|Field Report 29/10/01
Washington Iron Works Skidder
Swifts Creek, Victoria, Australia
Loggers and Modellers,
Here's a quick report about what I found when I visited this site:
The drive up to the site wasn't too stressful. I stoped about 3 kilometres south of
Swifts Creek at a service station to see if anyone local could help me with general
directions to the site. The attendant wasn't sure, but she asked a local deliveryman who
was there at the time. Having asked about any machinery along Nunniong Road, as mentioned
in the article you sent me, the deliveryman simply asked me, "You aren't looking for
the Washington, are you?".
With the deliveryman's hand drawn "mud map" in hand, I travelled on through
Swifts Creek, and up the mountain into the Nunniong State Forest Recreation area for
around 30 Kilometres. Of this, the last 12 k's or so were fairly rough gravel road. I
averaged around 15 kph. During this drive I encountered only two other vehicles, both 4WDs
with loggers heading back into town. Various areas of the bush thereabouts are still being
logged with Caterpillars and B double trucks.
As I was just about to give up and head back down the mountain I spied a small
corrugated iron water tank on a simple wooden support in the bush on the left-hand side of
the road. I was paying so much attention to this little structure, that it was only when I
turned my attention back to the road that I noticed the two spar trees on the Right hand
side of the road a few hundred metres beyond.
The site is set up with a cleared "carpark" area and information board on the
left-hand side of the road. The board is at the same level as the carpark. Behind it is a
small rise on which is located the skidder. The skidder lines run from the drums, to the
right across the road to the "Left hand Spar". They then turn 90 degrees and
head roughly towards the small corrugated iron tank to the "Right hand Spar".
(See VERY ROUGH not to scale diagram below. Guy ropes not shown).
The skidder itself appears to be in reasonable shape. There is plenty of surface rust,
but most of the steelwork still seems strong. All of the steam fittings, such as sight
glasses, valves, whistles etc have been removed and stored at the museum at Swifts Creek,
but most of the major fittings such as the drum brake pedals and mechanism, throttle
controls, etc are still in place. Water lines are still in place between the water tank
and the boiler. The stream that originally fed the water tank has been diverted via a
small channel, and now runs down along the back of the carpark to some point near the
small corrugated tank.
I didn't realise before, but the watertank on the skidder is made up of multiple sheets
of steel which are riveted together in an overlapping pattern, (looking from the rear of
the skidder forward) from left to right, and top to bottom. The main skid logs are
reasonably solid, but the front ends are exposed to the air, and show signs of
deterioration. The rear of the skidder sled is partially buried in the clay soil. One of
the five heavy planks forming the platform between the boiler and the tank has rotted and
collapsed. The subsequent hole between the adjacent planks was discovered by one of my
rolls of exposed film. The retrieval of said film provided a rare view of the underside of
a skidder, via a small "foxhole" beneath the watertank at the rear of the
skidder. (This technique is NOT recommended, as there are many types of fauna that are
unfriendly to humans that are known to inhabit such areas. Thankfully I did not encounter
any such animals before I came to my senses. I also did not get any photos while in this
No builders plates or similar were to be found on the boiler or skidder framework. The
boiler is a vertical type with a firebox that extends back from the main boiler
"tube". The cylinders have "11 X 14" cast in raised lettering,
indicating their bore and stroke. A small steel plate mounted over the right hand side
flywheel had me wondering until I actually stood as if I was operating the unit. It became
clear that it was there to stop the legs of the operator getting caught in the business
end of the flywheel and connecting rods.
When in operation, there was a shed built over the skidder to protect it from the
elements. The shed in evidence now is a faithful recreation of the old shed. While the
timber frame and corrugated iron is new, as many of the old hinges, brackets and strapping
that could be salvaged from the old shed has been re-used.
According to the information board in the carpark, the skidder was originally rigged
for high lead yarding work, using the "Left hand Spar" as the main tree. Later
on it was converted to a Skyline crane, and was used to yard the logs and load them onto
trucks for transport down the mountain. It must have been at this point that the second
"Right hand Spar" spar tree was rigged. Both trees on site now are Alpine Ash
replacements for the original trees, which apparently were deemed to be unsafe. All of the
rigging on the current trees is original however, and was apparently simply transferred
directly as was from the old to the new trees. As there are a few pulley blocks located on
the Main "Left hand Spar" tree that appear to be doing nothing now, but would be
perfectly placed to rig a high lead from, I'm pretty sure that the new trees are faithful
to the original ones.
The guy ropes on the new trees use the original 2" stranded wire rope, but most of
the original stumps were deemed unsafe. New stumps have been selected next to the original
ones, and are used to anchor the current guys. Most of the guys now use new galvanised dog
clamps to secure the guy ropes to the stumps, but there is one that has retained it's
original 3 to 2 purchase tensioning block system. It is attached to the "Right hand
Hanging between the two spars is the skyline travelling carriage and hook pulley. The
travelling carriage appears to be a "homegrown" item, as is hasn't got the
smooth edges and "cast" look of the other pieces of rigging. There are also some
other pieces of rigging gear to be found lying around the site on the ground, the most
notable of which is a 24" pulley block near the skyline carriage location.
I've included some scanned "overview" pics of the
site. I've also included a "transcript" of the text
on the information boards, as even at 600 dpi scan they are a bit hard to read. I've
got detail shots with scale rules for much of the skidder, the spar trees, and the guy
rope equipment, so if there is anything you want to see more of, please don't hesitate to
By the way, I've also included two shots of a curious home grown log hauling trailer I
found on the way home from the Swifts Creek sight. It is located north of a small coastal
fishing town called Narooma on the New South Wales "South Coast". It's a bit
smaller than a U.S. "Big Wheel" log hauling arch, but appears to have been used
for similar service.
Hope this is helpful. Again, many thanks for all of your help and encouragement.
Aim to Improve,