© Copyright 2011  Julianne Dodds
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Timber, Veneer and Plywood 1901 - 1969
Timber Resources
Logs for the mills were obtained mainly from southern Queensland but the supply extended as far north as the Atherton Tablelands near Cairns. Timber was one of Far North Queensland’s biggest and earliest industries. By 1919, millions of feet of cut logs were being sent by trucks and rail from the Ravenshoe and Yungaburra areas on the Atherton Tablelands to Cairns sawmills. Shiploads of timber were then forwarded on to southern ports. Maple, Kauri Pine, Red Cedar, Silkwood, White Beech and Black Pine were some of the native rainforest timbers hewn from the tablelands beyond Cairns. Rankine Timber & Truss began operation in 1926 when its founder, Mr. J. M. Johnstone, began the business in Ravenshoe in Far North Queensland. For many years the Rankine family owned Cairns Timber, situated at Yungaburra on the Atherton Tablelands. Unfortunately, the Yungaburra mill closed down around 1989 and was later destroyed by a fire. All that remained was rusting machinery.  Lying amongst the rusty relics was a lathe that cut Satin Oak timber for the grand ship, Queen Mary. In its heyday, the mill built boxes for butter for the Malanda Butter factory. What remained of the mill was heritage listed but these historic relics were further destroyed after Cyclone Larry swept through the Tablelands in March 2006.
Rusting lathe with boiler in background at Cairns Timber in Yungaburra. Photo taken by author in 2001.
The need for timber conservation The growing use of softwoods for Australia’s plywood industry meant that pine timber was running out. It was predicted that the plywood industry had only ‘a few years to live’, as far as pine and maple were concerned. In 1925 the Forestry Board urged timber conservation and replanting when it was forecast that in 25 years there would be no softwoods left in Queensland unless replanting commenced immediately. By 1926, there were eight plywood plants in the State, using six million super feet of timber, mostly hoop pine. The beginning of the native conifer planting program in the 1920s was a wise reaction to Queensland's rapidly diminishing softwood resource. The early plantations were of native species such as hoop pine, which required fertile sites that were also in demand for settlement and agriculture.
Moulding a new career First rotary lathe in Brisbane Woolloongabba Mills Glue and logs from the country Expansion after The Great War Mac's men at the mills Largest plywood mill in Australia Timber resources The Great Depression Queensland Veneer Company World War II Retirement References