The Collins Pine Museum was opened to the public in May 2007. There is no admission fee and the museum is open from mid-May until mid-October, Wednesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The building was constructed to look like a miniature version of the sawmill that was operated by Collins Pine Company in Chester from 1943 to 2002, after which a new state-of-the-art sawmill replaced the original in 2003.
The post and beam construction inside provides an aesthetic space where the different species of wood grown in this area are featured.
According to Terry Collins, co-owner of the sawmill, board member and museum curator, the mission of the Collins Pine Museum is to develop exhibits on lumbering, forestry and principles of sustainability.
The two-story building contains exhibits on lumber grades, forest stands, old photos, models, antique tools-of-the-trade and other implements.
Furthermore, “Information is displayed on branch and cone identification, saw milling, lumber drying, power co-generation, and on how forest operations fit into the carbon cycle,” Collins noted.
In one section of the museum, he pointed to a small replica of an original log carriage and band saw that was used in the old sawmill. Visitors can control the carriage that holds a sectioned piece of lumber, moving it back and forth using a hand control.
There’s an interactive panel on wood identification that depicts samples of the various tree species that are processed locally at the sawmill in Chester, as well as four species of hardwood cut at a mill operated by Collins Pine in Pennsylvania, used mostly for furniture.
Guests can press different buttons next to each wood type and listen to a recording describing the characteristics of the displayed woods and their primary uses.
A screen near the entrance of the building can be activated to show an eight-minute video of the sawmill’s operations, “from marking and cutting down trees” in the 90,000-acre Collins-Almanor Forest — providing around 75 percent of the company’s productive capacity — “to its final form as lumber before being shipped out to customers,” Collins said.
A hanging color photograph shows a team of lumberjacks standing next to the largest tree in the Collins-Almanor Forest, measuring eight-feet in diameter and a crown measuring 130-feet in height. Collins said the tree is being preserved and will not be cut down.
Additionally, “There’s a small theater room set up so that when people enter, a five-minute documentary starts playing on the topic of sustainable forestry,” said Collins.
Visitors can sit down at a table inside the museum and choose books to read from a bookcase on subjects that range from forestry, to logging and environmental history.
Next to the museum, an outdoor area includes a number of trucks, a locomotive and other innovative vehicles that were used by the Collins Pine Co. in the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s, that are now decommissioned, but still remain in fairly good condition.
Finally, a cross section of a 400-year-old sugar pine tree is displayed outdoors with dates in American history going back to the Jamestown colony, around 1620.
Collins said when he’s at the museum he’s happy to provide a tour and answer questions, or in his absence visitors are welcome to browse at their leisure on a self-guided tour.
“We built the museum because we thought people would be interested in the history of the Chester sawmill, and also how wood is processed and how we manage our forests.”
The Collins Pine Museum is located off 500 Main St. (Highway 36); turn onto the road adjacent to the Collins Pine lawn, where a sign for the museum is posted. Drive a short distance and enter the Collins Pine Museum parking lot. The museum is located at the end of the pathway.