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Royal Commission - Report of - Powellised Timber

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P resented b7J Command; ordered to be ]Jr in tcd , 2Glh No ve mber, 1914.

[Cost of P coper.- P repam tion, not g-iv en ; 950 copies ; approximat e cost of printinl! and publi bini(, £ 10 . l

Printed anu P ublished f or the GOVERNM ENT o£ the COMMONWBALTH of A STRA LIA by ALBERT J. MULLETT, Government Printer for the State of Victoria. lqo. 21. -F. 7.5 14.



GEORGE V., by the Grace of G'od, of th e United K1:ngdom of Ur ea l Britain and ireland, wtd of tize

Lh·it?:sh D01n£n £ons beyond the S eas, K ,iny, Defender of th e Faith, Emperor of India.

TO our truoty and well-beun·ed the HoN ORABLE HENHY GREGORY, M.P., .L\:ME::; E :sqzo:re,

M.P., l{EGINALD JoHN BuRCHELL, E squire, M.P., IVILLL\.M ,TAl\ms E.squ:ir c,


.M.P., and H u c:u SINCLAm, E sqwire, 1\J.l'. ,

KNOVV ):E that we do, by thC8 e OU'r Letters Patent appo£nt !JO'U, to be C'omm,isoioncrs to into all '!iWllcrs p ertaint:ny to any

contmcts a,nd O-(J1·eements proposed or entered into for the use of powellised and other timbers, with power to inqu,ire and report

as to the m erits of powellising, and nll maUe1·s incidental to the proposed u se of powtllised sleep ers and other timbeT i n conne;rion

u:,ith the constrttct,ion of the raau·ay from P01·t Kalgoorlie : And we appoint you the sa,id HONORABLE HENRY

GREGORY to be the Chairman of the said Commissioners: And we d'irect that at cmy meeting of the sw:d Commissioners four

Commiss1:oners shall be to constitnte n qno1·um and uwy pmceed with the nnder these ou1· L etters Patent,

notw·ithstandiny the ctbsence of the other Comm,issioners : And 1ve further direct that 'in the ecent of the absence of the Chah·mcm

from any meeting of the swid Commissioners, the Commissioners present 1nny etppo,int one of their nnrnber to act a,s Chctinnan

during S'Uch ctbsence : And wefurthe?· direct that ·in th e event of the vol e8 y,iven on any qzwstion nt any m eeiiny of the said Corn­

missioners being, the C'hninnan, if present, and if the Ohwinnan 'is n.ot present then the Cmnmissioner appointed to act a s

Chairman in kis absence, shall have a second or casting vole : And we require ymt with as little delay ((,S possible to repoTt to our

Governor-General in and over our said Commonu;ea1th the re.ntlt of ymt'r inquiries th e matter<> to yon by these our

Letters Pa,tent.

IN TESTIMONY we have cansed these OWl' Letters to be made Patent, nnd the Seal of our swt:d Common­

u:ealth to be thereunto affi,red.


1F ITNE88 ou1· trnsty and well-beloved THOMAS, BAIWX DEN;\UN, a M ember of lhs Majes ty's Most

Honomble Privy Cottnc'il, Xn,£ght Gmnd Oross of the Jiost Distingui-S hed 01·der of 8 t. M ichael

ctnd St. Ge01·ye, Knight Com11ut11der of "the Royal Order, Govern0'/6-Genera l and Com­

mander-in-Chief of the Commonwealth of A ttst,ralia, this ninet(',enth day of D ecember, in tk:,

y em· of Our Lord One thousand nine hwu lred and ruul ,in the fourth year of Om· R ez:gn.

JJEX .If Co;_ :crnor-Uc;;crol.

By His Ba:cellency's Command,

r. Mdl. UDLVN.

Entered on f( ewrd by m e, in R euisler of Folenl8, .\·u. G, l'rt !JC 1:3 , saenllt dny of J anuray. Unr t/,ou,'uPrlnill r,_'ll nLdr cd

and fourteen .

J. H. , 'T.-tRU Sri.

A 2



rn l_ •


His Excellency the Right Honorable Sir Ronald Munro Ferguson, a Member of His Ma}esty's Most Honorable Privy. Council, a Member of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, Governor­ and Commander-in-Chief of the Commonwealth of Australia.


1. We your Commissioners, appointed by Letters Patent dated the 19th day of December, 1913, to inquire into and report upon the following matters:-"All matters pertaining to any . contracts and agreements proposed or entered into for the use of powellised and other tin1bers with power to

inquire and report as to the merits of powellising, and all matters incidental to the proposed use of powellised sleepers and other timber in connexion with the construction of the railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie," . .

have the honour to report as follows :-2. The following gentlemen were by motion on 30th October, 1913, appointed by the I-Iouse of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth a Select Committee to report upon the matters mentioned in paragraph 1 above :-Hon. H. Gregory, Hon. F. Bamford, H. Sinclair, Esq., Hon. K. O'Malley, J. Bennett, Esq., W. J. Me Williams, and Hon. A. Poynton.

3. Mr. Bamford, having previously been appointed a member of the Pearling Commission, felt obliged to tender his resignation as a member of the Powellising Committee of Inquiry, and Mr. R. J. Burchell was appointed in his stead.

4. The Select Committee commenced its sittings on the 19th November, 1913. They held five sittings, and examined two witnesses. 5. The Parliament of the Commonwealth was prorogued on the 19th December, 1913, at which time t)le Select Committee had not completed its inquiries.

6. To enable the investigation to be proceeded with the Select Committee was, by Letters Patent under date 19th December, 1913, appointed a Royal Cmnmission.

7. The Royal Commission entered upon its inquiries on the 9th J anuary, 1914. Mr. Gregory was appointed chairman. The number of witnesses examined by your Commissioners was 89, and some of the principal witnesses were recalled as many as three times, others appearing on two occasions.

8. In the course of their investigations your Commissioners visited the capital cities of New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania.

9. Your Commissioners also visited the works of t he P owell Company at Warburton, Victoria, the Huon timber district, Tasmania, and the powellising mills erected by the Government of ¥1 estern Australia in the timber country of that State. The towns of Busselton and Bunbury in the State of We tern Australia were also

included in the itinerary of your Commissioners. 10. On the occasion of your Commissioners' visit to the powelli ing mills of Western Australia the opportunity was availed to see the powelli in

operation. The expert officers in charge of the IDllls attended on the Comm1 swners and explained in detail the method of treatment.


_11. in framing their Report have adopted the following

order In deahng \V'lth the various matters delegated to them :-Home Affairs Departn1ent.

Tender Board. ·

Sleeper contracts- · General. Lewis and Reid. Huon Con1pany (Tasrnania). Victorian Po,vell \Vood Process Company. vVestern australian Govenunent. IIandling ot'"Povvellised Tin1ber.

Steel sleepers. Reinforced concrete sleepers. . Size of sleepers. Dog spikes. Loss of sleepers by _ white ant8. Australian hardwoods-

Longevity of tin1bers. Karri .Jarrah. :Methods of artificially treating timbers-­

In Europe. America. Australia.


Electric seasoning. Smith-Irvine process . Powellising-General.

Tests-Western Australia. New South 'Vales. Victorja. New Zealand.


Jn presenting this Report your Con11nissioners consider that the prese.nt method adopted in connexion with the administration of the Hon1e Affair;-; ])epartment is unsatisfactory. In addition to his n1ultifarious duties as Secretary of such an extensive Department as that of the Home Affairs, the Secretary, Colonel Miller, acts as Adn1inistrator of the Federal Territory, and J\lanager of the Commonwealth Railways. Furthern1ore, the great portion of Colonel :Miller's tin1e is spent in the neighbourhood of the Federal Capital overseeing the work that is going on there. 'Vithout reflecting in any way on Colonel Miller's ability as an organizer and adn1inistrator, we are forced to the conclusion that it is i1npossible for one man, no matter 'vhat his capabilities 1nay be, to successfully carry out the duties pertaining to the positions mentioned. Recognising, however, that it is not within their to make a recommendation in regard to the administration of the Home Affairs Department, your Commissioners content then1selves with con1mending to the careful consideration ofyour advisers the advisableness of making some alteration whereby the officer appointed to each one of the three important positions referred to above may be able to devote such time to the duties of his position as may enable him to carry out his work to a successful issue.

Your Commissioners are anything but favorably impressed with the business methods adopted by this Department in dealing with contracts as shown, particularly in that entered into with the Victorian vVood Powellising Company. In this case a contract involving a large expenditure was entered into without public tenders for the service having been called, and w-ithout proper safeguards being adopted



in the interests of the Cmnmonwealth. The transaction shows clearly the need of some more effective control of public expenditure than exists, and in this connexion we strongly reco1nmend the creation of a Tender Board, having a permanent Secretary. The various Cmnmonwealth Departments concerned in heavy purchases could be represented in the personnel of the Board, which would need to be carefully selected to insure efficiency. The details of such a schen1e would require careful consideration

to avoid delays to the business of the Departments ; but it appears to your Connnissioners to be unsound in principle t.bat large items of expenditure should be incurred on the recon1n1endation or approval, as the case may be, of one officer only. lten1s involving 1nore than a certain specific sum, say £250, should go before the Board.

It is realized that there would probably not be sufficient functions for a Board of the kind suggested in respect of one Departlnent alone, but the Comn1onwealth is no doubt buying largely in several Departn1ents, to all of which Inost probably the fore ­ going general re1narks, as applying to the Departinent of Home Affairs, apply ''lith

equal force . The Board we suggest, t herefore, is a· thoroughly competent body representative of the Departments in their individual capacity, and of aU the Commonwealth Departments. At present there is a so-called Tender Board connected with the Hon1e Affairs

Department; but it does not appear as if this Board is called upon to exercise functions of the kind suggested herein. Deposits have been den1anded in some instances and held for inordinate periods, and not insisted upon in others. Favoritism appears to have been shoViTn in the

treatment to Nir . G-orton, of the Victorian \Vood Powellising Cmnpany, which was in 1narked contrast to that n1eted out to the Huon Timber Company: of Tasmania. \Vorks of extensive n1agnitude have been let without tenders being called in the first place, and without the advice of this Board being sought as to whether the price

to be paid was reasonable or not. \Vithout suggesting any ulterior n1otive whatever, your Cmnmissioners feel bound to express the opinion that the procedure rnentioned is one which n1ight easily lend itself to abuse.



