Sidings and sawmills - Pettitts 1913

Pettitt siding, image Cliff Tann
 Examining the movement through the West      Otways of the Pettitt Bros, shows the fluidity of the sawmilling industry in this area due to exhausting the milling of the area, and through fires and market changes and the problematic carting of timber in the steep terrain.

Scouting the Western Otways in 1913 following the procurement of a government contract to supply timber for Melbourne and Portland, Pettitt Bros, a Geelong timber company found their source at Ferguson and Weeaproinah on Camp Creek. 

Sawmill map (Houghton 2018)

Ferguson

At the headwaters of Carlisle River the gullies reached a spur near the railway station, an area now known as Charleys Creek Road.  Pettitt obtained the rights from landholders of over 240 hectares of land.  Originally carting the sawn timber out by bullock wagon until the mud and slush caused problems which resulting in Pettitt installing a large and powerful steam winch, strategically placed above the creek of the steep sided valley.  It was anchored to three layers of criss-cross logs that were buried several metres into the ground.  The snig lines ran out for up to 1.5km to drag piles up to the winch.  The piles were 33.5 metres in length and were loaded onto the train in pairs spread over three rail trucks. (Houghton 2018 p. 165).

Weeaproinah

Pile siding, Image George Facey
At the completion of the Ferguson contract, Pettitt relocated to Camp Creek located west of Weeaproinah railway station.  A tramway connected the mill with the railway with a new loading point named Pile siding which was opened in 1915.  A siding, in rail terminology, is a low-speed track section distinct from a running line or through route such as a main line or branch line or spur. There were 2,000 cubic metres of piles and saw timbers sent through the Pile siding annually until 1917 before Pettitt moved further west to Egans Track, Wyelangta.   In 1920 Pettitt moved to a new site in Wyelangta to log the Sandy Creek valley and back again to Pile siding becoming mill No. 2.  A fire destroyed the mill in 1927 and was rebuilt only to burn down again due to an arson attack in 1929.  Pettitt then decided due to the depressed state of the market to close down the operation (Houghton 2018, 1992).


The Otway Districts Historical Society has further information on all sidings and sawmills in the Otways region.  Call into the history rooms or email us at otwayhistoricalsociety@gmail.com


References:

Siding (rail) accessed 9 August 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siding_(rail)

Houghton, N., 1992, The Beechy, Light Railray Research Society of Australia, Victoria

Houghton, N., 2018, Choppers and Chippers, West Otways timber history, Norman Houghton, Geelong



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