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Rails to Rubicon by Peter Evans

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the Rubicon Forest was acknowledged as containing some of the finest stand of timber in the state of Victoria. Due to the rugged terrain, little could be done to exploit the timber until an efficient and economical means of transport could be provided. Light railways were commonly used to deliver timber from the Victorian Forests to the closest government railway. The first timber tramway in the Rubicon Forest was completed in 1907, but terminated some distance from the rail head. The railway to Alexandra was opened in 1909 and, in 1912, the railway and forest tramway were connected by a steel-railed tramway. This link was the principle method of timber transport in the district until 1947 when competition from road transport forced its closure.

"Rails to Rubicon" tells the story of the sawmills and tramways of the Rubicon Forest. Around each mill was a cluster of houses. Keeping warm, dry and well fed was not as easy in the forest as it was in a rural township, and this book describes what it was like to live in one of these isolated settlements. Schools and facilities for entertainment had to be provided, often on steep hillsides miles from anywhere. Yet the inhabitants of the settlements led full and contented lives despite the dangerous nature of the work and the isolation and altitude of the mill settlements.

Although sawmilling forms the central theme of this book, it is not the only one. Forests provided a seasonal home to the Aboriginal people and to the pastoralists who followed and displaced them. Fire is a major them in forest history and Rails to Rubicon describes the fire practices of the graziers using the forest and the fire-exclusion policies of the forest managers who eventually forced them out. The utilisation of the water resources of the forest is also explored, and a chapter describes the historic Rubicon hydro-electric scheme.

Code No. 005811, 200 pages, ISBN 0909340315, $49.50

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