The log flotation tunnels

For many years, the wood from the Pirkanmaa forests has been important for the forestry industry. Already in the mid 1800´s, logs were transported by flotation along our lakes and rivers. The Tammerkoski rapids in the centre of Tampere could have been used for log flotation, but the rights to the rapids had already been reserved for industrial waterpower. Other solutions had to be found to get the logs from lake Näsijärvi to lake Pyhäjärvi, and from there on to the saw-mills established by the seaside, with their harbours for timber export.

The Steamsaw (later Rosenlew) company at Pori was the first to establish their Red Log route (it was painted red) over the Pispala Moraine in 1863, at first by using horses, later by steam-power. The logs were pulled up the north face of the hill, and then let slip down the south side to Pyhäjärvi along a wooden flume. In 1873, Rosenlew´s competitor, the Reposaari Steamsaw company (later Rauma Repola) built their own log route, the Grey Log route, a bit further along the hill.

Even the local sawmill owner A. Ahlström planned their own log route, but then they decided to support the building of a railroad from Tampere to Pori for timber transport. The railroad was ready in 1895.

The flotation tunnel

Many suggestions were made to get the logs along the Tammerkoski rapids or over the Pispala hill, or through it using a tunnel. Different levels of legal process were involved to solve complaints and conflicts of interest. Finally, in 1929, the area governor confirmed a plan to build a tunnel. The construction of the smaller tunnel below this sign, began. The Tampere city carried a  part of the expenses.


The tunnel for flotation of log-bundles

In the 1950´s, the movement of logs and log ‘rafts’ in lake Näsijärvi was changed to use flotation of the logs bundled together. The Forestry administration and the Kokemäki Water-route Flotation Association (founded 1873) made a plan in the 1950´s to organise flotation of log-bundles the whole way along the waterway-system, including a larger tunnel for flotation of log-bundles through the Pispala hill. The start of the new tunnel project was delayed but finally the construction started in 1966 and was finished in 1968. The diameter of the new tunnel was 5,5 m and the length of it was 304 meters.

The log-bundles were floated from lake Näsijärvi through the tunnel towards lake Pyhäjärvi, which is at an 18 meter lower level. After the tunnel, the log-bundles were lifted up onto a van moving along rail tracks down to the shore of Pyhäjärvi. There were 2 vans. The empty van coming back from Pyhäjärvi met the full van halfway, where there was a double rail track that still can be seen. A trial of flotation of log-bundles through the tunnel was made in September 1968. It worked well. Unfortunately, there was no use for it anymore because log transportation had changed to mainly using truck transport.

The church designed by Wivi Lönn

The new tunnel was built under a church, designed by architect Wivi Lönn, built in 1908. The building of the tunnel triggered a fall of gravel, causing movement in the ground of the church. This led to a short circuit and a fire in the church. After that the damaged church was demolished. In the tunnel there is now a cross painted on the roof where the church used to be above the tunnel. And in the park, where the church used to be there is a monument.

The tunnel today

Now, 50 years later, there is finally use of the tunnel for tourism and cultural activities. There are special acoustical effects in the tunnel, and this has been used in music events.

The history of the log-bundle flotation tunnel, the log-routes and the flotation association are a part of the long and important history of forestry and the local history of Pispala.