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Ada Tree & the timber tramways

When I was back in Australia for the Christmas/New Year break, my Dad and I had a day up in the tall timber mountain ash forest east of Melbourne, at one of our favourite locations – the Ada Tree and the surrounding forest that was once home to sawmills and timber tramway lines in the 1930s.  The remnants of the sawmilling days are rusting and rotting away in the forest, accompanied by some lyrebirds and trillions of little leeches.  We heard the lyrebirds while the leeches ate us.

Old boiler on the path up to the Federal Mill site

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Back in the 1930s, there were numerous sawmills out in the forests, with little steam locomotives hauling out the timber on tramway lines.  The walking tracks now mostly follow the pathways of the tramway lines, and occasionally there are old bits of rail, winch cables and bogeys along the track.  The most impressive relics are collapsed trestle and log bridges, now fallen into gullies along the Ada and Little Ada Rivers, as well as some old boilers and winches at the sawmill sites.

The stand-out tree is the Ada Tree, a 75 metre high mountain ash eucalypt, which is estimated at 300 to 400 years old.  It used to be higher, until a storm took off its crown.  It’s as high as one of the MCG light towers, and is one of the largest trees in Victoria.  Glad the loggers left this one alone.  Near the Ada Tree are some other huge mountain ashes, as well as rainforest gullies with stands of myrtle beeches and giant tree ferns.  It’s one of the most beautiful forests in Victoria.

For the second day of January, it was a cold 5 or 6 degrees up in the hills.  It started of raining, which brought the leeches out, but it was a pleasant (if a little muddy) walk through the forest, stopping for lunch at the New Federal Mill site, and then exploring along the old Federal Line tramway path.

We turned around about the same time as I noticed a leech all puffed up under Dad’s chin, and managed to avoid a repeat of the infamous incident from 10 years ago when Dad fell up along the path near here, broke his ankle, and required me to get him rescued!

Some of Dad’s photos of our day are posted on his website here.

A few days after I came back to Japan, I was directed to an article in The Age titled “Black Friday sparks dark memories and reignites old warnings“.  It’s a story marking the 70th anniversary of the terrible 1939 bushfires that wiped out much of the sawmills in the forest.

The Light Railway Research Society of Australia also has a story on the Powelltown timber tramways reproduced from a railway magazine of the late 1920s on its website.

Here’s the sound of a lyrebird that I snuck up on, although never saw it through the dense forest.

Here’s a video of Dad crossing the Little Ada River, next to a collapsed log bridge.

Mountain Ash forest

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