Timberzoo Newsletter

      NOVEMBER 2008

  • Younghusband Wool Brokers Building Demolished
  • Retiring Timber Bridges In Rural Victoria
  • Hardwood Beams - Gaffney Street Bunnings Site

Younghusband Wool Brokers Building Demolished

Albury Council recently sold the Wilson St auction rooms built by Younghusband Ltd, woolbrokers and rural agents, in the 1930s. The single storey building is now undergoing demolition and has yielded some thousands of metres of dry seasoned redgum joists from the subfloor - as well as redgum stumps and soleplates.


These timbers are presently en route to Timberzoo in Geelong for profiling into floorboards and DAR stock. It is a journey that finds echo in the 20th century wool trade when the wool clip from the Murray region was hauled through the state by steam locomotives to Geelong and Melbourne ports in post-Federation years.

During the 19th century it was the riverboat trade that connected the productive rural inland of NSW and Victoria to seaports on the South Australian coast. Isaac Younghusband, the company founder, began in business as a transport pioneer. He operated two paddle-steamers and barges. Then, in 1889, at the height of the 'Federation Drought', he founded a rural products agency in Albury shipping wool to Goolwa and farm supplies upriver on the return trip. The company went public in 1920 and had its best years from then till the mid-1960s when a permanent slide in wool prices began. In 1971 it was absorbed into the Elders group. The building was a Harvey Norman outlet until recently.

Unusually, it was built over a creek with precast concrete beams installed to span the width of the watercourse. The potential for flooding may have been a big concern in pre-dam decades, since the floor level is 900 to 1100mm above street level in Wilson St, and an unusual series of brick walls in parallel - functioning as bearers - carry the red gum floor joists. Would this baffle the swirling floodwaters and mitigate structural collapse from below? I'm unsure of its purpose. It's an odd construction and has you looking for the missing terracotta warriors. 



It's all grist for the mill for Alan Sturzaker of Ultra Demolition who appreciates, for resale purposes, the loose lime mortar used on the bricks. Sturzaker is as practical as the next man is when it comes to salvage. If the pressure is on from developers, or the cost and returns equation looks wobbly, he uses the big machinery to demolish. But he respects seasoned durable timber and has set about this salvage operation with all care and diligence. "I'm much happier when I can salvage materials in my work. Happier still if the arithmetic comes out in front", he offers.


From Sturzaker I obtained a bundle of papers found in the building - an auction list from 1967. Lot numbers, bale codes and station names fill many foolscap pages. These were still good times for woolgrowers. Not as good as the 1950s when wool reached one pound sterling per pound of wool, driven by military clothing needs during the Korean War and a rapidly rebuilding European industrial base. 

Growing up in a country town, I recall my sister being invited to spend the day playing with a woolgrower's daughter. The spooky Silver Wraith with its hooded rear wheels came to town and whisked her away to the farm. Afterwards she told stories of imported English delicacies - glace fruits and toffees and lavender-scented wot-nots. Dolls and a huge furnished dollhouse, train sets, smelly boys, tennis and lemonade. I'd spent an unproductive day in the bush with the O'Halloran twins and my homemade shanghai. Wish I'd been allowed to go too.

Retiring Timber Bridges in Rural Victoria

Bridge bearers from Gippsland road bridges continue to roll in from bridge replacement works on secondary roads. And we are also salvaging the best of the main bridge stringers that present themselves. Sometimes ironbark, sometimes stringybark, they average 350mm in diameter and would suit pole framed verandahs, pergolas and similar structures. These are natural-edge eucalypt logs in-the-round. But not perfectly so. They are a bumpy, irregularly surfaced log - not your adzed-to-round ships mast. They are very much an individual look, so personal inspection is recommended.



Hardwood Beams - Gaffney Street Bunnings Site

Recycled Stringybark   260mm x 80mm   DAR rate $80.00/lin mtr to 6.0m long

Ex-truss cord with bolthole, peg and mortise holes.

Would suit lightly loaded structural applications where an industrial, but very woody, look is required.




Note that the recent Timber Queensland Guidelines for recycled timber used in structural applications advises that as a rule of thumb, recycled timber retains only 65-80% of its previous strength, but better than 90% of original stiffness. This will vary due to previous loading, but three general rules for recycled timber suggest themselves:

  1. Choose a size which is 50% bigger in cross-section area than the required minimum, i.e. Over-egg the pudding. Particularly for timber uprights.
  2. Recycled hardwood will usually grade to two structural levels below equivalent grade for the species in new forest product, e.g. F27 (new forest product) but F17 (recycled) for same species.
  3. Recycled timber is best in lightly-loaded applications, but structural designs which incorporate more uprights (to reduce spans), underpurlins or steel reinforcement will mean that the resource still has a place in visible structure.