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Rails Through the Bush Timber & Firewood Tramways & Railway Contractors of Western Australia by Adrian Gunzburg & Jeff Austin

The timber industry developed a unique form in Western Australia, where long-term timber concessions encouraged the formation of large companies, which sank vast amounts of capital into sizeable permanent mills located in the heart of the timber country. These were served by fleets of well-maintained steam locomotives running over main access routes equal at least to Government branch line standards of construction. In fact in a relatively short period of time, the entire south-west of the State became one giant mass of adjacent timber concessions, with a rail network that totalled over the years in excess of 6000 km of access lines into the 'bush', a generic term that in Western Australia at least could mean anything from dense forest to Mulga scrub!

Similarly, the gold mining industry at Kalgoorlie and further north depended on a regular supply of firewood for fuel and mining timber. The 'woodlines' were the response to this need, with their attendant workshops and steam locomotives serving far-flung bush communities, hauling firewood daily over distances that reached out 200 km in several directions with time.

When the Government rail network was expanding particularly before the turn of the last century, much of the construction was carried out by private contractors, who responded to tenders and were selected on the basis of the cheapest satisfactory offer. These opportunities drew to the West some of the shrewdest operators and colourful characters in the country. Many of them entered the timber industry to supply sleepers and construction timber for their contracts and remained afterwards as timber millers and merchants. They purchased steam locomotives to build the new lines and these eventually found their way onto the timber and firewood railways. The railway contractors have been included in this story to complete the picture.

This volume offered as an accurately researched and clearly presented history of the timber and woodline locomotives, in the context of a potted history of the companies and their operations.

Code No. 008285, 304 pages, ISBN 9780980392227, $99.00

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