Tenders were called by the Department on 21st lVIarch, 1912, for sleepers of j arrah or karri (powellised or unpowellised) either hewn or sawn ; New South Wales hardwoods ; Victorian or Tasmanian bluegun1 or n1essm.ate of good quality; also for steel and reinforced concrete sleepers.

For tin1ber sleepers the following tenders were Teceived when tenders closed, on 30th April, 1912 :--I Tenderer. Quantity. "\ t K:.ll go orlie. Port .Augu, ta.

---------------------'-- 1------------·--·--·-··- --- --- ----- - --- -- - ----·- ------------ -------------- - -- -------

.Tarrah Bunning Bros .


Association of \Vestern Australia .. Timber Co-operation Ltd., Perth

Karri, untreated . . \Vilgarup Company of

Western Australia

Powellised W .A. Government

" " " Stringy bark Huon Company ..

s .

40,000 4

10,000 4

75 ,000 4

50,000 4

72,000 3

955,000 5

1,245,000 1,000,000

d. s .

.l 7

9 7

0 7

4t 7

5! 0 8

d. 1





s . d.

7 0

[) 7}

Fron1 this it will be seen that tenders were receiv.ed for but 175 ,000 jarrah sleepers, though on the date of, but after the of tenders Lewi · and Reid wired

from Perth offering to supply 1,250,000 Jarrah sleepers, dehvered at Port Augu -ta, 6s. 8d. each- (Mr. Reid states 6s. 9d.) lVIr. states that he had .no knowledge. of this wire, but it seems strange that instead of taking advantage of this offer,. of whiCh the Department were fully a, ware, contracts were . ubsequently placed w1th other


tenderers at considerably higher prices. It is clear, however, that the Department were a.ware that large supplies of jarrah sleepers were available at much less cost than powellised before it was decided to adopt powellised karri to such a large extent. Considerable delay took place after the receipt of t enders before the late

Government definitely decided what class of sleeper they would accept, and on 6th August , 1912, it was definitely decided to accept the offer of the Western Australian Government for the supply of 1,400,000 powellised karri sleepers, 720,000 to be delivered at Port Augusta, at a cost of 7s. 9d. each, and 680,000 to be delivered at Kalgoorlie, costing 8s. 3d. each.

Lewis and R eid.

. Powellised karri, delivered at Port Augusta, is costing I s. ld. per sleeper more than the price at which Lewis and Reid, in their wire, offered to supply jarrah. Had the Government accepted Lewis and Reid's offer, the saving effected by using jarrah instead of powellised karri, to the extent of 720,000 sleepers, would have been £39,000.

Subsequently offers were accepted from Lewis and Reid at prices ranging from 7s. 1d. to 6s. lO jtd. for jarrah sleepers, delivered at Port Augusta, and from various other contractors at somewhat similar prices. Taking an approximate average cost of about 9d. per sleeper in favour of jarrah, the excess payable on 1,400,000 karri sleepers would be £52,500, but had Lewis and Reid's offer for 1,250,000 sleepers been accepted, the saving would have amounted to over £67 ,000.

The reason given for not accepting Lewis and Reid's offer was that it was informal, and t hat it would not be fair t o other contractors, but it must be remembered that tenders were received for but 175,000 jarrah sleep ers, whereas some 2,200,000 sleepers of all kinds were required for the railway. Surely it would have been good

business to have accepted the tenders for 175,000 and also the offer of Lewis and Reid. Incidentally, it may be mentioned that there was no mention of Lewis and R eid's offer on the files submitted, and it was only under cross-examination that the facts concerning it were made known to your Commissioners.

Company (Tasmania).

Your Commissioners fail to understand the action of the Department in connexion with the tender of the Huon Company, Tasmania. Tenders were specifically called for Tasmanian timbers, and their tender was to supply 1,000,000 untreated sleepers, delivered at Port Augusta, for 5s. 7f d. Compared with the same quantity of powellised karri at 7s. 9d., the acceptance of this contract would have resulted in a saving of £106 ,250.

Mr. Deane gave it as his reason for not accepting the Huon Company's tender that he did not like to take the risk of using Tasmanian timber, but it does seem strange that he should recommend calling tenders for this class of timber, put tenderers t o the expense and trouble of tendering, and of making frequent visits to lVIelbourne, when of the opinion that there was a danger of the sleepers splitting when used in a dry climate.

Mr. Kernot's experience of Tasmanian sleepers in the Victorian Railways was very unsatisfactory, though he considered it quite possible that the timber supplied might have been swamp-gum, a very inferior t imber. On the other hand, there is lVIr. Brown's evidence that these timbers are used extensively in Ceylon, the lVIalay States, and South Africa ; and from l\Ir. Hay, of the Manilla Railroad Company, Philippine Islands, that the Tasmanian sleepers gave a very good life in that country. Mr. Nairn, Engineer for Existing Lines, Tasmania, states that he saw the sleepers which were exported to Victoria, and, in his opinion, they should never have been allowed to leave the State. Your Commissioners have recommended that a trial of 100,000 of these sleepers should be made, in lieu of the cancelled order for mountain ash sleepers, and we understand that the Government have given effect to that recommendation.

Victorian Powell Wood Process Company. Subsequent to the non-acceptance of the Huon Company's tender, however, a contract was entered . into with the manager of the Victorian Powell Wood Process Company for the supply of 100,000 powellised mountain ash and messmate sleepers, at a cost of 7s. 6d. per sleeper, delivered at Port Augusta.

85 1


Compared with t he action taken in this instance, one cannot fail to note the treatment meted out t o the Huon Company. The Huon Company had lodged a deposit of £500 when tendering for the supply of 1,000,000 sleepers, which deposit . was retained by the Department for over eleven months. The company, at the-request of the Department, submitted a second tender

for the supply of 300,000 stringybark and bluegum sleepers, and lodged a further deuosit of £500. Their offer was to supply powellised timber in accordance with the formula at ! s. 6d. each, delivered at Port Augusta, but they declined t o accept any responsibility m regard to the efficacy of the powellising. They had numerous interviews with the

Engineer-in-Chief, but their offer was ultimately turned down, and the offer of Mr. Gorton to supply 100,000 mountain ash and messmate sleepers at the same price accepted. can be no doubt that the Tasmanian Company offered to ·supply a much superior

timber, and they had lodged deposits to the extent of £1,000 in connexion with their tenders. -

The timber which Mr . Gorton offered to supply, which, though undoubtedly useful when above the ground, is known to be very inferior, when untreated, for railway . This contract, totalling £37,500, was let without tenders being called,

Without the contractor being compelled to sign specificat ions, and without his having lodged any deposit. was intended by the Department that a dep osit should be lodged and specifications prepared and signed, but in this instance the contract was entered

into through negotiations between Mr. Gorton and Mr. Deane, in which, on 26th March, 1913, Mr . Deane offered to accept 100,000 powellised mountain ash and messmate sleepers, 9' x 10" x 5", at 7s. 6d. delivered at Port Augusta, which offer Mr. Gorton accepted. On 12th August, 1913 , the Acting Minister for Home Affairs annulled this

contract with the concurrence of Mr. Gorton, 6,000 sleepers out of the 100,000 ordered having been supplied . During this period of some six months no deposit was lodged by the contractor, nor were any specifications signed. The question was submitted to the Crown Law Department as to whether the contract could be annuJled owing to

the failure to lodge a deposit . The Department advised that the Government were committed by Mr. Deane's letter of 26th March, in which there was no stipulation for a deposit. Mr. Deane's letter was as foll ows :-"With reference to your letter, B15jl3, of the 28th January last,

containing an offer to supply 100,000 powellised Victorian mountain ash and messmate sleepers, 9' x 10" x 5", for delivery in ship's slings, Port Augusta, and your letter, G154/13, of the 27th ultimo, fixing the price at ys. 8d. each, I have to state that the Minist er has approved of your offer bemg accepted • providing the price is reduced to 7s. 6d. each, as was verbally arranged between

Mr. Gorton and myself. The sleepers are to be delivered in three or four the first of

which is to be made about July next, and the balance at mtervals of about three months."


An agreement was completed on 13th October, 1.913, t he Governments of the Commonwealth and the State of Western Australia, whercm the latter undertook to supply 1,400,000 karri sleepers. . . .

The great delay in the completion of these negotiations does not, m the opmwn of your Commissioners, reflect credit on those concerned. Tenders closed on 30th March, 1912, and on 6th August of the same. year \¥estern Australian Government were advised that their tender for karn was accepted. Prior to this, on 25th l\Iay, they had guaranteed an or<:Ler for

one and a half milli0n sleepers subject to the South Austrahan Government passmg the necessary st atutory enabling Act. _ _ _

Definite assurances were received that there would be no delay m delivermg supplies, Mr. Scaddan on 14th May, 191?, wiring-:-" give you absolute that not a clay's delay will be tolerated m connexwn With the supply of yow: requrre-ment s."



!o carry. out contract it was necessary to construct 17 iniles of railway and erect tim?er mills With a cutting eapa_ city of 60,000 sleepers per month. Aceording to the evidence of Mr. Stoddart a start was 1nade on the construction of the line on 1913, and it was in January, 1914. In February, 1914,

mill had J.nst been completed and approximately 2,000 sleepers cut, and the other n1ills neanng completion. It was urged in extenuation of the delay that the previous

Winter had been a very severe one, rendering construction work almost impossible, but ev.en allowing for an exceptionally heavy winter, twelve n1onths to build 17 miles of railway appears rather a lengthy period, and it rnust be noted that over :five months -vvere to elapse after the notification of the acceptance of the contract before a start

was made with the eonstruction of the line. ·

. The undertaking of the State C 1overnrnent was to supply powellised karri as follows :- 24,000 sleepers in .November, J 913 ; 24:, 000 in December, and 60,000 per Jnonth in January, 1914, and· each sueeeeding rnonth. Several expert witnesses who were exan1ined expressed their doll.bts as to the possibility of the State n1rlls supplying these quantities, and this view was confinned by Mr. Properjohn, the Inanqger of the mills, who estimated that he would be able to supply 18,400 sleepers by the end of Mareh, 25,760 during April, 35,420 during :May, 42,320 during June, and 53,360 during July, the latter being his maximun1 produetion. . ·

lV[r. Properjohn, aecording to his estin1ate, would, at the end of July, have 175,260 sleepers ready for delivery providing there were no unforeseen delays or breakages, whereas, aecording to the eontract, the Govern1nent were under pbligations to supply 468,000 during the same period.

