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  • Writer's pictureKinglake Historical Society

In Isolation

Current residents of the Kinglake district, who commute to work to the city and other places off the mountain, and those who make a day trip away and back for shopping or visiting, may find it hard to believe how isolated the residents of the early days felt, and actually were.
It was all a matter of the roads, the type of transport, the weather and the lack of easy communication. The main road from Whittlesea through the district to Kinglake was a 'dirt' road and was not sealed with bitumen until 1929. All other roads remained unsealed for many years after that. Transport until about 1929 was literally horsepower, either riding on horseback or driving a horse or a team of horses with a cart, dray or waggon. The average annual rainfall on the mountain in those days was over 50 inches (1270mm). In 1904, 52 inches of rain had been recorded by the end of August. (Some people used to say that it rained in Kinglake for nine months of the year and dripped off the trees for the other three.)

The combination of these factors meant that, for many months of the year, the Kinglake district roads were reduced to impassable bogs. Heavy rain and the churning of the road surface by horses and waggon wheels produced deep mud and pot holes, with the result that the carts and drays would be bogged to the axles and unable to get through, much to the dismay of the farmers and timber mill owners.

In July 1913, a report in The Age newspaper on Kinglake roads stated: "The roads are bush tracks except for the main road and that is unmade and a mere quagmire for miles in winter with mud and slush from 3 inches to 2 feet deep and stumps, which crack wheels, hidden in the mud. It was originally a bullock track and 3mph is a breakneck speed for any vehicle on it. It takes the occasional coach three hours of hard driving to cover 11 miles from Whittlesea to Kinglake and in winter, no coach would attempt to cross from Kinglake West to the centre of the district. A traveller who starts from Melbourne by the 10.27am train may hope to reach Kinglake West by 5pm and, if he wishes to go further, he must wade through mud or scramble through bush." The local Councils took action to close the roads to heavy farm and timber traffic during the winter months.

The difficulty of communication to the outside world added to the feeling of isolation in those early days. The mail did not arrive daily. In 1908, mail to and from Kinglake West was conveyed by Mr W. Joyce twice each week from Whittlesea; mail to and from Kinglake was conveyed from Yarra Glen 3 times per week by Mr H. Thomson; and Mr A. Campbell had a contract to convey Pheasant Creek mail on horseback to and from Mr Thomson at Kinglake 3 times per week.

In addition, there was no telephone service in the district until 1910 when the first few houses were connected in the Kinglake township during a heavy snowstorm. Within a few years, the Pheasant Creek and Kinglake West post offices also provided a telephone service on a shared trunk line through Whittlesea to the city but not all houses were connected, the service was only available for restricted hours and delays were common due to the three post offices using one line.

After 1929, with a sealed main road and the advent of motor traffic, things began to improve but still, at times, Kinglake seemed a long way from anywhere for those who lived here and also for those who visited. In 1930, when the District Inspector's report on the Kinglake State School noted that the teacher and the children were making good progress "even though the school is in such a remote area."

Deidre Hawkins
Kinglake Historical Society

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