The Turpentine Tramway - Herons Creek, NSW, Australia
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Grahame Cookie
S 31° 35.210 E 152° 43.665
56J E 474169 N 6505327
Quick Description: This large History Sign details the significance of the Tramway to local history.
Location: New South Wales, Australia
Date Posted: 1/20/2018 11:18:40 PM
Waymark Code: WMXJR9
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member CADS11
Views: 0

Long Description:
The large sign, in front of the Silhouette Art, has a picture of the timber headstone for William Henry Lees and a typical horse-drawn timber-getting cart, and a sketch map of what Tramway Tracks and Roads would have been in the Kew to Herons Creek area in 1899. It has the following information:

The Turpentine Tramway

A Track Back in Time

"As I recall, when I was young, I remember seeing the remains of the tramline that ran from the Camden Haven River to Herons Creek, on the east side of Herons Creek Road. It passed about 50 feet to the east from our homestead at 316 Herons Creek Road. It then went south to the bottom of the first gully where it crossed to the west side of Herons Creek Road." [Kevin Parish O.A.M. (born locally)]

'In the late 1800's and early 1900's timber from the turpentine tree (Syncarpia glomulifera) was highly sought after for use as wharf and jetty piles, because it resisted marine borers better than any other timber. It was also largely termite-resistant and difficult to ignite - and was therefore a valuable commodity. Large stands were known to exist around the headwaters of Cedar Creek - and they became the target of what was known as Turpentine Tramway.

'Justin McSweeney, a colourful character involved in railways, construction and horse racing, established the Federal Timber Company and in 1895 built a saw mill at Homedale (near Kew), some 5 km south of here. Then, in order to avoid the delays caused by bullock teams being unable to work after heavy rain, he built a six kilometre tramway north and then north-east, into the heart of virgin turpentine country. Rails were hardwood, most likely brushbox, spiked onto locally split wooden sleepers, and logs were loaded onto small rail wagons and hauled to the mill by horse teams.

'In 1897 the Australian Timber Company bought the Kew mill, and in November of that year applied for a Special Lease over 7 acres (3.5 ha) of land on which to build a branch line heading north/north-east from Logans Crossing to Herons Creek. This 3 km strip of land is the line recalled by Kevin Parish. Its terminus was a 40 acre (18 ha) property owned by the company on the banks of Herons Creek, covered with ti-tree and turpentine forests.

'The tramway and the Kew mill were both short-lived, however, with the company going into liquidation late in 1898. The mill was sold to Robert Longworth in 1901 and relocated to his Concord mill at Laurieton. The tramway ceased to be used some time in the 1900's, and now all that remains are a depression left by the line which can be still be seen running through Herons Creek Cemetery and a road called "Tramway Road" which follows sections of the former Cedar Creek line.'

The Tramway tragedy
'On Thursday March 2, 1899, tragedy struck the tramway on the steep gradient just south of the Cedar Creek terminus. Known as "Big Hill", this descent was a massive challenge to the drivers controlling the laden trollies. Common practice was to unhitch the horses at the top of the hill (so that they would not be run over) and ride the load down to the bottom. Braking applied by hauling on a rope attached to lever that jammed wooden brake blocks up between the wheels.

'The horses (clearly well-trained) trotted along behind, and were re-harnessed when the trolley came to a stop at the foot of the slope. Hair-raising stories were told about the speed reached on some local tram lines as drivers competed with, it would seem, more bravado than brains.

'Fourteen-year-old William Henry Lees had been employed as a horse driver for just a week on that fateful day when rain made the rails slippery and his trolley became unmanageable. Instead of abandoning ship, as he'd been told, he tried desperately to apply the brakes even harder - but fell off and was dragged under one of the wheels, suffering fatal injuries. He is buried in the Kendall Cemetery where a wooden headstone (stela) marks his resting place - though this is not the original: that was replaced by Kendall Heritage Society in 2002.'

Nearby is the Silhouette Sculpture of a couple of horses, with a depiction of William Henry Lees, and a couple of tramway 'dollies' and a load of real timber.

Visited: 1920, Wednesday, 28 December, 2016

Age/Event Date: 1895; 1897; 1899

Type of Historic Marker: Plaque only

Type of Historic Marker if other: Plaque with extensive text, and Silhouette Sculpture

Historic Resources.:
Port Macquarie Hastings Council

Related Website: Not listed

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