28 November 2008
Sawmilling was a major industry on the West Coast, particularly from the 1890s to the 1930s. Shantytown’sworking sawmill used to tell the industry’s story but changing technology and economics meant that by 2005 it was no longer viable to continue operating the mill. The mill closed and planning began for a new interactive experience.
Shantytown’s new sawmill experience was opened by Damien O’Connor, Minister of Tourism, on 14 June 2008. For visitors the journey begins with a steam train ride along an old bush tram-line. After a stop at the ‘falling and hauling’ area visitors travel back down the track to the sawmill itself.
Here visitors can walk through the mill, much of which appears to be working. Echoes from the past are evoked by historical film footage that plays continuously on a giant screen at the rear of the building. An impression of what it was like working in a sawmill is gained from seeing the giant saw blades turning and the piercing sound of the saws working along with the rhythmic sound of the engines that powered the mill.
An interpretation area tells stories of some of the real people involved in sawmilling on the Coast using panels, life-size cut-outs and flip files containing quotes and recollections. The exit point is reached through a seemingly empty smoko room where visitors can hear some mill workers telling yarns.