Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Timber Production in Western Australia

The Boilermakers' Shop at Yarloop in its heyday

In February 2007 I visited Yarloop Workshops in Western Australia with my friend Keith Watson (there's more about that trip here). It's now an industrial museum commemorating the area's history of timber export. I'm afraid I had no idea of the significance of the area in the supply of high-quality timber during the 20th century until this visit.

It took us around two hours by car travelling South from Perth to reach the town of Yarloop. The weather was hot and there had been recent forest fires en route.

The museum is housed in a series of substantial timber buildings - the remains of the timber mill and workshops which serviced the timber industry. The enterprise was started in 1895 by two brothers from England called Millar and became, in its time, the largest timber centre in the world, operating the largest privately-owned steam railway in the world.

A pamphlet 'Yarloop Workshops Welcome You' describes the features on display, including the Saw Shop, Sand Shed (supplying dry sand for the locomotives), Mill Store, Saddle Shop, Workshop Complex (where stationary and locomotive boilers were built and repaired), Running Shed (which once housed four locomotives), Blacksmiths' Shop, Main Machine Shop, Boiler Room, Tool Room, Coppersmiths' Shop, Moulding Shop, Pattern Makers' Shop, Foreman's Office (still holding original plans and blueprints), Pattern Shop (still holding hundreds of original patterns),Truck Shop (carrying out timber work for road and rail vehicles) and Plumbers' Shop. Finally, there is the Steam House, where volunteers restore and maintain a number of historic stationary steam engines rescued from various locations which are periodically demonstrated to visitors.

The whole site is very evocative and I was made most welcome by the volunteers. Visitors to Western Australia who are interested in industrial or social heritage should make time for a visit.

The history of life in Yarloop is vividly described in Geoff Fortune's book 'Yarloop - There was no better place' (ISBN 1 876760 09 5).

My pictures of Yarloop

Yarloop Workshops.

[Links added 21-Jun-2016].