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A yarder is a piece of heavy equipment for moving logs around a logging site, bringing them to a stage or landing so they can be loaded onto vehicles for transport to a processing facility. The earliest yarders were developed in the middle of the 1800s to replace animal and human power, making logging much more efficient. Several styles are available today and can be seen in operation on logging sites of a variety of sizes.
With some yarders, technicians must attach cables to the logs they want to move, and then operate the machine to drag or lift the logs into place. Others use logs attached to a carriage on a line that runs from part of the logging site to a landing stage. The first method is cheaper and easier to install and run. It can also be very dangerous, as people like choker setters tasked with connecting the cables to the logs are at risk of serious injuries from snapped cables or poorly handled logs.
A swing yarder rotates on a base to provide a wide range of motion for moving logs around a site. It can be useful in cramped quarters as well as tight settings like hillsides, where the steep nature of the site can make it hard to work. Others operate with a single fixed spar, and lack this flexibility. In all cases, the device is semi-permanent. Workers move it into place at the start of the job and fix it there for safety, and remove it at the end when they are ready to clear the site.
The yarder operator has to be in constant communication with everyone on the site. People tell the operator when logs are ready for lifting, and provide guidance to help the operator maneuver the logs around obstacles like stumps, ditches, and so forth. Workers also need to monitor safety while logs are in motion. It can be difficult to stop them, and people who are in the way could be severely injured if struck by moving logs. Site personnel may use hand signals as well as headsets to maintain safety while operating the machine.
Workers have other devices for picking up logs for loading once the yarder gets them to the landing stage. This frees up the yarder to focus on moving logs across the site. Logs may be dumped directly into a river for floating to a collection point or could be transferred onto the deck of a train, truck, or barge.