Maroondah Reservoir Pictorial Heritage 1862 to 2011

The Yarra Track

Historical Timeline
The First Weirs1878-1891
Construction 1915 to 1929
The Yarra Track
The Blacks' Spur
Heritage Pictures 1872 to 1926
Images of 1957
Gallery of 2011
Interesting Features
Maroondah Reservoir Park
Walking Tracks
Present day Maps
Old Maps
References and Bibliography


1890 town of Healseville

Town of New Chum in 1864

Note: The Watts River was originally known as the Maroondah River.



The frenzied expansion of Victoria’s gold rush in the late 1850s was associated with the  discovery of gold in the Jordan Goldfields, at Gaffneys Creek in 1860, Wood;’s Point, in 1861, Jericho in 1861, Donnelley’s Creek in 18i62 and Walhalla in 1863


George Rieck discovered the “Yarra Track” to the Jordan Goldfields. This ran from Melbourne, through Eltham, Kangaroo Ground, Christmas Hills, and the Yarra Flats (now Yarra Glen), then it crossed New Chum Creek.



The Government decided to construct a road along the route. The '1862' route discovered by Reick was chosen with a deviation on the original route to avoid the arduous climb over Mount Strickland. Its original width varied between 12 and 20 feet, and was designed to accommodate horse drawn vehicles. This Track involved the climbing of the Blacks Spur, descent into the Acheron Valley, and then through Marysville to the Cumberland where it followed the existing route. The old route through Paradise Plains subsequently dropped out of vogue.


The first drays and wagons reached Woods Point came via the Yarra Track, but could only get through during the summer months. The Yarra Track supplied a definite need in its more direct approach to the goldfields, Woods Point could now be reached at a little over one hundred miles from Melbourne, compared with two hundred and twenty miles via Jamieson.

Two main construction camps were established in new localities on the Yarra Track - Healesville and Marysville. These were surveyed as towns to serve as base camps for construction teems and as staging towns when the coach route was completed. Marysville was founded and surveyed in August, 1864. Healesville was surveyed in September 1864, which resulted in the deviation of the settlement at New Chum. (New Chum was located about 5 km north of present day Healesville. This town arose because it was at the furthest point coaches could travel along the route from Melbourne. From there, a packhorse track climbed through the mountains to the diggings. Shanties were built along every eight or nine km from New Chum to the diggings.) Accommodation houses and stores were strung along the rest of the road.

The Yarra track not only led to the creation of new towns but it gave a large boost to the development of many of the existing towns within the region. It was originally surveyed through Eltham, and this gave a boost to the small hamlet of Yarra Flats, (part of the present day Yarra Glen). Eventually the road changed to a more direct route through Lilydale.


1906 Crawley's Mill tramway

1940 Chum Creek Tramway


Affter several diversions, a new track was surveyed and cut, passing through the new township of Healesville, about 3 km from New Chum, and south of the Watts River. New Chum became deserted and  faded into oblivion. The town site is now on private property near a water pipeline which crosses Chum Creek off the Meyer’s Creek Rd, near Valley Farm Rd, Healesville.


A tramway was built to Crowley's Mill, near the site of New Chum, around 1900, by Thomas Crawley which carried timber to the railhead at Healesville, and then to Melbourne.


The new settlement of Fernshaw evolved, at the point where the Watts River crossed the Yarra Track, as a stopping point for travellers to and from the goldfields. Fernshaw had several hotels, stores, a post office, school, and residential houses.



The Melbourne Board of Works compulsorily acquired township allotments along the Yarra Track, as part of the Maroondah Reservoir water catchment.


1888 Railway to Healesville opened



Sadly, Fernshaw was sold at auction and the buildings were removed.


Fernshaw today is a pleasant picnic spot – little trace of the original buildings remain, but an Information Board has reproductions of heritage photos, maps, and descriptions of the early community,.


Of interest is Morley’s Walking Track. This starts at the Fernshaw Picnic Ground and follows an early version of Yarra Track to Carter’s Gap, ending 8 km distant at the Mt Dom Dom picnic ground,

When constructed the Yarra Track provided the most direct access from Melbourne, for a range of vehicles, to the eastern goldfields, particularly the newly opened Jordan Valley mines. The track was a significant improvement on the other major route to the east, via the Alexandra and Mansfield districts, and down through the Upper Goulburn area. Its establishment contributed substantially to the development and character of mining districts and settlements over large areas of the region. The Yarra Track (with the Black Spur) helped to introduce the delights of the mountain ash forests to Melbourne people in the later nineteenth century, and it remains a principal thoroughfare for people travelling to the Central Highlands.

Yarra Track begins at Yarra Glen and eventually reaches Matlock, following the Maroondah Highway and the route of Black's Spur in places. Its original alignment has been altered several times. Divergent sections take in the former settlement at Paradise Plains, Tommy's Bend, Snowy Hill and the original route of the Blacks Spur. Historic towns along the track include Healesville, Fernshaw, Narbethong, Marysville, Matlock and Woods Point. Significant features include the Hermitage, Fernshaw, the Big Culvert at Cumberland, former hotel, accommodation houses and wayside stops, Melbourne Water places, roadside burials, mining areas, sawmill and timber industry sites, abandoned towns and settlements, and scenic reserves.

Town of Healesville in 1900

Town of Healesville in 1906

Town of Healesville in 1909

Morley's Track in 1906

Fernshaw Bridge in 1913

Bullock team near Healseville c1890

Fernshaw Rd near Graceburn Weir Rd 1904

1905 Blacks' Spur Rd near Fernshaw

1879 the small village of Maytown, near Fernshaw

1913 Group ready climb Mt Juliet

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