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Timber

Timber

The Mountain Ash is the tallest hardwood in the world. It grows fast, straight and has few branches at its lower levels. It is understandable that the tall forests would become a favoured resource for timber production.

using a cross cut saw
Tree-felling with an axe
Source - State Library of Victoria
using a cross cut saw
Using a cross cut saw
Source - State Library of Victoria

The first timber-getters were 'splitters' who felled trees and cut them up for palings and shingles for houses. They sought the largest and most accessible trees, travelling into the forests from the margins. By the early 1900s, many mills had been set up and timber tramways snaked through the forests to connect them to railheads. In the 1920s, kiln-drying and steam-seasoning techniques were successfully developed, so Ash timber could be used for a wider range of purposes. Steam winches enabled logs to be extracted from less accessible country.

bullocks hauling a log
Detail of Bullocks hauling a log at Olinda
Source - State Library of Victoria

Roads through the forest were later widened to allow huge timber trucks and earth-moving machines through, and the forest was criss-crossed with fire tracks to allow fire fighters access to even the most isolated valleys.

At first much wastage occurred, as many felled trees were discarded by splitters as unsuitable and left to rot on the forest floor. Timber companies established sawmills and began to employ men who worked for wages, and timbers other than the Mountain Ash were cut and treated. By the turn of the century, there was considerable concern at the operation of the timber industry in particular the practises being employed to recover timber. A Royal Commission led to the 1907 Forests Act and the establishment of a Forestry School at Creswick, to train foresters in the management and maintenance of the forest.


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