23 June 2022

Sawyers historic timber mountain hut stands the test of time

| Edwina Mason
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Sawyers Hut

Sawyers Hut – at Sawyer’s Hill – has been rebuilt several times since the 1960s and, with new building methodologies, nears completion again. Photo: NPWS.

It’s taken 8000 brad nails, 2000 regular nails, 500 screws and 288 boards and battens, but Sawyers Hut is just a hammer whack from completion.

The construction ticks off the first in a long list of Kosciuszko National Park buildings the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) earmarked for restoration after they were destroyed by fire in the black summer of 2019-2020.

Sites of historical significance bearing the hallmarks of early pastoral settlements dating back to the 1880s, these remnants of huts, homesteads, shelters and outbuildings – some of them in very good working order – stood as testament to the proud and tough mountain communities who forged lives from this often cold, bleak rooftop of Australia.

The Sawyers Hill building was no exception, long serving as a rest stop for coach travellers on the old Kiandra Road midway between Adaminaby and Yarrangobilly. Its strategic position meant it also acted as an exchange point for stores and supplies, especially during winter.

Back in the 1940s when mail was delivered on horseback, heavy snow often meant the mailman, inbound from Cooma, would have to leave his horse at Sawyers Hill and continue on to the mining settlement of Kiandra on skis.

READ ALSO Rain delays replacement of Cooma’s ageing weir and fishway

In today’s parlance that equates to 11 minutes by car, two hours and 21 minutes on foot or, alternatively, 48 minutes by bicycle.

Sawyers Hut has risen phoenix-like from the ashes a couple of times, having been demolished and then restored by the Department of Main Roads in the 1960s then badly damaged in the 2003 fires.

It was rebuilt in 2008-2009 by NPWS, and in excellent condition until all but the brick chimney was incinerated in the Black Summer bushfires.

Now it’s being rebuilt again. Despite challenging mountain weather, NSW NPWS staff and five volunteers have completed most of the Rest House, with only the stone and brick chimney and iron roof needing attention when the weather improves.

Sawyers Hut shortly after bushfire

Sawyers Hut shortly after the 2019-2020 Black Summer bushfires. Photo: Snowy Brumby Photography Adventures.

Built of vertical wooden slabs, with the exception of a concrete floor, the current construction is true to the original design, despite it being used as a picnic shelter.

But there’s a difference.

This time a number of measures were taken to reduce the risk of the hut burning in the future.

Timbers used in the hut – 88 vertical boards and 200 battens – are being thoroughly treated with fire retardant to make them more fire-resistant.

With 85 per cent of structures lost due to ember attacks, physical design features like window sills, the base of boards and any horizontal surfaces have been angled and covered in flattened corrugated iron to shed embers.

READ MORE Historic Kosciuszko huts to be faithfully rebuilt after Black Summer bushfire damage

And all gaps wider than three millimetres are being sealed where possible.

This protocol will apply to all huts due for restoration.

Now with the restoration team snug in its winter shed at Tumut, focus is on collecting and sorting timber and corrugated iron for the next huts on the program.

The timetable for the rebuilds (subject to change due to mountain weather) is as follows:

Rest House at Sawyers Hill: nearly complete 2022.

Harveys/Tantangara: October 2022.

Vickery’s prefab: 18 July to 11 August 2022 at Tumut.

Vickery’s onsite: September, October 2022 (Pending access).

Delaney’s: November, December 2022, January 2023.

Vickery’s alt if too wet – or Bradley/OBriens: February, March, April 2023.

Four Mile: March, April, May 2024.

Happy’s: December 2023, January, February 2024

Brook’s: September, October, November 2023.

Bradley/O’Briens: September, October, November 2024.

Fifteen Mile/Linesmans: December 2024, January, February 2025.

Round Mountain: March, April, May 2025.

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