Under these eireurnstanees the State \Vould not only be 292,740 sleeper.s in arrears in July, but, if .!.VIr. Properjohn's figu res are to be relied on, the defieieney would beeome greater as operations eontinued, inasn1ueh as the nurnber of sleepers contraeted for was 60,000 per n1onth, whereas his estin1ated 1naxin1u1n production would only be 53,360 sleepers per Jnonth. JVIr. Properjohn, to attain his maxin1un1 output, intended -to work two of hif::l n1ills double sh]fts-- -a policy not at all aeceptable if it can be avoided­

and, further, 110 provision was nJade for those unforeseen delays whieh :1rc always attendant upon industries of this description. On their visit to the State-ovvned n1ills, your Cmnn1issioners were convinced, fr01n the evidence given, that the capacity of the n1ills had been greatly overesbn1ated, and that there was not the faintest hope of the -\Vestern Australian Governrnent being able to fulfil its contract for the supply of poweJ.lised karri sleepers at the tin1e and at the rate of delivery ·agreed upon ; at the sarne tin1e it was evident to your Conl­ missioners that the \Vostern Aw:;tralian Uovernrnent had displayed the very reverse

of vigour in its efforts to fulfil the tenns of the contraet. Knowing that forfeiture was the penalty for non-con1pliancc, and that serious delay in the progress of the Transeontinental Railway would probably result, the vVestern Australian Govermnent appeared to have displayed no anxiety to eo mply with the terms of the eontract. This was shown by the fact that the \Vestern Australian Governn1ent, \vith a cornplete staff

of offieials and workrnen, and all 1·equisite plant for railway construction, allowed five months to elapse before startiug operationd, and then took twelve n1onthf:-l to eornplete 17 1niles of railway in very easy country, to eonnect existing railways with the n1ill sites. The whole procedure on the part of the Comrnon\vealth Government frmn the letting of so important a eontract to its hasty cancellation displays a want of system.

and laelc of administrative control which den1.and immediate attention. Notwithstanding the nature of the evidence submitted, and the conclusions your Commissioners have eome to in regard to the merits of powellising, it must be remembered that a contract was entered into by the State Governn1ent in all good faith, large sums of money approximating £230,000 expended in railway mills and plant, and, although the State signally failed to eomplete their portion of the eontraet

in regard to supplies, your Comn1issioners consider there is an obligation east upon the Commonwealth Government to deal with the contract in a spirit of compromise and not upon its · striet legal interpretation. Your Commissioners deen1 it their duty to refer to the diffieulties in their path by many of the Governrnent offieials in Australia. The refusal

of several witnesses to answer straightforward questions, the answers to whiCh must have been within thejr knowledge, prevented actual faets aseertainecl to the experin1ents made with powellised ti1nber. The IS that the evidence of several offieials had to be ignored, being regarded as unrehable and worthless. One


witness pleaded guilty to having deliberately suborned a witness. As, however, this witness, when before the Commission, was acting under the advice of the Crown Solicitor, your Cominissioners declined to punish him, regarding hin1 as the weak instrument in the hands of his superiors.


Your Commissioners have to express their deep regret at the attitude displayed by the Government of vVestern Australia towards then1. Evidently l\fr. Scaddan regarded the Commission as in some way hostile to hin1self or to his Governn1ent, and publicly denounced the Comn1issioners on their arrival at Perth before any evidence

had been taken in that State. This hostility was carried to such an extent that the Pren1ier of Western Austrah;a issued instructions that no officer should produce or hand in as evidence any :files, letters, or other novernment documents without having personally consulted with the Solieitor-General.

These instruetions by the Pren1ier immediately followed the dernand of the Cmnmission for a copy of the following telegran1 fron1 the head of a State snb-depart­ Inent to the secretary of the Bun bury Wharf Labourers' l J n:ion, the purport of which your Con1n1issioners considered was intended to suborn a witness :--

"Understand Gregory calling you witness probably eondmnning powellising on account sores. Trust you will avoid definite assertions stating it \Vas assun1ed only sores were caused by process. admit

jarrah splinters frequently caused sores men's hands."

This vvitness was not ea1led by the Chairman, l\1r. Gregory, but by the Secretary, at the request of 1\tlr. Burchell. The request of your Comn1issioners for the production of con1plete files having been. refused, they had reluetantly to decline to hear the evidence of the M:inister for

Public Works unless the Premier's injunction was first removed. Your Cmnmissioners were unwilling to embroil the Cmnmonwealth and State Governments, and conse­ quently abstained fron1 taking proceedings for offences against the Royal Cmnmission Act.


The state1nent having been n1acle that the ingredients used in connexiou \vith the Powell Proces:-; were inj urions to health, and that harmful results would be experi­ enced by tho:-;e handling po,vcll ised timber, your Cmnrnissioners deeJned it acl visable to inquire into that phase of the question. Opinions were obtained fron1 lVf essrs. Gorton , Bell, Julius, Saunders, and others who n1ight be termed to have a " theoretical n knowledge of the effects likely to accrue frmn the handling of powelli8ed timber, and fron1 lVIr. NiclVIullen (the Con1n1onwealth Inspector of Timber), lVIr. Oke (nu.nager of

the Bunbury Powellising Plant), and JYir. Bolde;J (secretary, Bnnbury Lumpers' Union) , on the "practical" side, and frmn the evidence given by these witnesses your Comnlis­ sioners are convinced that no hannful elf.eets from a health point of view will resul t fron1 the handling of powellised t i1nber.


vVhen the decision was first arrived at that it would be advisable to use nowellised karri sleepers in connexion with the Transcontinental inquiries :vere '"in._ tituted with a view to the Con1monwealth Government arranging for the cutting of 1ts own sleepers and the erection of a powellising at, Port Augusta. the State

Government was approached on the matter, It was found that they dechned to to the Commonwealth an area of karri country, the Premier of "estern Au .. traha announcing his determination to powellise karri sleepers as a State enterprise. To this end the Government of vVestern Australia had entered into an agreement

with the Powell Wood Company, dated 9th February, 1912, under whi ch the State agreed to pay as royalty-(a) For all timber treated for the use and of t he .·aid

Government within the State, 9d. per 100 superficial fe et. (b) For all other timber so treated, 2s. per 100 . uperficial f et.


The undertook to pay royalty on a minimum of 10,000,000 superficial feet per annum, this agreement to remain in force for a period of five years beyond the term of present patent, or for any further period that the patent might be renewed, provided that If the patent was revoked payment of royalty should cease.

The amount that would have been paid in royalty by the Commonwealth, had the tender of the Western Australian Government for 2,200,000 sleepers been approved, wo_uld have amounted to £82,5 00. Subsequent negotiations reduced the amount to be paid the company in royalty to 1s. 3d. per 100 superficial fe et, thus reducing the amount on the accepted t ender for 1,400,000 sleepers to £3 2,812. From the evidence

given before the Commission it was apparent that the Commonwealth Government were not aware that the royalty being charged to them was in excess of that charged by the company to the State Government.


Your Commissioners naturally interested themselves in the question of the suitability of steel sleepers for laying in the track of the Transcontinental Railway. The engineering experts of t he different States were questioned on the matter, and the replies received may be briefly summarized as follow :-

1\f-r. J. H. Frazer (Victoria). - Much higher in cost in Victoria than wooden sleepers, consequently no justification for using them. If properly designed and of proper strength, steel sleepers would probably last 50 years, perhaps longer. Mr. G. vV. Smith (Tasmania).- Experienced very rough travelling over steel

sleepers. No need to experiment with steel sleepers in Commonwealth, as timber is so plentiful. Mr. N. G. Bell (Queensland).- Ninety-three miles of line laid with steel sleepers from Normanton to Croydon. Down for 24 years and have answered

very well. It is a nice quiet road. Mr. W. Hay (Manilla).- Steel sleepers are unsatisfactory. They wear out in the bolt holes. Mr. J. Fraser (New South Wales).-Steel sleepers make a very nice road,

smoother than wood, but are very expensive. Mr. ' r.1. Hutchinson (New South Wales). - Travelled over thousands of steel sleepers in Germany; magnificent road. Mr. J. C. B. Moncrief! (South Australia).-Very effective. ; too soon to judge

Te cost of maintenance; steel sleepers in the Port Darwin to Pine Creek

Railway have been down over 20 years and are satisfactory. Mr. A. E. Welbourn (South Australia).--Steel sleepers in Northern Territory have proved very effective. Beautiful running road. From a careful study of the for egoing extracts, your Commissioners are satisfied that it is not expedient at the present juncture to experiment with steel sleepers in

Australia, except in the tropical portions of the Northern Territory, where the white ant is known to be particularly hard upon timbers. However, the majority of the experts examined before the Commission were of the opinion that steel sleepers were t oo costly. Even the New South Wales engineer, Mr. Fraser, who stated that the steel sleepers provided a very smooth road, admitted that such sleepers are very expensive, but t he various engineers who gave evidence before the Commission were dealing with t he question as it affected their own States, and not in regard to such regions as the tropical portions of the Northern Territory.


Another alternative to t he use of wooden sleepers which suggested itself to your Commissioners was the use. of reinforced concrete The various engineering experts who gave evidence before t he Comm1s wn were closely questwned on this point, and they were practically unanimous in advising that the time is not yet ripe for the adoption of a concrete sleeper. The evidence showed that the question

of the utility or otherwise of such sleepers had not reached finality, the whole matter at the present time being only at an experimental stage, and, further, in some instances, the experiments so far conducted had not proved successful.


. An agains_t t_he adoption of sleepers prominently brought

under the of your CommiSsiOners was thmr high cost, both Messrs. Bell (the present Engmeer-in-Chief of Commonwealt h railways) and Mr. Fraser (New South Wales) being emphatic on the point that the sleepers would be costly. :Under the circ:umstances, therefore, your Commissioners do not consider it would be for the Commonwealth Government to take any action in the direction of

obtammg sleepers railway use except possibly for the railways in the

Northern Terntory, where timber sleepers would have to stand extreme climatic be exceptionally subject to attacks by white ants, and where the cost of

frmght would be exceedingly high. Concrete sleepers could be manufactured along the route of the railway, and, we think, supplied at a lower cost than wood. A trial ?f these sleepers is now being made on the Adelaide tramways, and, if their effectiveness IS proved, their use in the Northern Territory should result in considerable economy in construction and maintenance.


