The Forests of Warburton - a Pictorial Heritage - 1853 to 2012

1853 - Beginnings

1853 - Beginnings
1885 to present day - Dee Valley Mills
1889 to 1919 - Mills in the Wesburn and Old Warburton area
1890 - Roads to the Forests
1901 to 1964 - The Warburton Railway
1902 to 1906 - Anderson's Mill
1902 to 1939 - East Warburton and Onwards
1903 to 1907- Robinson's Mill No. 1
1905 to 1949 - Tramways of the Mills
1905 to 1928 - Parbury's Brookfield Mill
1906 - Wondwondah Estate and the Adventist Church
1907 to 1913 - Richards Mill
1907 to 1922 - Robinson's Mill No. 1
1908 to 1922 - Robinson's No 2 Mill (Cement Creek)
1909 to 1916 - Hermon's Mill (La La Estate)
1909 to 1949 - The Warburton Steam Railway
1911 to 1915 -The O'Shannassy Aqueduct and Weir
1915 to 1973 - Brimbonga Seasoning Works - East Warburton
1918 to 1925 - Sunnydale Mill, East Warburton
1919 to 1920 - Slocum and Walker's Mill
1920 - From the Bush to the Bungalow
1922 to 1932 - Enterprise Mill (La La)
1925 - Family Snow Trip to Mt Donna Buang
1932 to 1937 - Horner's Mill
1938 to 2000 - Tuckman's Mills
1950 - Welcome Back to Warburton
The Donna Buang Range
The Author's Personal Websites

1908 - Warburton - Brisbane Hill - showing extent of cleared forest

1900 - tree felling

1908 - Warby main st, Mt Littlejoe in background


The town of Warburton is about 70 km east of Melbourne, and its development began in the year 1840, when Victoria was in reality a part of NSW.

The State of Victoria was proclaimed in 1851, with Melbourne as its capital. Before that, the area now known as the Upper Yarra was inhabited by the Yarra Yarra tribe of Aborigines. With the arrival of European settlers, tribal number declined.

In 1845, Robert Hoddle, the first Survey General, of Port Phillip journeyed into the upper reaches of the Yarra.

The first person recorded as having title to freehold land in the area was Mr E. Buller, in 1851, who had secured 20 acres.

Prior to the discovery of gold in the Yankee Jim’s Creek area, the Warburton locality had been included as part of the Parambool Pastoral Run, about 16,000 acres, and was first leased in 1853.

Gold Mining
In 1858, gold mining commenced in the Upper Yarra at Britannia Creek and in the Reefton and McMahon's Creek districts.

Yankee Jim's Creek goldfield opened in 1859. It was renamed Warburton in 1863 after the gold warden for the district, Charles Warburton Carr.

In 1864, a liquor licence was issued to Mr E. Buller and his hotel helped to serve the needs of the mining community

In 1865, an approximate map published by the Crown Lands Dept. incorporated the explorations and findings of Mr J. A. Panton, one time gold warden for the district.

The gold mined was mainly alluvial (as opposed to reef) and deposits were reported to be 'of the most substantial character'. The wash was two feet (600 mm) thick at a depth of 70 feet (21 m) resting on a granite bottom with nuggets of seven ounces (200 gm) in weight. In 1870, a water wheel was built at Warburton to drive a battery which crushed the gold-bearing rock. This was located at the Shining Star mine, one of the few reef mines. As alluvial deposits became exhausted, miners went to Woods Point where larger reefs existed. By the late 1890's, most of the 'easy' gold had been found and prospectors had moved on, leaving only a few settlers in the town.

The name “Warburton” has been shared between two townships over the years. The mining town of “Yankee Jims Creek” was located on the gold-bearing slopes of Mount Little Joe, and was renamed “Warburton” after the mining warden of the district, Charles Warburton Carr. Gold depletion caused a declining population in the 1880s, so the town was renamed “Old Warburton” and the town of “Upper Warburton” on the banks on the Yarra River was renamed “Warburton”.

In the 1880s, a new road (now the Warburton Highway) was cut along the Yarra River, ending any further development of Old Warburton.

A population shift to the Scotchman's Creek area, where the Alpine Retreat Hotel was built, occurred for commercial benefit, causing the reestablishment of Warburton there as a tourist and timber town.

1864 - watercolor of Warburton

1914 - postcard of Yarra at Warburton

1901 - a very big tree at Warburton

1930 - Elephant hauling timber in main street, Warby

Timber Industry
A timber industry took over in Warburton as gold ran out. Axemen cut wagon loads of palings which were taken over rough bush tracks to Lilydale, the railhead at that time. The railway was extended to Warburton in 1901.

Numerous sawmills and timber tramways developed throughout the area supplying timber to the trainline for transport to Melbourne. The narrow gauge tramways were so named because an Act of Parliament preventing anyone but the Government from operating trainlines.

Steam and diesel engines were used to power the sawmills and haul the logs. In some cases the logs were lifted by cable and pulley high above the ground to carry them to mills and railheads. In more remote areas, horses were used to pull empty bogies up graded lines. When loaded with logs, the bogies would run downhill under the control of braking systems. The mills provided work for all who wanted it, and towns, such as Powelltown, sprang up around some of the mills. A few of the timber tramway tracks remain open to walkers but chain saws, bulldozers and timber jinkers replace the older methods of felling and transporting timber.

A few of the timber tramway tracks remain open to walkers but chain saws, bulldozers and timber jinkers replaced the older methods of felling and transporting timber

In the years from 1900 to 1950, about 1.75 million tons of timber was sent by forest tramway and railway - it was a Mountain of Ash, and 66 major sawmills and many smaller mills were established in the bush surrounding the town.

In 1901, the railway from Lilydale to Wesburn, Millgrove and Warburton opened, which was linked to an amazing system of wooden and steel railed tramways. Over 320 km of tramways operated in the region. Horse, steam locomotives, bullocks and rail tractors were employed in hauling the timber along the rails

Logging initially saw entire mountainsides ultimately denuded of most trees, particularly on the slopes of Mts Donna Buang, Ben Cairn, and Victoria.

By the the late 1920s, most of the prime timber near Warburton had been logged, and activity had moved further out to the forests of Big Pats Creek, Starvation Creek, Cement Creek, the Mississippi Creek, Big Pat's Creek, Reefton,  McMahon's Creek and beyond.

The Powelltown area was also heavily logged, with a merging with the Warburton area at Starling Gap,


Catastrophic bushfires of 1898, 1902, 1906, 1923, 1926, 1932 and 1939 devastated much of the forests around Warburton, with terrible loss of life and property and resulted in the Government in 1940 forcing all surviving mills to relocate outside of the forests

1905 - Warburton store

1895 - Horses and buggy at Warburton

1913 - Hutchinson's Store, main street Warby

1907 - Warburton tramway

1905 - view of Warburton showing cleared land

1890 - a house in Warburton

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