Visiting: Ballarto

Ballarto Sawmill 2020

During August 2020, I embarked on an outing to explore the possibilities of photographing the railway station which closed in 1978. Always looking for other opportunities, I spotted a derelict sawmill close by and took the time to go inside for some interesting shots. On visiting Ballarto again this October, I paid the sawmill another visit, with a surprising outcome.

The station

Ballarto Station is located on the now disused line between Daylesford and Carlsruhe. With a train still running on market days between Daylesford and Ballarto, this part of the line is maintained by local volunteers. Thankfully the station has not been allowed to fall into disrepair and looks like it will bring much joy to rail enthusiasts and travellers into the future.

The station is well worth a visit, not just for the station buildings, but also for the other railway memorabilia that is lying around, such as the replica mailbox, the signals, railway sleepers and other equipment.

The sawmill

After my first visit, I tried to find out about its history, but there is precious little information available on the internet. However, it is common knowledge that there were many sawmills in the forests that served the goldfields in the late 1800’s. The hunger for timber to shore up mines, build shacks and to burn for heat was insatiable, but as the gold rush died out, so did the timber mills, resulting in many becoming derelict and some leaving very little evidence that they ever existed.

However, the sawmill at Ballarto seemed to have survived, albeit in a very sorry and potentially dangerous state. In fact, I was surprised, but delighted, that I was able to wander into and through the building. I have not been able to find out much information about it – locals were hard to come by, there is no local pub and I wasn’t keen to start knocking on doors.

Here are a few of the shots I took during that first visit:

It was therefore with some disappointment that, on a drive past the site a week ago, the building had almost totally been demolished. This may have been for safety reasons or as a result of the devastating storm that tore through the area on 9 June this year, or both. Whatever the reason, I had to take the opportunity to record the final stages of the life of this building.

For more images from both visits, please see Ballarto Sawmill

The petrol station

I had often driven past the disused petrol station at Ballarto and I am sure many locals are very familiar with it, if not having filled up their vehicles there. Every time I passed it, I said to myself that I must photograph it. So, on passing it in February of this year, I asked the driver to stop and reverse so that I could take these shots:

On leaving the sawmill on this last visit, I realised that the bowsers had been removed. I am not sure when, but I wonder if my shots above were the last to be taken?

Recording history

My interest in photographing derelict and abandoned buildings lies in the way that nature eventually overcomes them and capturing the strong imagery that they present to me.

But on revisiting these Ballarto locations, I realise that it is also important to photograph such buildings and infrastructure as a historical record of the how life was in the past in order to help us more fully appreciate what we take for granted in modern times.

3 Responses

  1. Worthwhile pastime Martin. Hope there are photos of these places before the decay as well. I remember the store operating prior to it’s vivid lavender days and suspect it was an attempt to be eye catching enough to arrest passing traffic. Hasn’t seemed to have worked. Bullarto means place of plenty and is indeed rich farming country with deep red volcanic soils.

    1. Hi Nigel, I haven’t been able to find any photos of the sawmill so far. If I find any I will certainly add a link.

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