Your Commissioners desire to reiterate their previous recommendation that the size of the sleeper used on the Transcontinental Railway should be reduced from 9ft. x 10 in. x 5 in. to 8ft. x 10 in. x 5 in. , feeling assured that the shorter sleeper would give an equally good if not a better road and that its adoption would result in an

enormous saving in the cost of earthworks, cuttings, and ballasting the line. The following extracts from the evidence of Mr. J. Fraser, Acting Commissioner for Railways, who was recalled subsequent to the preliminary report of the Commis­ sion recommending the adoption of the 8-ft. sleeper, support very strongly the recommendation of your Commissioners in this connexioii :-


12104. With regard to the construction of 4,-ft. 8i-in. gauge railways, your previous evidence furnished us with the size of the sleeper you requested ; but, for a transcontinental railway, which, in your opinion, would be the most economical every, point of view, I think the 8-ft. sleeper that we arc using now. In support of that, I may say that during the last month I have travelled over and made a close inspection

of about 3,000 miles of our railways. I found we have many miles of our main line laid with 8-ft. sleepers, and wherever that occurred the road appeared to be smoother to travel on than over the 9-ft. sleepers, Our fettlers also have given us evidence that a road laid with 8-ft. sleepers is perhaps a little easier to main­ tain, that is to say, it does not show disturbance to a greater extent , or even to as great an extent, as where there are 9-ft. sleepers. 'l'he road runs well. It has a sweeter OJI smoother running, as I found on my inspection during the last few weeks. The 8-ft. sleeper is far and away a cheaper proposition than the

9-ft. in this State. 12105. I was going to ask for your opinion on the cost in the construction of a new line of fully ballasting sleepers think I said before from £100 to £120 per mile, possibly it may prove more, but not less than that. It is quite important, when you consider a line laid wit h 8-ft. sleepers is as good, and perhaps better, a little better, than a road laid with 9-ft. sleepers. I say that advisedly, after travelling

over the lines at high speed, because, when making an inspection, we do travel at high speeds to test the roads. After t hat experience, I have come to the conclusion t hat a line laid with 8-ft. sleepers is t he best. 12106. By Mr. McWilliams.- What are all your new lines laid with ?-Eight-foot sleepers; in fact, out of a total of nearly 4,000 miles, there are 3,500 miles laid with 8-ft . sleepers.


It appears to your Commissioners from the evidence submitted that con iderable losses are experienced through the holding power of t he dog spike in t he sleeper. becom­ ing weak. Sleepers which are sound are

in large numbers on account of the dog spike holes workmg too large. The engmeers who gave evidence were pretty evenly divided in their opinions t.o whether t.he round or square clog spikes were the more efficacious. Your consider that

it would well repay the railway authorities if special.te ts were made w1th both classes of dog spikes in every variety of timber used for railway sleepers.


During the discussion in P arliament on the sleeper question, and our investigations, there has been a good deal. of y as to the nece s1ty for

impregnating the timber with some salts or p01son would PJ:event the ck ·tru ·­ tion of the sleepers by white ants. I t is claimed that 1mp regnatmg the wood Wlth


arf3enical salts renders it i1npervious to the attacks of these tennites, and 1t appears to your Commissioners that, as · a rule, the white ant will not attack ti1nbers so treated. e are, theref_ore, of opinion that it is wise in the event of the timber being treated

With any solutwn to prevent dry rot or decay, to include a small proportion of arsenic to add to the effectiveness of the process. -

We are, however, of opinion that no good case has been n1ade out for the necessity of special treatment on this ground, and, with few exceptions, the tenor of the evidence has been to show that (except in the north and north-west of Australia) railway sleepers are not attacked to any appreciable extent by the white ant, presum­ ably owing to the rumbling of the train passing over the sleepers. Timbers used in bridges, railway stops, and buildings are liable to attack, but l\1r. Bell, in Queensland, and l\1r. Hutchinson, in New South 'Vales, effectively prevent destruction by boring holes in the timber and pouring in a solution of arsenic, which penetrates the tin1ber and renders it immune fr01n attack.

In parts of India and other tropical countries the white ant is dreaded by the railway engineer, and the evidence given sho1vs that quite a number of trials have been given of the powellising proeess (arsenic being added), and that the results so far have been of a satisfactory nature. ·

Mr. Deane, at the request of the Commission, cabled to India and Bunnah, and received the following replies :-From the President of the Railway Board, Calcutta, India :-"We have very little experience of Powell wood process, and have

only used if for experimental purposes on 13,000 sleepers placed in road during last two years. We are not, therefore, in a position yet to express any definite opinion on merits of this process."

From the Chief Conservator of Forests, Rangoon, Burmah :-. " General results good so far as experi1nent goes. Ten sleeper species tested ; sleepers of only one species removed. Letter follows."

In the north-west of vVestern Australia, where the white ant is a formidable foe to all timbers, the Government of Western Australia, when authorizing the construction of the Marble Bar Railway, wer<: extremely desirous of treating the sleepers with some preventative against the tennite.

Some 9,000 were treated with jodelite, Cooper's Dip, and Taylor's Dip, and the balance (230,000) were powellised, excepting some 2,000. Aceording to the reports of the railway officers, some 33 of the 9,000 were attacked, but so far the whole of those powellised had remained immune.

It n1ust be remembered, however, that the sleopers used were of jarrah timber, and that the first 2,000 were not treated by any process and had not been attacked, and we have also the evidence of lVIr. Sleeman, 1nanager of the Whim Well Copper Mine, situate in the same zone, that he had constructed a railway fr01n Balla to the mine, 14 n1iles in length, in which untreated jarrah sleepers were laid over seven years ago, and up to the present he had not lost a single sleeper through the attacks of white ants.

Mr. Eales, architect, of Perth, testified that he had erected a large shearing shed some seven or eight years ago near Onslow, North-west, Western Australia, on the site of a building which had previously been destroyed by white ants, and from all acco unts the powellising had proved most efficacious. :Mr. Ochiltree, architect, gave sin1ilar evidence in regard to the erection of a hotel at Port Hedland. In each instance, however, jartah timber had .been used.

Son1e small trials of powellised karri had been made at Bro01ne and other centres, but your Commissioners could place no reliance on the -official evidence which was placed before then1 in regard thereto. It was clearly evident, however, that the trial test at Br:oome had not been a success. Mr. Thompson, the Engineer-in-Chief, who was recalled at his own request, stated smne recent reports had not been favorable.

He also informed the Cornmission that tests of powellised timbers for harbor works for the purpose of showing whether timber so treated would resist the toredo, showed no difference in the results between treated and untreated timbers. .



experience of railway engineers in Aut1tralia on this is sun11narized

as follow s :-- ·

.l\:lr. I-Iutchinson (New South \Vales).- No nu1terjal (Q. 3757.) Fraser (New South \Vales).---Very smaH loss. (Q. 3634.)

:Mr. Bell (Queensland).--There is no serious loss. (Q. 2941.) lV[r. .J. II. Frazer (Victoria).---No loss 'Nhatever fron1 ·white ants. 2142.) l\'Ir. lVIoncrieff (South Australia).----Losser:; very sn1all indeed. (Q. 5344.) \Velhourn (South Australia).--White ants were their great trouble; they

lost a good n1any sleepers, other than reclgum and jarrah, through these ravages. l\1r. G. ·\Vishart Sn1ith, Oon1n1issioner (Tasn1ania), stated that \Vhen n1anager of the l\1idland Railway, \Vestern Australia, his loss was very srnall. l\Tr. IIay (1\!Ianilla). - White ants do not attack the sleepers in the road.

(Qs. 3164 and 3198.) 1\'lr. Light (\Vestern Australia).- \Vhite ants very fond o£ karri. (Q. 8368.) Loss by white ants on roads \Vould average per cent. (Q. 8471.) He did not consider the losses on the East to West -Railway would be serious.

lVIr. J. Thon1pson, Engineer-in-Chief (\Vestern Australia).- No loss from

white ants in the southern parts of vVestern Australia. (Q. 7891.) :M_ r. Saunders, Engineer-in-Charge, Transcontinental Railway.- He did not think there was any serious danger fron1 white ants on the Transcontinental Railway, judging from what he had seen of 300 n1iles of the country.

(Q. 4768.)

From the evidence given by practical engineers, your Commissioners do not consider that there is likely to be any serious loss from white ants by using untreated jarn1h sleepers, and are unable to understand why it was so strongly urged that some specific was necessary to 1nitigate or prevent the ravages of the termite.



The result of our investigations showed a great diversity of opinion as to the Telative merits of Australian hardwoods, but, generally speaking, the Oomn1onwealth can well be proud of the splendid results from the use of these timbers as railway sleepers.

Australia possesses magnificent areas of forest country containing some of the finest hardwoods in the word; but there are also enormous areas of inferior hardwoods, and if some effective treatment could be devised to add to their longevity when used as railway tyes or sleepers, a vastly added wealth would be secured to this continent.

The following is a synopsis of the evidence given by leading railway engineers relating to the life of lllany of OUr tin1be:rs :-Fraser, New South Wales, states t hat he would use ironbark sleepers

exclusively if he could get then1. Using iron bark,. grey-gun1, tallowwood, white n1ahogany, white stringybark, white gum, and Murray redgum, he obtains an average life of 20 years. J\tlr. Hutchjnson, New South \ iV ales, who abo looks upon jronbark ai) his best

sleeper, gives its average life as 25 to 26 years, and he consider · grey box will give a life of fr01n 16 to 25 years. lVlr. Bell, Queensland, _uses ironbark and other tin1bers ; for the past fifteen years a record has been kept which show.· an average of fron1 20 to 30

years. He states that there are thousands of · sleepers on the road yet which have been in it for 30 years, probably for 35 years. these come to be taken out they will largely the_ aver_age hfe. Bell

also mentioned ironwood as an aln1ost 1nde, truct1ble timber, and Immune from white ants. This ti1nber is wholly u ed.for the Cooktown Railway. Mr. Frazer, Victoria, uses ironbark, box, and redgum J?rincipally, and estimates an average life of 22 years. l\1essmate and 11 12 yea!s,

Mountain ash would not prove a good be1ng too free 1n t he gra.ln, it would not hold the dog spikes, nor would 1t stand the wear of t he rails.


