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

1905 to 1949 - Tramways of the Mills

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

1906 - Mississippi Tramway along Woods Point track

1927 - the ford at Big Pat's Creek


Timber has always been a major construction material in Australia. With the discovery of gold in the 1850s, rapid development commenced in many parts of the country. This led to a huge demand for building materials. Taking advantage of fine stands of excellent hardwood in virgin forest, one of the major challenges facing the early sawmillers was transport.

Their problem was how to get this timber to the nearest railway, river or port. In winter roads were impassable and road metal was impossibly expensive. But the pioneers' ability to improvise lead to the construction of timber tramways. On closely packed sleepers wooden rails were laid, and trolleys, drawn by horses, carried the logs and sawn timber to the nearest railway station or jetty. During winter, many timber tramways also provided farmers with the only means of getting produce to the market.

As the timber industry developed the tramway networks grew. Steam locomotives and steel rails began to be used on some lines. Isolated sawmilling settlements in the depths of the forest were totally dependant on the tramways for their every need.

Ingenuity and economy characterised these tramways. Earthworks were kept to a minimum by extensive use of timber trestles, gullies were spanned by tall but flimsy bridges. Steep grades were surmounted by use of winches. It was in the 1940s that the construction of logging roads in forest areas led to the wholesale abandonment of the tramways.

Today physical relics of these tramlines are rapidly decaying. Bridges are collapsing, thick vegetation grows on the roadbeds, while bulldozers have permanently destroyed many of the earthworks. But in some cases the tramway formations have been cleared to make excellent walking tracks.

Timber tramways operated in all states of Australia with the apparent exception of South Australia, where the dry climate did not lead to the growth of dense forests of tall hardwood trees. In Western Australia large companies were formed to extract the timber, and their tramways tended to be more sophisticated than those in the eastern states. The densest, most complex networks of tramways probably occurred in Tasmania and Victoria, in the areas about 80 km to the south of Hobart, and 80 km to the east of Melbourne.

Warburton Forests

In the early days, many of the sawmills built their own wooden or steel tramways to carry sawn logs into the La La sidings, or shared existing tramways with other sawmill compnies. Some of these ran along or at the edges of council roads.

The Mississippi Sawmilling Company established a mill in the headwaters of Mississippi Creek in 1905, shortly after the railway reached nearby Warburton.

They constructed a three feet gauge tramway over the 12 miles to Warburton, and employed horse teams to haul the timber into the town.

Logging tramways were gradually extended out into the forest to exploit the timber resources, and the Mississippi Company built a second mill four miles southeast of their No 1 Mill.

From 1910, a steam locomotive
worked part of the line from Warburton to 'The Points' at Big Pats Creek, but horses still worked the remaining tramway, necessitating the establishment of stables one and half miles from Big Pats Creek.

Each day three teams of four horses brought two loads down from the mill to the stables. A sizeable settlement grew up around the stables, which was partially destroyed in the 1926 fires. All the tramway bridges were destroyed at this time, and had to be rebuilt.

In 1917 the Mississippi Sawmilling Company was purchased by Cuming, Smith and Company, a large chemical manufacturing group. They added JM Grant's seasoning works to their assets in 1919, which thereafter received sawn timber for seasoning from the Mississippi mills. The 'Sippi' brand was later registered to market timber from this source. In 1925 the Enterprise sawmills were also added to the company's operations.

A large settlement developed at the Mississippi mills. State School 4082 opened in 1922, and by 1926 had 32 pupils. The school was conducted in a building erected by the mill owners, with a room provided for the teacher's accommodation.

Within a few years, however, the local timber resource was cut out and the Cuming Smith Company began to divest its timber industry assets. The Mississippi mills were closed down in 1933.

1911 - Main Rd, Warburton, showing Mississipi tramway track, near La La

1930s - Boys having fun on Wonwondah Tramway Bridge

1930s - Boys on Wonwondah Tramway Bridge

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