Fires Farms and Forests

Extending the railway to the west coast

Introduction

In my book “Fires, Farms and Forests”, I dedicated a chapter to outline the construction of a horse-drawn wooden tramway in the mid-late 1870s. The chapter focused on the monumental task of constructing 74 kilometres of a new line through some sections of dense rainforest, all cleared by hand.

As I wrote in the book, I believe it is the longest wooden tramway built in the world.

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The Hills of Surrey Hills

When writing the book on the history of Surrey Hills, many people worked at AFH who were not mentioned but deserved praise for their contributions. 

One of those was Ross Hills, a Burnie local who rose to a senior position in AFH. As a manager at Burnie during the 1980s, Ross was part of expanding the eucalypt plantation program.… Read more

The pastoralist’s scourge

While researching for my book “Fires, Farms and Forests”, I came across quite a few caterpillar references in the correspondence of the Chief Agents of the Van Diemen’s Land Company (VDL Co.). The caterpillars were killing off improved pastures planted after clearing or logging and scrubbing operations.

The caterpillar problem was not unique to the VDL Co.… Read more

A public spat

In Chapter 6 of my book “Fires, Farms and Forests”, I alluded to the acrimonious relationship between James Norton Smith, the Chief Agent for the Van Diemen’s Land Company (VDL Co.) and William Ritchie, the Chairman of the Mount Bischoff Tin Mining Company (MBTM Co.).

In early 1881, the animosity spread to a public spat, which is fascinating, not least because Ritchie was a partner in the law firm that acted as the VDL Co’s solicitor for their Tasmanian dealings.… Read more

AFH’s rough diamond

Terence Alexander Albert Turner, or Snow Turner, was undoubtedly a real character of AFH. Anyone who worked with him between 1960 to 1999, or had anything to do with the company during those years, will know Snow and have a story or two about him. 

While small in stature, stocky and as strong as a moose, he was indeed a larger-than-life figure with a big personality and presence, best known for his colourful language, his pranks on fellow workers and his knowledge of forestry. … Read more

Re-enacting Muddy Creek picnic and sports day

In Chapter 10 of my book, Fires, Farms and Forests, I outlined a fantastic summer picnic and sporting carnival held on Surrey Hills from 1922 until 1930. A picturesque location immediately adjacent to the Emu Bay Railway (EBR) line, just outside Guildford Junction, was the chosen site and it became known as the Muddy Creek sports ground.… Read more

My AFH Experience

This month’s guest blog is by Leigh Titmus, who worked at Surrey Hills between 1978 and 1986.

Leigh grew up as a kid in Devonport through the 1950s and 60s. His father built one of the earliest shacks at Sisters Beach, so almost every weekend, the family would head off there, and they would drive past the Burnie Pulp and Paper mill very often.… Read more

The unsung and all-but-forgotten exploits of stockman Donald Campbell Atkinson

Donald Campbell Atkinson was a brilliant and expert horseman who learnt his craft on Surrey Hills during the twentieth century while grazing 2,000 head of cattle. Fortunately, his son, Lindsay, wrote a couple of unpublished memoirs which beautifully capture some of Donald’s accomplishments and amazing adventures. The first, written in 1994, was titled “A few notes about my father’s family”.… Read more

Picking the eyes out of Surrey Hills

This blog has involved many hours researching historical deeds and has taken a long time to put together. It has been challenging to access information while travelling full-time, well away from Tasmania.

I have called upon others to assist me in completing this story. Thank you to Brian Rollins for his patience and kindly sharing information on how to work through the historical Tasmanian title index cards and historical deeds, all found online.… Read more