Sunday, 27 September 2015

The Timbergetters

The Timbergetters

No history of Warrimoo in the 1920’s would be complete without reference to the main industry carried out on the northern side during this time, “Timbergetting” or “Logging”.[1]

The area covered by logging activities ran from the rear of Cross Street and Warrimoo Oval across Long Angle Gully to Sun Valley and Singles Ridge Road, which contains rich volcanic soils. The combination of soil fertility, moisture from water sources and sunbeam direction gives this part of Warrimoo some very unique and impressive vegetation, most especially tall, straight timbers.

The magnificent 'Mountain Blue Gum' (Eucalyptus Deanei)--a feature of any bushwalk on the northern side of Warrimoo, and the principal target of early Loggers such as the Baxter Brothers
Trees most prized were the ‘Mountain Blue Gum’ (Eucalyptus Deanei—so named after the Railways Engineer who designed much of the Blue Mountains railroad, including the Newnes tunnels, Henry Deane); the ‘Cabbage Gum’ (Eucalyptus Amplifolia), and the turpentine (Syncarpia Glomulifera), a row of which now grows on the Great Western Highway between Warrimoo and Blaxland.

'Mountain Blue Gum' from a distance. You can see why they were so prized for telegraph and electricity poles. They occupy a special part of the Blue Mountains Significant Tree Register
The Mountain Blue Gum is a stunning and magnificent tree. So valuable is its preservation in the ‘Mountains that bush regenerators have worked hard restore its habitat in the present-day ‘Deanei Forest’, which can be found surrounding the Council Depot at Springwood, just off Hawkesbury Road. Clearly, the timber derived from the Eucalyptus Deanei is tall, straight, and hard.
Henry Deane (1847-1924)--the tree was named after him in 1904, when he was Engineer-in-Chief of  construction for the NSW Railways, and a keen amateur botanist
 At the turn of the century government institutions required such timber for products like railway sleepers and telegraph/electricity poles. Thus evolved the enterprises of two timbergetting families, the Goddard and Baxter brothers, the latter of whom lived on Singles Ridge Road.

The Loggers cut trails down into the valleys and hauled logs out by bullock teams. Bruce Cameron provides some details:

‘At one stage the Baxters used a light rail system to remove logs to a ridge-top saw mill driven by a boiler, near Rickard Road, Warrimoo. They also operated a bush saw mill built by the Goddard brothers (c. 1918), near the present day Springwood Golf Course. This was close to their home in Singles Ridge Road, where another sawmill operated. A mill was also located in the vicinity of the (old) Sun Valley Nursery, near the highway.

The Goddards and Baxters used boilers such as this to provide the steam power for saw mills set in the bush at Warrimoo, Sun Valley and elsewhere
When the Baxters were cutting timber they tapped into all the principle stands around Long Angle Gully. The main product was used for power poles. When the Mountains were first hooked up to the electricity grid, the Baxters supplied poles to the Blue Mountains Council. Other timber was cut primarily for firewood consumption.

The local market was supplemented with orders from other areas. Poles were cut and then loaded onto steam trains for transport to the required location.

This scene at Faulconbridge station gives us a clue as to similar sites at Warrimoo, where loggers loaded timber for various destinations up and down the Mountains. Log freight was one of the primary reasons why the siding at Karabar was reopened early in the 20th century and continued beyond the Second World War (note all the telegraph poles in the picture)
The Baxters often camped overnight in make-shift timber camps. Signs of crude bush huts and relics can still be found in the bush near Sun Valley. Old trucks, machinery and watertanks are rusty reminders of the days when the valleys echoed with the sound of the logger’s axe. Numerous slot marks where loggers could place cutting boards in tree trunks can also still be seen. An old dug-out saw-pit is located on private property not far from Long Angle Gully.


This picture reveals the combined usage of both Bullock and 'Blitz' power to haul logs up to the mill and/or station at the top of the ridge
In later years the Baxters used an ex-army ‘Blitz’ four wheel drive to assist the bullock teams remove logs from the gullies around Long Angle. In the Depression they would save petrol tokens so the Blitz could be used to remove timber. Both the bullocks and the Blitz would tow a large log trailer or ‘jinker’. In the disastrous fires of 1936 the trailer was destroyed by fire near Yellowrock Road. The old loggers road that ran off Singles Ridge Road is now known as Long Angle Gully Road.

The Baxters were fine axemen and often entered woodchops at shows and competitions. They also cut timber near Glenbrook Creek and along Blue Gum Swamp, at Winmalee.[2]

For the most part, today, the impact of the logging industry on Warrimoo is largely obscured by the intensive forest growth of the past two decades. It is hard to envisage the thin bush landscape that prevailed at that end of Warrimoo during the 1920’s and 30’s.

Awesomely beautiful Mountain Blue Gum stand on the Sun Valley/Fitzgerald's Creek Walk on the northern side of Warrimoo--a walk well worth doing!
If, however, you are game to do the ‘Sun Valley Trail’ either from the Rosenthal Lane entry (Sun Valley) or the Warrimoo Oval side—if you are game to enough to endure the cacophony of birdcalls along the route, and you keep your eyes peeled, you just may come across some of those evidential remnants and relics of that bygone era.

[1] CAMERON, Bruce. Sun Valley and Long Angle Gulley—A History, Springwood, 1998 pp21—31 Bruce’s booklet provided the vast bulk of information on this topic. WH thank him for his extensive research.
[2] Ibid., pp 21-22