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Clarke and Kidd Sawmill

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By the late nineteenth century it was well-known that the Rubicon Forest was home to magnificent stands of prime timber.  Little could be done to exploit this without an efficient form of transport.  A branch line from the Mansfield railway arrived at Alexandra Road (Koriella) station in 1890.  There it stayed for almost twenty years, just out of the reach of the sawmillers.  The line was finally extended to Alexandra township in 1909.

Clarke and Kidd Sawmill              In anticipation of this, Clark & Kidd built the first sawmill in the Rubicon Forest in 1907, and constructed a 3 foot 4½ inch (1029mm) gauge wooden-railed tramway out of the forest and down to the river flats below.  From this point to Alexandra, the sawmillers had to depend on road transport, which proved unreliable in winter and caused great damage to the roads.  In 1912, the Rubicon Lumber & Tramway Company completed a 2 foot (610mm) gauge steel-railed line connecting the forest tramway with the railway station in Alexandra.  The line was operated with three small (6-tonne) Krauss 0-4-0WT locomotives which, through poor maintenance, quickly acquired a reputation for starting fires along the line.

Clarke and Kidd SawmillIn 1935, twenty-five years after the tramway agreement had been signed with the Shire of Alexandra, the agreement expired and ownership of the line was relinquished to the Shire.  The Shire put the operation of the line up for tender, and the successful bidder was the Lumber Company’s great rival, Clark & Pearce.  Since a stipulation of the tender was that the line be operated by internal-combustion locomotives during the summer months, Clark & Pearce purchased a 10 tonne diesel locomotive from Kelly & Lewis of Springvale.  This proved to be so successful that a second, almost identical unit, was added in 1936.

Clarke and Kidd SawmillThe fires of January 1939 destroyed seven of the eight sawmills in the Rubicon Forest, killing twelve men involved in the timber industry.  The mills were quickly rebuilt, and the race was on to salvage the burnt timber before it rotted.  But road transport had become more practical and economical than by tramway, and the line closed in 1947. By the end of 1950, it had been pulled up. The last of Clark & Pearce’s Rubicon mills closed in 1954, bringing to an end the era of the bush sawmill in the Rubicon Forest.