Thursday, 22 October 2015

Charcoal Burning an industry pioneered in the early 1900's

Ted Weber is an author and local history researcher
Ted Weber worked at Walkers before becoming a councillor for the Maryborough City Council. He is now retired and has researched and written a variety of books about the local history of Maryborough. In his book Pioneers in a New Land Ted talks about his family’s business of charcoal burning, an industry pioneered by Edward Christian Weber in the early 1900’s. The industry had a life span of approximately fifty years to the early 1950’s when other forms of power and technology took over.

“It is about time that people have access to these stories and pictures”, Ted said.

In his book, Ted’s research has found that six kilns were situated on Weber’s property on Four Mile Road - known then as Bidwell Road, Tinana. They were constructed on a flat in a circle with a well in the middle and a series of waterholes meandering past them.

Careful construction of the kilns using mortar, white ant nest and clay enabled a control burn. This was achieved by working with a drawn draught using wind and taking from two to four hours. The kiln would then burn for seven days and nights. Use of water ensured the wood would not burn too hot and turn to ash.

Six chord and a quarter of wood would fit in the kilns. This was a stack 1.83m high, 1.22m wide and 9.75m long. The timber was hauled in by wagons.

The yield of charcoal was 100 to 120 bags per burn, and it was 98% carbon, 1% ash and 1% moisture. It was bagged directly from the kiln and was 2s/1d or 21 cents for a three bushel bag.

The controlled burn was so carefully monitored that white ants, snakes, goannas, wax boxes, newspapers, centipedes and scorpions came out whole as charcoal. Operating the furnace under load was a trade of its own. The gas had to be controlled. It was volatile. When mixed with air, it was an explosive. Ted claims it “blew the roof of the furnace on one occasion”.

The charcoal was used for heating, drying things out and suction gas engines. Charcoal powered Walkers, Stupart’s and State Butchery gas engines.

Maryborough, Childers and Bundaberg required it to supply town lightening. With the demise of charcoal the family turned to Sugar, Dairying and growing peanuts.

Ted has been scanning photos of this industry as part of the Historypin workshops so that they can be viewed through the Historypin channel found at

Source: Weber, E. C. (2002). Pioneers in a New Land. Maryborough, Australia: Maryborough and District Family History Society.

Published with consent from E.C. (Ted) Weber.

Tags: Qldheritagetourism Frasercoastlibraries Historypin Maryborough Tinana


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ted thank you so much for sharing this and for your wonderful contribution to our local history. It is amazing learning, bit by bit, about how we lived in the not so distant past.