Fred Aulich with his Clydesdale horses hauls timber at Irish Town near St Marys early in the Twentieth Century
A bit later on Fred upgraded to his first truck
Young Barry Aulich with the family's first bulldozer
The first mechanical saw mill in the Fingal Valley was built in 1884 by German immigrant Julius (Yuli) Aulich
at Mill-Ridge in the foothills of St Pastricks Head
The cross-cut saw
The days before the chainsaw
The Timber Industry
In the Fingal Valley & East Coast
By the Late Barry Aulich (Past sawmiller & Logger)
The Timber Industry in Tasmania would be probably the oldest industry that one can bring to mind.
The early settlers, when they landed on our formidable shores had to keep themselves warm, and protect themselves from the elements, one can only imagine the trauma that some of them must have gone through. Firstly I would imagine, would be to gather some wood to make a fire so as they could cook something to eat, Thus starting the use of the forest, and then to build a shelter this was done by using the round spars (small straight trees) for a frame work. Then they would pick out the best of the larger trees to split slabs to cover the walls, and split shingles to cover the roof. And this would have been quite unconsciously starting the timber industry in this state. Some of the buildings were clad with Blackwood as this was a very durable timber, and was usually easy to split, the house, which was built in Heise’s Gully between Irishtown Rd and Fourmile creek was built out of all Blackwood.
The industry moved on to Pit sawing at which a Log was suspended over a Trench or Pit as it was called, One man would be standing on the top of the log and the other was under the log in the “Pit” both working a saw long enough to reach right through the log and they would pull and push the saw up and down until they had cut right through the whole length of the log, this method was repeated over and over until the right sized timber was achieved.
This was the best method for a good many years. And although in some other parts of the state, and particularly, the world the industry had advanced to the spinning saw.
It was in 1884 that a young fellow Julius (Yuli) Aulich who had migrated from Prussia with his parents departing from Hamburg Germany on the Boat Called the “Figaro” landing in Hobart in 1870, The family made their way up to Swansea where the father Wilhelm worked as a shepherd, they stayed there for five years, and then moved up to Gray near St Mary’s, and set up house beside where now stands the Pancake Parlour, The old, but changed home still stands there to-day, If only that house could talk, the history would be astounding.
In the mid 1880s Julius set up a stationary steam driven sawmill on the eastern slopes of St Patrick’s Head, called the Mill Ridge. Over the years he had several settings in that area.
Julius and those who worked with him were a hard working group of individuals, who, as we used to say, had sawdust on their brain. The logs in the beginning of the industry were selected from suitable trees, mostly felled with an axe and cross-cut saw, sometimes they would chop them down with the axe only, they used to say, just for exercise, when the tree was felled a length would be measured and cut off, sometimes more than one length, and then they would be pulled by Horse’s to the mill setting, some areas they used to have Bullocks to retrieve the logs. Then in the early 1900s the steam traction engine came into being, this I would imagine would have to be a great benefit to the industry, “1910”, Julius had by now established a very lucrative business and was able to purchase a brand new “Foden” steam engine from Finlayson’s at Devonport for the sum of 750 pounds, a massive amount in those days. In 1937 Julius sold that machine to Pearns Bros at Westbury (It is still in the Museum and works to-day) I don’t know for how much, but I ask Mr Pearns how much it would be worth to-day and that was about 2005, and he said that $150,000-00 wouldn’t buy it. And the delivery of the sawn timber by now had gone from horses to the solid rubber tyred trucks, no air-ride seats or mod-cons like they have to-day, They were fairly primitive machines and had to negotiate very primitive roads and bridges sometimes just two logs placed into position across the creek or gully and flattened on the top with the broad axe.
With the introduction of the motor lorry came a very different concept to the way of saw-milling, now the mill setting was established on a more permanent site and the logs were transported by lorry from the bush to the mill, cut into the various timbers and delivered by the same lorry to the various places of use, some for houses, some for bridges and many other uses that timber was used for.
While we have been talking about the sawmill industry I have neglected to say about the Broad Axe business as we used to refer to it, This was an amazing skill where the bloke on the broad axe would put a flat on a log with the greatest of precision, sometimes this was for bridge timbers, railway sleepers, special posts, Etc it was a masterful art that really got one in, if you were lucky enough to be around when it was being done.
In 1944 Oscar his sons Henry & Bill returned from the Northwest coast where they had been working in the timber industry (pulp and sawmills) they built a mill on Irishtown road this was steam driven for some time, bought an international KS5 truck, that truck used to have the motor reconditioned every 100,000 miles and it did over a half a million hard miles and was still going many years later, it was rated at 5tons and I’ve seen it with eleven tons on it’s back. No load limit’s in those days, sometimes the mill would catch on fire from sparks out of the steam engine, it would be a mad panic to put it out with buckets and hoses, That was a problem, until the electricity came to Irishtown road, this made life a lot easier, As did the purchase of the first crawler tractor for snigging the logs out of the bush to a suitable loading place for the trucks, but even better was the first crawler with a dozer blade on the front of it, both machines were RD4 Caterpillar’s, and over the next ensuing years there were many makes and sizes of these crawler tractors used. In the 1960s there came along a great invention the Logging skidder, set on rubber tyres and articulated all wheel drive, it made logging a dream after the dozer, and it was just ahead of the Chipping industry so as we were able to get adjusted to this machine in time for the change in the timber industry. As did the invention of the Chainsaws, first being two man machines, and then in 1955 a one man saw was made, we got one a Mobilco Bebo “Swedish” heavy as a bag of lead, but a blessing after the cross-cut saw, after falling a couple of trees with this monster I decided that it would do, and left the cross-cut on the stump behind Beaumaris, and it was found there by the forestry dept workers some years later.
The Irishtown sawmill was later sold to Tas Board mills and operated by contractors. And later in 1966 Henry & Barry Aulich leased it back until in 1968 we built another mill about a kilometer from the first one. We operated that mill until 1973 cutting veneer timber from Blue Gum for the New Zealand market, and we supplied the Tasmanian railways with bridge timbers and sleepers, as well as housing timber. After this the woodchip industry started up and a whole new concept was established with small mills being pushed aside by more modern press button operated mills, located at places of higher density populations, enabling better employment opportunities, Every thing is so highly mechanized to-day that it makes the mind boggle, Spinning saws are but a few, bandsaws are in vogue today, a follow on from the Vertical saw which was introduced by Julius Aulich early in the 1900s.
Julius tried to invent a logging machine back about the first decade of the 1900s it was very much a concept of, what turned out to be the logging skidder, which come about in the 1960s. But back in those days the engine makers wouldn’t make a motor for his invention, and told Julius he was way to far ahead of his time and it wouldn’t be wanted.
One time the Fingal Valley boasted many sawmills, there were at one time three mills within the Fingal Township, Avoca had a mill and still has to day, and it’s about the only mill in the valley. Around St Mary’s there was at one time about 6 mills of various sizes, all of which employed a few people, this all helped the social activity in the districts.
And here we are to day experiencing a very uncertain situation in the Timber industry, Tasmania started its survival with the help of the forests and I don’t think we can survive without the timber industry.
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