Bureau, by which the field and trav eling expenses of the Bureau's agents are paid by those for whom the work is done.