Mr. Kernot, Victoria, mentions redgu1n, ironbark, and grey box as the 1nost durable timbers of the State. Latterly yellow stringybark and messmate have also been utilized. l\'fess1nate gives a life of 12 to 15 years. lVIountain ash sleepers were offered, but he declined to take them.

Nfr. Moncrieff, South Australia, uses South Australian red and blue gum and jarrah. Life of local sleepers varies from 25 to 30 years, and jarrah from 20 to 25 years. Mr. Welbourn, South Australia, finds South Australian redgum sleepers the

most efficient. In 1893 he put 10,000 each of redgum and jarrah in the line for test purposes, and they are mostly all still in the track. Mr. G. W. Sn1ith gives Tasmanian timbers a life of about 11 years; jarrah, in Midland Railway, VVestern Australia, 17 years. Mr. Nairn, Tasmania, puts the life of southern sleepers at 15 years; life of

northern sleepers at from 10 to 12 years. He would not give a life . of less than 15 years to best bluegum or stringybark Mr. Hay states that Tasmanian sleepers give about the same life in Manilla as jarrah. Mr. Light, Western Australia, considers iron bark the best timber for sleepers

in Australia. ·wandoo is the best in Western Australia, some having been put in the track in 1886, and still in splendid condition. Jarrah, he estimates the life at 15 years. l\1r. Dartnall estimates the life of jarrah at from 15 to 18 years. l\1r. Thompson considered jarrah equally as lasting as the Eastern timbers,

though probably ironbark was a better timber. He estimates the life of jarrah at 15 years. l\1r. Deane considers that Tasmanian bluegum and stringybark would split badly in a dry climate, and would not recommend its use for the Trans­

continental Railway, but admits that he has no actual knowledge of Tasmanian timbers. He puts the life of jarrah at 14 years.

Karri. •

KARRI, Western Australia, is undoubtedly a splendid timber when in use. above ground, but the opinion of all authorities was to the effect that it was not a suitable timber for sleepers unless some method of treatment could be which would prevent dry rot and render it impervious to attacks by white ants. It was used almost wholly in the construction of 200 mjles of the Great Southern Railway in

Western Australia, with most disastrous results, the whole distance having to be relaid · with j arrah sleepers within a few years after being laid. Mr. Dartnall, late Engineer for Existing Lines, states the Government took over the railway about ten years after it was constructed and re-sleepered

the whole with jarrah as fast as they could. The company had re-sleepered so:r;ne to make it safe. They felt it was not safe, and used to put one jarrah sleeper at each end of the rail and one at the middle to hold the line together. Mr. Light did not consider that more than 1 per cent. of the karri sleepers

gave a reasonable life, but there were some which had been in the road since 1887 (about 27 years). Specially selected karri would last a long time. The total number of karri sleepers in the Western Australian Government railways would be less than 100, the official records being­ salmon pine 340, blackbutt 107, _ redgum 225, wandoo 8,000, karri 82, and approximately 6,000,000 jarrah. ·

Mr. Harry Smith, who has had an extensive timber experience in Western Australia, states that there are two classes of karri-the dark-red inter­ locked grain, which is very superior to the white spongy-looking wood. He estimates the life of karri sleepers as from six to ten years, but he found that specially selected karri would give a very long life. Mr. Julius made tests of karri sleepers which had been in the road for nineteen

years, vvhich .sh.owed that karri a ?etter P?Wer to the. dog

spikes than d1d Jarrah. He state - . It I a magnificent. timber, phy 1cally infinitely better than jarrah, and It hold the dog pike better. It 1



and very much more fibrous. It is not at all carrotty, as jarrah

1s, but It develops dry rot very n1uch, principally due to the acidity of the sap. It was an absolute failure on the Great Southern line. " Mr. Baxter (South Australia) stated that when he went to vVestern Australia in 1894, . the whole of the karri on the Great Southern Railway

were being shovelled out. He said- You could kick them out with your boot." He added that the Western Australian Governn1ent would him to. use karri in any position whatever in any contracts,

permiSSion to use It for superstructures ·having been definitely refused by Mr. Thompson on one occasion when it was difficult to procure jarrah of the particular size required. Mr. Smith, S?uth Australia, considers that for superstructures, where

It does not come In contact with the ground, karri is very fine timber, but where it comes in contact with the grou:n,d, and is not cut with minute and careful examination, it rots away very quickly. He says, on an average, the ordinary karri sleeper will not last more than 8 years, but if you got selected timber it would last 20 or 25 years. Iv.Ir. G. W. Smith, Tasmania, stated t hat he happened to be in the district

when the karri sleepers were being removed on the Great Southern Railway. They were in a very bad state, and literally had to be shovelled out.

. With the above evidence your Commissioners are of opinion that the use of karn untreated would not be justified as a timber for railway sleepers.


J arrah, which is a very hard and dense wood, generally straight in the grain, with moderately interlocking fibres, is undoubtedly one of the best of our Australian hardwoods, being specially suitable for underground use, and when in contact with wind and water.

The late Mr. C. Y. O'Connor, C. E., in Notes on Australian Hardwoods, 1906, states "that for durability and general construction work of all classes jarrah is one of the best of all the State timbers. It is almost exclusively used throughout the State in railway construction as sleepers, piles, bridges, &c., and shows great durability both

in and above ground. Piles in river bridges erected 54 years ago have been withdrawn and found perfect in every respect, and from wharfs after 30 years they have been almost as good as the day they were driven." Most of the engineers who had experience of this timber spoke very highly of ·

its suitability for railway sleepers, and your Commissioners believe that if naturally seasoned for about twelve months it would give an average life of from -20 to 25 years, and had an order for jarrah sleepers been given shortly after it was decided to construct the Transcontinental R ailway, -there would not have been any difficulty in insuring

a reasonable period of natural seasoning before the sleepers were placed in the track. Regarding the possibility of jarrah not being available in sufficient quantities to supply the Commonwealth requirements, Mr. R ichardson, Acting Inspector-G:neral of Forests, W.A., stated that it was estimated that there were 8,000,000 acres of Jarrah forests, about one-half of which had been exploited, though not any sense cut ·out.

He considered that with ordinary precautions there was enough to supply the general wants of not only Western Australia, but of the whole of Austraha fo: very many years. Your Commissioners consider that if there was doubt on thi pmnt necessities of a national railway connecting the E ast With the vVe. t should receive

consideration before export requirements. · For the purpose of obtaining supplies, your would recomm.end

the adoption of the system in vogue in all the States, and. which has been a r.ecogn:sed system in Western Australia for the past fifteen years, VIZ. , that of purcha Ing .direct from the hewers. The usual cust om is for the Department concerned o fix a pnce for the: class of sleepers required, and accept, up to_. a certain all sleepers

delivered by the hewers at the various , ·idings . ..:ub] ect t o therr pa sing the In. 1 ctor test. F.7514. B


Many of the engineers spoke strongly of the great waste of tin1ber in our forest:::;, and also of the fact that to-day they \Vere unable to get the same class of sleepers as in the past. It appears evident to your Con1missioners that sufficient attention has not been given to the subject by railway engineers, scientists, and conservators.

It is contended by son1e that ti1nber should be ring-barked before being cut down, that it should be only cut at certain periods when the sap is dowu, and that it should be naturally seasoned before being laid in the tracks. In South Australia, owing t o their adopting the n1ethod of naturally seasoning timber for about eighteen Inonths before laying it in the track, they get a life of

from 20 to 25 years fron1 jarrah; vrhereas in Vlestern Australia, where they do not naturally season this ti1nber, they get a life of but from 15 to 17 years. \Ve believe that if thorough investigations were n1ade into these questions, and reliable tests made, our timbers would give a considerably added life. \Ve have it on record that in a bridge built by the En1peror Trajan, over the Danube, 1,600 years ago, the piles to-day are still in good condition. One of these piles was taken up and found to be petrified to a depth of three-fourths of an inch, but the rest of the wood was little different from its ordinary state. Also in digging away the foundation of old

Savoy Palace, London, which was built 650 years ago, the whole of the piles, consisting of oak, eln1, beech, and chestnut, were found in a state of nerfect soundness, and there are nun1erous other sin1ilar instances. The ti1nber work of the external d01nes of the Church of St. IVIark, at Venice, is rnore than 800 years old, and is still said to be in a good state; and the gates of cypress to the Church of St. Peter, at R01ne, were \vhole and sound after being up 550 years. The inner roof of the chapel of St. Nicholas, King's Lynn, Norfolk, is of oak, and was constructed about 450 years ago ; the large dormitory

of the Jacobins' Convent at Paris, executed in fir, lasted 400 years. The ti1nber roof of Crosby Hall, in London, was executed about 360 years ago; and the roof of vVestminster Hall, which is of oak, is now above 450 years old. Nu1nerous other instances of the longevity of tin1ber in water and above and under ground could also be quoted, which must be due to son1e unknown process of nature . .


The 1nethod of artificially treating timber and in1pregnating it with son1e antiseptic to prevent rot has occupied the attention of scientists and others for so1ne centuries past, and recognised n1ethods have been adopted in Great Britain and on the Continent for this purpose. The woods almost exclusively used there for railway sleepers are soft woods of pine, redwood, beech, and fir varieties, and experience has shown the advisability of treating these timbers with a preservative ,prior to laying in . the track.

The antiseptic treatment used in Great Britain is exclusively creosote, and largely also on the Continent. Before being treated the wood is naturally seasoned for about twelve months, then adzed to receive the rail or chain, and bored for dog spikes. .

The sleepers are then placed in a vat, the air exhausted, and a high vacuun1 created to draw all the sap out of the wood, after which creosote is forced into the timber at a very high pressure. Another process used on the Continent and America is that called Boucherising, or the treatment of timber with cupric sulphate, the method adopted being somewhat to that of creosoting. Burnettising,' or with zinc chloride., is another

method, but it is said this treatment, if the soJutwn exceeds 3 per cent. 111 • trength, n1akes the wood extre1nely brittle. l\1r. lVIcKee, of Sydney, gave us the following particulars of the n1ethods adopted 1n An1erica :-

Creosote is 1nostly used as a basis. In the Burnett process the wood is stean1ecl '\Vith the idea of n1oistening the soluble matter in the wood cells, then it is drawn off by vacuum and the creosote and zinc chloride then applied by pressure. The Full Cell process is considered the safest and be tin America at present

tin1e. The timber is steamed and dried, and creosote (dead ml of tar) is applied by pressure in the same manner as the Burnett process.

