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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Exploring the Timber Tramways near Powelltown, Victoria

The "Walk into History" is a 35 km track, following the alignment of former timber tramways, extending from Powelltown (85 km east of Melbourne) to Big Pat's Creek (near Warburton).

This is an account of a 6 km return hike on two sectors of the track on February 13, 2008:

1. Westerly from Big Creek Rd crossing
2. Northerly from the High Lead car park along the High Lead Summit Track, next to the Latrobe River

These tracks pass through tall forest and beautiful ferns.

In the early 1900s, the area around Powelltown was opened up by a network of tramways which carried logs from the mountains of the Upper Yarra and LaTrobe Valleys to the Warburton railway. The largest mill in the area, from which Powelltown takes its name, was operated by the Victorian Powell Wood Process Company. The company was formed in 1912 to exploit the new, and ultimately unsuccessful “Powell” method of wood preservation, which involved treating the timber with a mixture of molasses, water and arsenic.

The tramways kept close to creeks so they could maintain an even grade and there were many bridges. Sawn wooden rails were used on the earlier lighter lines, and in one place a tunnel cut though a hill. The forest trees were cut with axes and cross cut saws then winched on to the tramway with big steam winches set up beside the tracks. The tramlines declined in the 1930s depression. The 1939 bushfires devastated this area and meant sawmills were required to relocate to the edge of the forest. This, combined with increased truck traffic, caused the tramways’ demise.

The 1983 Ash Wednesday fires again devastated this area.

See the Photos of my trip!

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