A Treatise on Roads and Pavements (1903)
Ira Osborn Baker


Where timber was very plentiful and gravel scarce, a fair road for light traffic has been made by felling and burning the timber, and covering the road with the charcoal. Poles from 6 to 16 inches in diameter are piled lengthwise in the center of the road—5 feet high, 9 feet wide at the base, and 2 feet on top—and covered with straw and earth. The earth required to cover the timber is taken from the side ditches. When charred, the earth and charcoal are spread over a width of 15 feet, leaving it 2 feet thick at the center and 1 foot at the sides, although a depth of 15 inches at the center and 10 inches at the side makes a fairly good road.

The charcoal is soft and friable, and hence should be covered with a thin layer of gravel for greater durability, and to prevent it from blowing and washing away, or from catching fire from matches or lighted cigars thrown upon the surface. The earth covering of the charcoal pit is a fair road material and may be used as a top-dressing for the charcoal.

Charcoal roads cost from $500 to $1,500 per mile, and of course are feasible only when the timber has no market value, and must be got rid of before the land can be devoted to agricultural purposes.