A BIT OF FORREST HISTORY
THE FORREST TRAILS STORY - A HISTORY BY JEFF FOX - 11 AUGUST 2008
Jeff bought his first MTB in 1997 to keep fit for rock climbing. He mainly rode fire trails for the first 12 months. Newcombe Spur was my favourite climb and downhill until I went over a water hump and broke my back landing. John Jacoby found the same hump. After that I thought I had better start building some safer tracks.
Vista was my first track. Jess (German Sheppard #1) and I would head out walking & pick the best roo trail and just link them all up. On the way back Jess would follow the route I chose and that was it. Sadly Jess passed away just after Vista was finished.
I kept building a few trails on my own but it wasn't the same without Jess. 12 months later along came Geena (German Sheppard #2). After her brief apprenticeship the trails began to flow again. Marriners Run, Yo Yo, Fox Tail, to link Marriners to Yo Yo and now look what we have!
My dreams were for other people to share my well-kept secret... who says dreams don't come true? A big thank you to my two children Katherine and Jonathon, Jess and Geena!
Also I would like to thank David Rourke (DSE) for his belief in the trails and Glen Jacobs design work. Most of all Adrian Marriner for his ability to build trails with his little magic machine.
A BREIF HISTORY OF THE TOWNSHIP OF YAUGHER
The settlement of Forrest was due to land developers cashing in on the new Railway in approximately the late 1890's. Initially Yaugher became the district centre, and by the late 1880's it had a School and a church. The only cemetery in the region was established then and still stands today amidst the new mountain bike trails.
The terrain allowed the railway to proceed beyond Yaugher and while the survey was plotted to Baramunga, however this was terminated due to costs, and hence the new station which then became known as Forrest. Named after Charles Forrest a local Parliamentarian, who worked hard to secure the railway. In 1892 William Pengilly purchased the premises on the Nth end of Station street to operate as a Hotel.
By the early 1900's Forrest boasted a Bank, A General Store, Boarding House, Police station, Bake house, Butcher, welfare centre and the famous "Terminus Hotel".
In 1943 the Post Office shifted to Mrs Frizon shop, which had a manual Telephone exchange, and wasn't replaced until the 1970's. The commercial bank opened in 1903, which was opened in account of the payrolls being generated by the saw mills, and closed in the late 1960's.
Alf Frizon opened a small Mill in Forrest in 1947, Sharp's Saw mill started construction on their own mill around the same time. Surprisingly it wasn't until 1955 that Forrest was "lit up" by the introduction of Electricty. In 1957 the Birregurra - Forrest railway was closed due to the increase in use of Motor transport.
1965 the West Barwon dam was declared open. This dam provides water not only for the local district, but also forms part of the water supply for the Greater Geelong region. Consequently in 1967 Forrest was blessed with town water supply.
The Terminus Hotel, was originally a wooden structure that boasted some 9 boarding rooms, until it burned to the ground in 1996 and resulted in the tragic loss of the then publicans son in the fire. The new building was constructed not long after and remains today.
It wasn't until approximately 2003 when the last of the mills closed. This brought a response from the then State government to review the economic impact on the Town. Hence a study was released that suggested that mountain bike Trails be established as a focal point of a new tourism lead industry. This decision was compounded by the cessation of logging on crown land.
Local Jeff Fox was sought to assist in the development of these trails. Glen Jacobs was assigned the task of managing and providing the technical knowhow.
Forrest is now considered the gateway to The Otway Ranges National Park. Tourism now forms the basis of the towns economy, with a very bright future. The Forrest people are represented by a very active community group
THE TIGER RAIL TRAIL
Forrest, the terminus of the line, was originally known as Yaugher until it was changed to Forrest, after Charles Forrest, the local Member of Parliament responsible for having the line built. Prior to 1890 there was no settlement at Forrest so the township was a creation of the railway. This sounded the charge for settlers, who under section 32 of the Lands Act 1884 - 90 took up their acreage for the great expense of tuppence an acre. Sadly the local lands department interpreted the Lands Act to mean that settlers had to clear their acreage of all timber, when in reality they were only permitted to clear dead or useless timber.