86 1


The 1 'ueller p_Tocess,. in which ordinary cr.eosote j;) used, bnt no stearning.-- -­ acuun1 IS apphed to draw ott the rnorsture, and then the ereosotc is forced

In by .after which there is a final proces;;:; used in \vhich air

pressure IS apphed. ·

Reuping pTocess. - Creosote is used. Card process is used by a great rnany of the railways.---A cmnbination of creosote and about 2 per .cent. o_ f zinc chloride. The timber ::m bjeeted to stemn and vacuun1 as rn the Burnett process.

Allardyce process is . sirnilar to the card process, the only difference being that . they use a little more creosote.

process.- Use. zinc chloride with glue and tannin. The tinlber rs

subJected to steamrng and afterwards vacuurn is applied.

By the use of these rnethods varying results have been obtained , but it iK safe say that the average life of seven years with inferior tin1bers has been increased to

10 to 20 years according to the success of the process adopted.


Your Con11nissioners visited 1\Iessrs. Alcock and Con1pany's establishment Jn JVIelbourne, and were shown a praetical demonstration of the electrical rnethod of seasoning timbers of various sizes. _

" The rnethod adopted is to elosely stack the tirnber in specially constructed closed trucks, lead electrodes being placed between each plank of tirnber so as to secure contact. The electric current is supplied by rneans of lead plates with an area of 2 feet along. a 2-iiL rail. The current is eonducted by t he sap in the tirnber and Alcock's expenence demonstrates that the fresher the t i1nber the better the result. As soon as

the electricity is generated in the cells of the tin1ber, the n1oisture in the sap is discharged, the steam generated by the electricity opens the cells and alJO\vs the air to penetrate, so that the tin1ber dries evenly. About eight hours is required for the treatn1erit. Ti1nbers 8 inches by 8 inches are easily seasoned by the process.''

It is clain1ed by the patentee that large logs could also be seasoned by this process. The evidence obtainable relative to this process, which in the opinion of your Commissioners appears to be a most valuable and effective one for the rapid seasoning of timbers, was insufficient to prove that it could be economically utilized for the seasoning of railway sleepers, but the question is one well worthy of attention where

cheap electric power can be obtained. For ordinary trade purposes the process has much to con1mend it.

Smith-Irvine Process.

Among the various processes for tTeahnent of t in1ber that were brought under the notice of your Commissioners 1vas that kno1vn as the Sn1ith-lrvine rnetallizing process. The owners of the patent rights of this proc0::;s elairn that it preserves timber against the attacks of insects, fire, and bacteria. The process consists in

drying of tin1ber by super-heated stearn or any other r11ethod , then 1n1pregnatron of the timber by boiling with a soluble metallic salt.. Then the of the solu_ble

n1etallic salt into an insoluble salt by the irn1ner ·1on of the trn1b er m a cold of an oxide, such as, for instance, caustic soda, or a such as bi-carbon[l tc of

soda, or any alkali which will render the soluble salt im;oluble. The patentees stated that, up t J t he present, experinwnt;::; had been out

with three metals--iron, copper, and alunlinium, thv of iroy being u.· d Ill the

case of sleepers, and the sulphate of copper in the case of p1les .· ub]ect to ·ea \Yater. Interesting evidence regarding certain experirnent ' n1ad_ e by. h.in1 to test the efficacy of the Smith-Irvine process was given before your 10lnmv.·wner:· }YY ::\Ir. vV. Brown, Locomotive Superintendent, Midland Rail:vay :VV.,estern 1\Ir.

Bro,vn treated f: amples of various soft and hard wood. , rncludmr; karn ·leeper . with the process, and stated that on testing _ b cuttn g ne of _ the karn

sleepers across the end grain, he found that t he 1n1pregnatl n wa-· e:u nlpl e.t e .. H placed the treated samples in the ground in white ant ' ne t > and c1t th expuatwn of four u 2


months not one case of failure was discovered. Nir. Brown said that his general opinion of the process was that it was the best thing ever introduced in V\Testern Australia so far as his knowledge .went.

. . Your Commissioners have given the matter careful consideration, and in their opiniOn the n1ethod has many points to commend it, as undoubtedly the impregnation of the timber with sulphate of iron should have a great tendency to harden and improve the timber when used as a railway sleeper exposed as it would be to varying climatic changes.

. The patentees have signified their willingness for a test of not more than 10,000 sleepers to be made without payment of any royalty for the use of the patent, and in the opinion of your Commissioners the Com;rnonwealth Government might well make arrangements for a small trial parcel of sleepers to be treated by the process.

We make this recon1mendation feeling that it is in the best interests of the Commonwealth to aid in the testing of any process which, in the opinion of the experts of the Department, can be considered of practical value.



. The process known as powellising is the result of a discovery by a Mr. Powell, of England, who patented it in 1904, and formed a company to develop it. Messrs. and Gorton introduced the systern in Australia in 1905, obtained patent rights

In Australia and New Zealand, and formed companies in Western Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, and New Zealand. It is clain1ed that the patents are invalid owing to "want of novelty," due to the publication of a paper by Mr. Powell on the subject in the London Times and its circulation throughout Australia prior to the patents being for. This view is held by a leading patent attorney of Sydney to whom the

subJect was referred by the Commonwealth Government in 1911, and also by Mr. Hughes, the late Attorney-General. Your Commissioners consider that, as there is no suggestion of impropriety of any nature in regard to the application for the patents in Australia, the Government _would hardly be warranted in attacking the vaJidity of the patent. Mr. Gorton states the process of powellising consists of boiling tin1ber in a solution composed of molasses, water, and other ingredients fo r various purposes, arsenic, for instance, being used for white ants. The temperature at which this solution boils is 3 to 4 degrees higher than the boiling point of water. It is claimed that the sap inside

the timber is converted into steam at 212 degrees, and is driven out of the timber in the form of steam, while the albuminoids are coagulated and left behind and rendered chemically inert. The timber is kept boiling until such ti1ne as it is found by experience, depending on the thickness and size, that the whole of the sap has been expelled.- Then steam is shut off and the timber allowed to cool in the solution for various periods, depending again on the size and thickness. It is claimed that the solution penetrates right through the timber, no matter·hovv- thick it may be.

The timber is treated as green as possible from the saw in the belief that better results are then obtained than if the wood is partially or wholly naturally seasoned.

It is held that the process is equally valuable for hard and soft woods ; the result of the treatment being to convert the tin1ber into a non-porous homogeneous closely fibred mass, much harder, stronger, and tougher than in its original state. Your Commissioners were son1ewhat surprised to fi nd that, although the Powell process is· an English patent, it has not been introduced in the railway systems of Great Britain, the Continent, or . America, where, owing to the poor class of timber generally used, there should be a great future before it if it fulfilled the anticipations of those interested in the process.

In 1905 the process was introduced into We t ern Australia, and a small plant erected in !dr. J. Ferguson's timber yard, East Perth. Here he first or parent company was formed, and this company had large share holdings in the companies formed in the· .other States. The jarrah timbers mentioned by Mr . Eales and Mr. Ochiltree, archit ects, of Perth, in relation to the erectio o·f a wool shed at Towera· Station. and a hotel at Port Hedland wer'e treated with t his plant. Your Con11nissioners could find n·o record of any karri having been treated by it.



After a short period this clos.ed down, and it does not appear that the

company made any further practical e:fforts In Western Australia to demonstrate the of the process. plants erected at Sydney, in Powelltown,

and Zealand. to the of the Ferguson plant in Western

Australia, ?1r. Engineer In the Australian Railways, .

and Mr. Light, Eng1neer 01 Existing Lines, treated 33 karn sleepers, 18 of which were in 1906 placed in the line at East Perth, and the balance on the Southern Railway. Subsequently, when it was agreed to construct a railway from Port Hedland to Marble Bar, a distance of 115 miles, it was decided, in view of the fact that the country was

ants, to lay and have them treated by some

antiseptic whiCh would prevent or n11tigate thmr destruction by these insects. It was finally decided to powellise them, and an agreement was entered into · in July, 1908, between the Commissioner of Railways and the Company, whereby the Government had the right to use the process for a period of five years upon payment of ·a royalty of 6d. per 100 super. fe et, and the Government erected a plant at Bunbury

to treat these sleepers. This was utilized to powellise 230,000 jarrah sleepers for Port Hedland, and subsequently for the treatment of karri for the workshops, jarrah piles, and, later, for the treatment of some 40,000 jarrah sleepers for the n1aintenance of the Murchison Railway. ·

In May, 1908, a small culvert on the Busselton line was constructed of powellised karri. It will thus be seen that the only t est s of powellised karri made in Western Australia were those of the 33 sleepers treated in 1906 and a culvert in 1908.

1VIr. Gorton, who is the managing director of the company, submitted reports from Professor lVIackenzie, fron1 lVIr. Light (Engineer for Existing Lines, Western Australia), . Professors Boulger, Warren, Rudolf, and other scientists, Mr. Julius, and many others, demonstrating the in1munity of powellised karri fron1 dry rot and the attacks of white

ants. It is, ho-vvever, of more importance to judge the reasons which actuated Mr . Deane in recommending, and the Government in agreeing to use, powellised karri; but, before doing so, we must draw attention to a testi1nonial put in by Mr. Gorton purporting to be

issued by Mr. Light. The following is a copy of the letter in question:-WEsTERN AusTRALIAN RAILWAYS .

Dear Sir,

Office of Chief Engineer Existing Lines, P ert h, 2nd September, 1911.

In reply to your letter of date 2nd May, inquiring as to our experience in the use of timbers treated by the "Powell " process, I would inform you that our experiments in respect of powellising have bee n principally in the treatment of Karri t imbers for the prevent ion of dry r ot. .

Incidentally, I would remark that the sleepers in usc on the railways in this State are of local timbers, P.rincipally K arri (Eucalyptus_ Diversicolor) and a_rrah The}ormer is an

t 1mber for the purpose, but IS unfortunately SUD] ect t o dTy r ot, and 1t 1s also by white

The virtues of J arrah are already sufficiently well known to r ender further comment needless, s_u:ffice It to say that well-seasoned sleepers cut from this timber will last in the road bed fo r many years w1thout any artificial treatment whatever. Our experience in respect of "Powellising " have been principally in the tr eatment of K arri timbers

for the prevention of dry rot. Some years ago, a number of processed sleepers, K arri, were in the line, in b_etween

sleepers badly affected with dry rot and have stood the test well, proVIng t horoughly resistant to the mroads of the fungus. . . . . .

