Urban Exploration – Timber Town

Towns and cities are usually born as a result of colonisation, exploration and settlement.   At other times, towns are born as a result of the discovery of resources.  One only has to look at the Victorian gold-rush of the 1800s to see the establishment of towns such as Ballarat and Bendigo as an example of this.  Occasionally though, towns are established as the direct result of government policy and the creation of industry.

In 1873, the South Australian Government introduced the Forest Trees Planting Encouragement Bill in order to stimulate tree planting in South Australia.  The first plantings occurred in 1875.  In the early 1900’s, the South Australian Government established large forests of Radiata Pine across what would become known as “The Green Triangle”.  Logging and milling was the next logical progression.  A timber mill was needed as well as employees to run the operation.  The question was where to house the employees.

The state government of the day opted to build, not just a timber mill, but an entire town with which to support the operation.  The government established all the facilities a town requires – homes, shops, schools, etc.  The town was built from local materials and erected on government owned forestry reserve.

The timber mill opened in the early part of the 1930s.  The operation was modelled on Scandinavian timber mills.  Radiata Pine itself is native to the Scandinavian region.  For this reason, workmen from Scandinavia were brought to Australia to install and supervise the machinery workings.  The timber mill was an immediate success and employed hundreds of people churning out over 2,500,000 metres of timber per year.  The government established more timber mills in the green triangle area and the timber industry became the leading employer in the district.

The operation was not without its challenges.  A devastating bushfire ravaged the local forests during the 1940s placing huge strain upon an industry already suffering through the loss of manpower to the war effort of World War Two.

In 1991, South Australia suffered a huge financial blow with the collapse of the State Bank.  Over $3 billion in government-guaranteed funds was lost.  What followed was akin to a fire sale.  Government assets were sold and privatised – a legacy South Australia lives with even 25 years later.

Consequently, in 1993, the timber mill was sold to a large multi-national.  The town, which until then had been owned by various State Government agencies such as Forestry SA and Housing SA, was sold piece by piece.  With a number of timber mills operating across the region, as well as ongoing maintenance costs and mounting upgrade costs, the new owner did what any large company does when faced with such challenges: it cut costs by consolidating operations.  Multiple timber mills operating in the region may have suited the market needs and transport infrastructure of the 1930s but replicating services across multiple smaller sites made little sense in the modern world.  In the early part of the 2000s the timber mill closed leaving many local people unemployed.

Today, portions of the site have been repurposed for other uses.  Large parts of the site however have been left to decay and collapse.  The town itself quietly survives – the former timber mill a stark reminder of what was once a thriving community.





13 thoughts on “Urban Exploration – Timber Town

  1. Well, yes this is most interesting. It’s interesting also that it not mentions any town names.

    So we are left to make assumptions.

    Just going by the numbers, one could assume the article is referencing APCIL. And the town could be Millicent. But there are other candidates that could meet the criteria.

    There is quite a rich history of this region that is not well known.

    IT would be great if there was some compilation.

    I’m going to reference this to a local group. If it hasn’t been already.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Bill. Please send me an email at autopsyofadelaide@outlook.com with your address details. More than happy to post you a disc of the images. I was very careful to not specifically name the location so as to not encourage others and maintain the integrity of the site. I’d love to get down there again sometime and take some more images. I know there were parts of the site I missed or didn’t venture into. Thanks!


  2. Thanks for posting these. My grandfather was the original mill supervisor there and the mill and town are an important part of our family history. Cheers.


  3. Hi I love looking at all your urban exploration photographs of these towns within our state. I am also a photographer and would love to capture some great pics of the rich history that our state has to offer, I feel like this location would be rather interesting as it is quite open and unique. Would you mind possibly sending me some more information about how I can access this location, it would be great if you could however if not I understand.


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