"The past is never fully gone. It is absorbed into the present and the future. It stays to shape what we are and what we do."
Sir William Deane, Governor-General of Australia, Inaugural Vincent Lingiari Memorial Lecture, August 1996.

Newport Seasoning Works

Best Use of Victoria’s Timbers
David Williams (bio)

The considerable potential for Victorian native hardwoods as fine timber was recognised as early as the mid-1800’s but there was little or no inclination to develop this potential for a number of decades. The utilisation of native timbers was wasteful and the forests were extensively cleared in an uncontrolled manner. Eventually the Government established the State Forest Department in 1907 in recognition of the destruction of the forests and the growing rehabilitation liability. At this time there was also a call for the Government to support the establishment of a works to undertake research into techniques for producing seasoned timber from native hardwood species. Work commenced on the Newport Seasoning Works in 1910 with initial production in the following year.

The objectives of the seasoning works were to:

  1. Undertake research into techniques for seasoning Victorian hardwood species and demonstrate the viability of producing Victorian hardwood seasoned timber.
  2. Ensure the seasoning works were financially viable but not to maximise profits.

FCV Incorporated

THE FCV ran a number of separate business operations.

  • pre FCV I know but the red gum operation before settlement at Kilmany
  • The Timber seasoning works at Newport
  • A eucalypt oil distillery at Wellsford
  • A sawmill - first at Nayook and then this at to Erica to process 1939 salvage. (see below)
  • A tramway at Erica from the late 1920's early 1930's (see below)
  • War time firewood - article in place
  • Wartime charcoal??
  • There may be other items here as yet undiscovered

This blog will eventually provide some information about each of these operations

The FCV's Erica Tramline

David Williams (bio)


The Erica Steel Tramway was used to transport sawn timber from sawmills located along the Eastern and Western Tyers Rivers to a siding joining the main Moe-Walhalla rail line just south of Erica in Central Gippsland. The tramway was one of two that were owned and operated by the FCV. The second was built in response to the needs of the 1939 salvage operation and extended from the South Cascade Bridge to Little Boys Camp. The locations of both lines can be found on this map.

The tramway travelled 6.75 miles from Collins siding, south of Erica, to the Tyers Junction where three river branches meet, those being the Eastern, Middle and Western Tyers. The tramway then spilt into two branch lines – one travelling 2.25 miles to ‘Ten Acre Block’ on the Eastern Tyers River, and the other travelling 7 miles to Growlers Creek on the Western Tyers River.

The tramway operated for 22 years, commencing in 1927 and its last trip was in July 1949.

FCV Sawmills

In 1920 the FCV purchased a sawmill near Nayook

"Early in 1920 the Commission, with Government's approval, purchased a saw-mill, with the rights to a fine stand of mature mountain ash and messmate timber. Cutting operations commenced on 10th March, and after the inevitable disturbance of the transition period had been overcome, work proceeded smoothly on the whole. Truck shortage occasioned difficulties in getting timber away during the period under review, resulting in considerable stocks being accumulated at the mill, but the general state of affairs appears satisfactory for a new undertaking. Minor improvements to be effected during the current financial year are expected to increase the output and facilitate more complete utilization of the trees felled." (FCV Annual Report 1919-1920)

The mill remaind in the original location until 1922 when it was moved two to three kilometres to the east. It remained at this new site until 1930.

The FCV established a new sawmill at Erica in 1940

From 1930 to 1940 there was no State Mill, but in 1940:

"In furtherance of the Salvage Plan, the Commission established a sawmill in proximity to the township of Erica to expedite the utilization of large quantities of fire-killed timber in the Thomson Valley and at the same time assist in supplying sawn timber to fulfil urgent Defence and Government orders. An up-to-date milling plant was erected and is now in full operation. The plant comprises twin breaking-down saws, two rip benches, and a swing docker. An extension of the Victorian Railways narrow gauge line from Erica railway station was constructed into the mill yard to permit of loading timber direct from the skids into railway trucks. Logs are transported to the mill over the Commission's steel tramway, the haulage units being two Diesel locomotives purchased and operated by the Commission. The output of sawn timber during the first six months' operations to 30th June totalled 424,268 superficial feet." (FCV Annual Report 1940-1941)

Financial statements for the Mill ceased to appear in FCV Annual Reports after 1966/67 so it probably closed around that time.

Why did the FCV get into sawmilling in the first place?

"At both sites the government decided to enter the sawmilling business because of issues with the industry. However the reasons were different.
At the Latrobe River (Nayook)site the reasons were:

  • To prevent the Vic Hardwood Co holding a monopoly in the Powelltown area.
  • To ensure a supply of timber for Public Works at a reasonable cost.

At Erica the reasons were:

  • To keep up the supply of timber due to private sector failure to put in mills.
  • To exploit the fire-killed timber in the Thomson Valley before it deteriorated and became useless for milling.
So the usual reason for establishing a mill (profit) was not the driving force. In the period 1930 to 1940 demand was low and there was no need for State intervention, so the FCV didn’t operate a mill in that time." (M McCarthy, 2020)


The State Mill at Erica
Date: Unknown
Source: M McCarthy


The State Mill at Erica
Date: January 1942
Source: G Cleary