The Public Works Department also carried out exhaustive t est s with timbers. m the

North-west of this. State (where white ants are particularly and to determm e the

efficacy of the treated timber in resisting the attacks of t he t errmtes, wit h generally satisfactory The value of the treatment having been fairly well t he Gov rnment authonzed the

construction of a Powellising Plant, and one capable of pr o_ cess_ mg on an average 9,000 le pers per :veek: has been erected at Bunbury (a seaport south of P er th wbich t he outlet f?r most of from the State) wher e will be treated for Government use, for railway construcvlon and tenance purposes, such timbers as are susceptible to dry rot and t errmtes. The plant was erected by and 1s

under the control of the Railway D epartment. .

( gd.) E. E. LIGHT,

Chi ef Engineer f r Existing Lines .

l\1r. Light's statement that in UJ eon the railway in thi State are of

local timbers, principally karri and J arrah, IS far from corTect.


From Mr. Light's own evidence it will be seen that there are approximately 6,000,000 jarrah sleepers, 8,000 wandoo, and 82 karri sleepers laid in the Western Australian Government Railways. This error is very misleading, apd we can only assume it was due to inadvertence; but we cannot understand whv it was not corrected when attention was drawn to it. • The latter portion of the which purports that the Government had approved of

the erection of a plant at Bunbury where would be treated sleepers particularly for railway construction and maintenance purposes such timbers as are susceptible to dry rot and termites, is also contrary to facts. The only inference which can be drawn from this para,graph is that the Government had decided to powellise karri for use on the Western Australian Railways. l\Ir. Light, in his evidence before the Commission, in answer to the Chairman (Q. 8541),

to tho Commissioner and the Commissioner to the Government that powellised karri should be used on the railways? "- Answered- " I do not know that I ever did. I had a talk about it with Mr. Short manv a time, but I do not think I ever recommended it. " Q. 8542 :- (Q.) " Have you eve{ notified the Government that you proposed to povvellise karri and use it on the railways, I mean in your official report ? "-He replied :- (A.) "No, I have discussed it with the Commissioner many times; and I recolJect discussing with Mr. Thompson a scheme for putting up a mill to cut our own karri sleepers, powelli::;e them, and use them for maintenance and construction, ancl to have our own jarrah mill in the flora and fauna reserve, to cut jarrah for main-tenance and construction." ·

Then he was asked (Q. 8643) :---( Q.) " You never officially reported on it ? " and replied, " I do not think so." ·Mr. J_,ight's letter is dated 2nd September, 1911. Mr. Gregory left office as Minister for :Railways in October, 1911. It will thus be seen that there is a great dis­ crepancy between :Mr. Light's evidence and the statements contained in the testimonial.

Mr. Deane, in his voluminous report to the Minister for Home Affairs, quotes Teports from Mr. Captain Saunders ; Mr. Scaddan; Mr. Brain; Mr. J. Thompso11, Engineer-in-Chief, Western Australia; Secretary, Sydney Harbor Trust; Town Clerk, Sydney; New Zealand "Wood Powell Company; and many others; also reports from Professor Payne, .Melbourne University; Mr. Hill and Mr. Lace, Conservators of lforests, Burmah ; Mr. Monis Travers, Bungalore, with various other letters and reports, and

these are accompanied by his own report and conclusions. Mr. Deane first make.s a comparison with jarrah and lmn·i, and in his opinion of jarrah states-- " Jan·ah is not immune against the ravages of white ants and dry rot. By the former it is badly attacked in some cases, as experience in \\T estern Australia can prove. "

The general ten·or of the evidencewe obtained was that jarrah rarely developed dry rot, and we have dealt elsewhere with the probabilities of the timber being attacked bv white ants. " Mr. Deane's opinion that karri when used above ground is a splendid timber is fully borne out by other witnesses . However, there is no doubt that it would be an unserviceable timber as a railway sleeper unless it could be treated with some antiseptic

which would prevent dry rot and render it immune from attacks by white ants. Mr. Deane quotes experiments made by Professor Boulger and Professor Mackenzie which pronounced the treated karri to be immune from dry rot, and also the reports previously mentioned as submitted by Mr. Gorton, and gives his (Mr. Deane's)

opinion that karri powellised would be a better timber than. jarrah treated or untreated. Mr. Deane also points out that the New South Wales Electncal Department, the Sydney Harbor Trust, and the Sydney Town Council are giving large orders, and goes on to say- " Now I am informed that the New South \Vales Chief Commissioner is asking for quotations from the Western Australian Government for 900,000 powelhsed sleepers." "This," Mr. Deane states, " does not look like want of confidence. "

He also refers to comments in Parliament that the Western Australian Govern­ ment were only offering powellised sleepers for export and for the Transcontinental Railway, and were not using it for themselves. Mr. Deane says- " This is not so. Not only have they their own powellising at Bunbury treat 1,50.0.sleepers per day,

but they have entered into a contract w1th the Westrahan Powelhsmg Company to supply them with 1,000,000 powellised sleepers. " .



Independent of reports received and quoted by lVIr. Deane, the statements that the Government _had ordered 1,000 ,000 powellised karri from

Company, m Austraha, and that the New South Wales Railway

:vas negotiatmg Wlth the vVestem Australian Government for 900,000

powelhsed karn sleepers, must have had a very great influence, not only upon Mr. Deane, but also upon the Government and Parliament of the Commonwealth. The documents and evidence in to these t\vo very important

matters are, to say the least , vcry pecnhar, and certamly have exercised an influence for which there wns no justification. In the agreenlbit entered into between the Western Austra.Jian Government and the Powell Com,)anv on 27th Febrnarv, 1912 the Ju)] text oi which is dealt with elsewhere, appean-;


following clause":. --" of the

acceptance by the li censee on beh alf of the said l lovernment of a tender bv the patentee;; to the said Government of 1,000,000 powellised karri sleepers." " The give::; no relative to t.he price or siz e of the ::;leeper8,

or the temt::; of dehvery, or of any penalties for non-fulfilment, and the onlv narticular.:; we have obtained in evidence ar-e hom lVIr. Gorton, who stated that t he were to be 6 ft. 6 in. by 8 inches by 4 inches, and the price 2s. - 1d. each, delivered a,loncrside . , He also said- -" We are not supplying them; they gav-: m a co ntract

for a nulhon sleepers and we co uld not supply them, so we endeavoured. to get out of it." No effort appears to have been made to enforce this contract, nor ha::; there been any attempt made to supply, and it seems do ubtful, in view of the fa -:;t the Gove_rnment had undertaken to treat 10 ,000,000 rmp3r. feet per year by th. s process,

and mtended, and have since, erected their own whether it wa > ever intended that they should be supphed . The case, however, is much clearer in regard to the negotiations betwe:m the Govetnments of Australia and New South \Vales. jfr. se nt repc;ated

wires to the Prime Minister urging a speedy determination in regard to the contra-:;t on the ground that the delay was holding up negotiations, amongst others, with the New South \Vales Government, whom he stated had been pressin;s for two mrmtlB for a price for a large quantity of powellisecl karri sleepers to be delivered within twelve months. l\1r. D eane in his report states the quantity at 900,000, Mr. Scaddan at 1,000,000.

In Sydney four witnesses were examined in reference to t he3e nego tiations. Mr. Fraser , the Acting Commissioner of Railways, had no lmowlege of the nutter, nor had he recommemled t hat powellised kani should be used on the l' <-1ilway. :;. The Secretary for Hailways proved t hat no correspond ence on the subj ect

passed through the Raihvay Department. The Engineer-in-Chief, l\1r. Hutehinso n, said the question o[ purchasing powellised karri sleepers did no t come before him. ::\1r. Selkirk, Chief Clerk: of the Wodcs Department, deposed that, so far a·:; the paper ,; sh uwe:l, the request for a. quotation was made only on the d irection of the Minister. S) far as

t he papers ::;how there -vvas no recommendation from the enginecT3. Your Commissioner.:; desired to see the \Vestern Australian Works Department file on the subject of t hese negotiation H, bHt its production vms refused. Latm· we desired to examine Mr . UriffLths, the New South Wales lVi.ini ster for Works, but unfortunately he was unabl e to attend ,

but his clerk sent us t he following wire a few day. -; :-" Minister for Works regrets having been unable t o atten:l C8mmis::;ion wishes me inform you he inqu

ired price ]J OWellised sleepers intend ing it price

right to subsequently satisfy himself if m 3.terial suitable." It is difficult to judge what led up to these negotiations, but there is no doubt that they must have had a considerable influence on the of t _he Government to use powellised timber, and upon 1\'l.r. Deane m lus recon_1men­

dation. I t is clear from the evidence t hat the request for a quotatwn was ent w1thout consultation with or recommendation from the responsible engineers of the New South Wales R.ailways and Works Departments, and t he importance att_ached it by Federal authorities as an additional argument in Javour of powelhsed karn wa.; qmte

unwarranted under the circumstances. Your Commissioners did not feel that it came within t heir province to inquire into the value of powellising timbers other_ than for sleepers, but several instances _ of good results in the treatment of small-sized t1mbers by the process came us

it would be manifestly unfair to ignore, the report of Mr. 0. W. Bram, El ec tn _cal Engineer, New South Wales, Government Railways and Tramways very satisfactory results in the treatment of _timber 1 inch 1{- mche for

telephone troughing against the ravages of white ants. Mr. Bram states that 1t 1s most


satisfactory to note that hundreds of examinations have failed to discover one instance of a mark in the timber treated with arsenic by the process. The Secretary of the Sydney Harbor Trust writes:-" that the powellised flooring laid in a number of cellars and other floors is all sound and in a good state of preservation, showing no signs of dry rot or decay. Some of the floors have been laid about four years, and others for a shorter period." Although the period may seem short, it was stated in evidence that previous flooring of New Zealand karri, owing to the damp conditions prevailing, had decayed throughout within six months.

