Rob Kay is the Layout Coordinator
In 1893 gold was discovered in the Kalgoorlie area. The biggest needs of the miners who flocked to the area were initially for water and transport. The Eastern Goldfields Railway reached Kalgoorlie from Perth within three years and by 1902 extended throughout the region. C.Y O’Connor’s water pipeline opened in 1903.
What is not generally thought about is the need for fuel to drive the pumps of the water pipeline, the machinery for the mines and the steam engines for the railways, as well as the heating and lighting of the towns and shanties. The nearest coal deposits were 600 kilometres away at Collie, so instead the local timber was cut for firewood at a rate of 350,000 tonnes a year, eventually consuming 3.4 million hectares of forest around the Golden Mile, stretching up to 200km from Kalgoorlie. The area eventually cut for firewood was half the size of Tasmania.
The Woodlines were companies created to supply both firewood and structural timber for the mine workings. Established about 1900, these companies operated their own light bush tramways to collect the cut timber and bring it to their central depots from where it was transported to the mines, the towns and the steam powerhouses.
Our model is set in the early 1950s, the last high point of the era, when diesel locos are replacing the ancient steam locomotives and just before the need for firewood winds down as machinery is changed over from steam to electrical power. The Work Camp is staffed by emigrants from a war–ravaged Europe. Many of the workers were highly qualified professional people but their immigration contracts required them to work for two years for the organisation which had sponsored them before they could seek other jobs. So we have Italians, Yugoslavs and others doing the physical labour – and learning to play cricket. We also have a team of horses helping to marshal the wagons.
The camp is moveable but in this case it has a fairly permanent locomotive refuelling depot and workshop. There are some portable buildings sitting on railway trucks ready to be moved to a new site when required.
But in 1952 the writing is on the wall for the Woodlines. It will take only ten years more for the 1952 company workforce of 550 men to be reduced to 50 as the mining industry changes and the Woodlines will be left with only the domestic fuel market in Kalgoorlie/Boulder and a limited call for structural timber.
Finally the cost of transporting coal and diesel fuel to electrical generators is winning the economic battle. The Work Camp now has electric light and arc welding, replacing the old steam forge and machinery but its days are numbered and the last Woodlines train ran at the end of 1964.Back to Layouts