Forrest was the largest traffic generator on the line for passengers and outwards and inwards freight. Passenger loadings were the highest overall on the line. Inwards freight was general supplies for the area, stock fodder, chaff and hay for the sawmill horses and road gravel. Outwards general loading was agricultural produce, root crops and hops. District Saw millers were heard to comment in 1899 that the value of the timber cleared ‘would have paid the national debt’. The 1899 Royal Commission into the Management of State Forests found that settlement in the Otways was a great administrative blunder and that the majority of the land should be reserved for watershed purposes and for milling timber. Rail facilities were the most elaborate on the line. There was a departmental residence, a four road layout, dead end siding for the split timber traffic, a siding for a locomotive turntable, a 60 metre passenger platform with office, parcels shed and waiting room, a goods platform, two goods sheds and a six tonne crane. The Post Office was operated from the railway station office for over fifty years, with the Post Master also being the Station Caretaker.
Six timber tramways, in use from 1892 to 1939, delivered large quantities of sawn timber to the railhead from the bush to the south and west. Bullock wagons also conveyed timber by road and, after 1934, motor trucks performed this function. The sawmill companies built loading skids, store sheds and locomotive service facilities in the yard. Timber loadings averaged 8700 tonnes per year (almost 7400 cubic metres sawn) from 1899 to 1950. The highest tonnages were despatched from 1901 to 1912 and 1938 to 1942, with peak years being 1905 handling nearly 15,000 tonnes (12,700 cubic metres sawn) and 1942 totalling almost 14,000 tonnes. From 1947 two sawmills (Sharp’s and Henry’s) were established in the rail yard, and loaded their output direct into rail trucks until interruptions sent a large proportion via road transport
THE FORREST HISTORY WALK
The Forrest History Walk starts at the corner of Station Street and Frizon Street – the walk is a great activity for anyone who wants to immerse themselves in Forrest’s amazing history. A trail map of the walk is available on the township noticeboard.
(1) Frizon sawmill – site of one of the first sawmills in the township. The extension of the railway from Birregurra to Forrest marked the beginning of a whole new era of forestry in the Otways, thriving in the early 1900’s and with the last of the mills closing in 2003. In 2006, the public forest areas were conserved as the Great Otway National Park.
(2) Methodist Church – site of the old Methodist Church.
(3) Original community site – in the early 1900’s the town boasted a railway station, several timber mills, a bank, general store, boarding house, post office & telephone exchange, police station, bakery , butcher, hotel and billiard room.
(4)Odd Fellows Lodge Hall – dances, shows and performances were both popular and regular activities enjoyed in the first 60 years of the last century.
(5) Timber tram lines – the railway from Birregurra to Forrest was completed in 1889 (and closed in 1957). From the rail-head, tramways were built into the bush to transport timber, some of which have been adapted to mountain bike trails. This is the site of the only visible remaining tram lines
(6) Station Street – before improved road transport, the railway station and timber yards were focal points of the town with the main road aptly named “Station Street”.
(7) Originally Henry’s sawmill – named after constructor W.R. Henry who in 1935 was granted rights to timber a large area of the West Barwon valley, and who built the first tramways to transport timber to the sawmills. Once the largest mill in the region employing over 100 people and producing 24 cubic metres a day, the mill accidentally burnt down in 1927.
(8) Mrs Frizon’s post office and sweet shop – this was a popular sweet shop for many years and later served as the Post Office and Telephone Exchange.
(9-18) – see boards on site describing the former businesses along Station Street. The Forrest Railway Station yards can be found on the notice board located in the picnic area.
(19) Sports ground and cow paddock – the annual sports day attracted hundreds of people from the district and others coming by special train. Down at the river was the popular swimming hole and also a virtual town common for townspeople to graze their cows.
(20) Former Terminus Hotel – the current pub shares the same site as the original Hotel. The Hotel and nearby boarding houses were home to many harder timber workers as well as providing a hostel for visitors.
(21) Blacksmith shop – the Blacksmith Tom Curtis ran the coach service to Apollo Bay, with the Blacksmith shop also accommodating coaches and carts. In earlier days passengers transferred from the train to coaches which took them on the gruelling eight hour trip to Apollo Bay!
(22) Former Catholic Church – the difficulties of maintaining community services in a small town can be seen by the closure.