'rhe City Surveyor, Sydney, Mr. Gordon, considered the powellising of wood for street paving, of which he had about six years' experience, had given very satisfactory results. He would recommend it every time for wood paving. The City Council were now using untreated blocks contrary to his recommendation. However, it is worthy of note, the witness stated, that in some instances untreated blocks had lasted 26 years.

Several architects also gave evidence, speaking very highly of the process · for building timbers. . As previously mentioned, Mr. Deane, at the request of the Commission, cabled to India and Burmah for information as to whether powellised sleepers were being used

there on a commercial scale, and received the replies to the effect that only a few sleepers had been laid for experimental purposes, and that such sleepers, although they were so far satisfactory, had not been in the track sufficiently long enough to warrant any opinion being expressed as to the efficacy or otherwise of the powellising process.

A small number of powellised sleepers have been laid in the Queensland and South Australian Railways, but in each instance the period was too short to enable the engineers to give any opinion as to the merits of t he process.

Western Australia.

The only test which has been made of powellised karri sleepers has been in Western Australia, where in 1906 a number of karri sleepers were treated and placed in the railway at East Perth. Mr. Light's evidence showed that in 1906, after consultation with Mr. Julius, he decided to experiment with the process. A temporary plant was erected and 35 karri sleepers tested. They did not use arsenic in the solution. Eighteen were put in the East Perth cutting and the balance on the Great Southern Railway. After careful examination of the East Perth section during the intervening years he was quite satisfied of the success of the process, and in 1912 had recommended the Govern­ ment to powellise karri sleepers for purposes of railway construction and maintenance.

Mr. James Thompson expressed his strong conviction that the powellising would prove sufficient to prevent dry rot and white ants in karri, and that from the tests that had been made in the State t he process was a good one for the timbers there.

Mr. J. T. Short, the Commissioner of Railways for -western Australia, was of opinion that powellised karri would prove a success as a railway sleeper. In connexion with the East Perth sleepers, which may be looked upon as the only actual foundation of the whole of the arguments in favour of powellised karri, it does not appear that records had been kept such as might be anticipated on such an important subj ect. In Mr. Light's memoranda to Mr. Deane no mention is made of the number

of sleepers laid, nor is there any mention of powellised karri sleepers having been laid in the Great Southern line. Mr. Gorton stated that 50 powellised sleepers had been laid at East Perth. Mr. Julius, who is now Consulting Engineer for the Powell Company at Sydney, and who assisted Mr. Light in the powellising, put the number down as 30. Mr. Light reduced the number to eighteen, and when your Commissioners inspected them, there were but twelve, the balance, Mr. Light stated, having been taken up one per year for examination. Mr. Gorton and Mr. Julius, and also Mr. Light's report, stated that untreated karri attacked with dry rot had been sandwiched in between the treated sleepers so as to give the most effective test. Mr. Light in his evidence stated that this was not so with the East Perth lot, but that this course was followed with the laying of the seventeen treated sleepers on the Great Southern line. Up to the hearing of Mr. Light's evidence no statement had been made regarding the Great Southern lot, and we were not furnished with any record as t o their success. The sleepers at East Perth seemed to be in fairly good condition, but it must be noted that ir. Light had

referred to untreated karri sleepers which had been in the road for 27 years, and

86 7


Mr. !ulius made tests of similar timbers which were in good order after nineteen years' serVIce. If the test sleepers used. were of selected karri there is no reason why they should have fSOOd serVIce, and your Commissioners cannot look upon it as a test which. would JUstify the adoption of the system.

A deal of capital was made of the statement that a jarrah culvert on the Busselto? hne ?een destroyed by white ants, and a culvert built of powellised karri m 1908 m Its place with most beneficial results. Mr. Light reported that the

karn culvert was perfectly· sound, although erected for test purposes inside an old jarrah culvert which had been destroyed by white ants. '

. Your Commissioners' investigations showed that there was no record of when the Jarrah culvert had been constructed, and that probably it was over 4:0 years old that the karri culvert had only been constructed four years at the

?f reportmg; that there n? trace of white ants about the culvert or adjacent

Jarrah sleepers; the karn whiCh had been used had been seasoned for

four years at the ra:1lway workshops and was selected timber; that it had been powellised if not to secure impregnation; and that some six pieces of timber

m the culvert, mcludmg the bast:) or bed log, were of untreated jarrah, which were also perfectly sound. Under these circumstances one would be surprised indeed if the timber in the culvert was not in excellent order. ·

Your Commissioners were surprised that, other than the tests previously mentioned, no further tests had been made to commercially demonstrate the value of the process with karri. Mr. Light stated that between40,000 and 50,000 jarrah sleepers had recently been powellised for maintenance on the Murchison railway and also a large quantity of piles

for various purposes. It is idle to state that karri was not available for this purpose except at great cost. The Wilgarup Karri and J arrah Company have been operating since October, 1911, in karri country, and contracted to supply karri to the railway workshops in April, 1911. This company tendered in March, 1912, to supply, 75 ,000 karri sleepers, 9 feet x 10 inches x 5 inches, to the Commonwealth Government at 3s. 7!d.

each, and prior to this the State Government agreed to accept 1,000,000 powellised karri sleepers from the Westralian Powell Wood Company, so that it is reasonable to assume that others could obtain karri. Even if a high price had to be paid for karri, surely the experience that would have been gained by the treatment of 10,000 or 20,000 karri sleepers taken indiscrimi­ nately from the bush and actual service under ordinary railway conditions would have been advisable before recommending the committal of the State and t he Commonwealth to an expenditure of over three-quarters of a million sterling.

Yom Commissioners do not consider that the two tests in any way prove the efficacy of the process. Specially selected karri would undoubtedly last longer than the proved life of the treated sleepers at East Perth, and the t hat there ,.,rere only twelve treated karri sleepers in t he track at East P erth when your Commissioners made their inspection was so different from what they had been led to believe from various witnesses and official reports that they were than disappointed. It. was futile to take samples of the timber for t he purpose of ha vmg analyses made to see 1f there had

been impregnation, owing to Mr. Light having stat ed in his evidence that no arsenic had been used in the solution. ·Your Commissioners cannot understand why Mr. Deane, when in P ert h making investigations into the process and the tests which were to )Jrove its efficacy,

did not personally inspect the few powellised sleepers which were la1d not more than 1 mile from Perth. New South Wales . The experiment of sleepers in the. New yY ales Railw.ays cannot be

classed as other than a failure. Mr. Fraser, Actmg Comnnss10ner of Railways, stated that, for the purpose of an experiment, in 1909, he had 4,000 blue gum. sleepers cut,. of which 2,000 were powellised by the Sydney Company. The.Y. were put m the same hne as the untreated, with the same running and weather conditiOns. The result was very unsatisfactory from a powellising -point of view, because . the that treated were decaying very rapidly, while those not treated are m a very farr conditiOn.

Of the 2,000 powellised sleepers 331 had been. removed marked for removal. The fastenings were losing their grip, and the gram of .timber seemed to have absolutely perished, some of it having got almost mto a conditiOn of dust. Mr. Fraser

produced. some samples of condemned sleepers which he stated were an10ng::;t the worst of the reJects. These were in an advanced stage of rot under the rail seat and badly shattered. Mr. Simpson, the Divisional Engineer, was convinced that the process had­ proved injurious to the timber, the principal fault being that many of the· sleepers were badly shattered and showing evidences of dry rot.

Professor vVarren stated that he had exan1ined the sleepers and had found no sign of dry rot. lie attributed the shattering of the ti1nber to overboiling in the process. It 1nust be noted that the process wns carried out by the Sydney Powellising Con1pany, and, according to 'the evidence given by the works 1nanager of the con1pany, the 1naxirnum period for which any of the 2,000 sleepers in question was boiled 7t hours.

- . . Your Con1n1issioner;::; persm1ally visited \Vhere 1J1ese sleepers were laid, and found that a large ntunber of the treated sleepers had been taken o.ut of the as unfit for further service ; that n1any still in the track were in very bad cond'ition : that n1any of the dog spikes were loose ·and could be lifted out with finger ::;,

the untreated sleepers appea,red to be in fair order. The sa1nples of rejects pr-oduced by :Mr. Fraser showed that the timber haQ. split very badly, and there was ample evidence of rot, especially under the rail seat. There is no doubt in the rnjnds of the Con1n1ission that the fairly large n1ade by the New South vVal es Govern1nent shows conclusively that in this instaiwe the powelhsing of the timber nroved distinctlv in]·ttrious. L J


Various tests have been m.ade in Victoria at different periods, but in each instance with results that were very unsatisfactory. The Victorian Department appointed a Com1nittee of Inquiry in 1908 , conRisting of three railway officials, to rnake investigations. ·

They visited the powellisirig works i11 Sydney, and aJ, the invitation of the company had eighteen rieces of different timbers of various sizes powellised. Cedar 1! inches thick was thoroughly seasoned, and the Queensland mflple and yellowwood of the thickness (lil inches) stood very well , but the Jarger- sized timbers were shattered and honevcon1bed. and in one ca3e was rnoist in the eentre. All of the samples over 4 inches were {nost unsatisfa ctory.

In their report they Rtated "that, as the benefits to be derived fr01n p owJllising are highly probleinatical , we do not consider that any advantage would be gained by the adoption of the process \vhi1 e the present class of sleepers is available.'; It is ulain1ecl by the cmnpa1iy that the failure of w <1 -; trJJ,ti_ !lg

several different sizes of ti1nber by the at the san1e ti1n e. lYiessrs. Alcock and Co ., of l\1elbourne, also had a trial treatnwnt of J 0,0)0 feet of ti1nber 8 inches, 7 inches, and 2} inches th1 ck. The result of the treatn1ent wa->. far fron1 satisfactory, and over 50 per cent.. vvas rendered unfit for use_ .

John of lVIelbonrne, had 1,800 ;:;pokes, se veral hut1dred fello e.3, .a

quantity of Tasn1anian bluegtun treated in 1910 at the Sydney Po\vell Uom.pany's The tin1ber was powellised to fulfil a Defence Department Agatn the result was a failure, practically all the timber having been conde1nned by the Departn1ent's Inspector. .

of the condemned tln1ber ':vere produced by the witness, which were

badly shattered internally. _ , .

\Vith regard to the Victorian Powell \Vood Process s contract for

100,000 powellised mountain ash and messn1ate sleepers (of whwh only 6,000 were supplied), to which reference has already been Inspector l\icMullen sta:ted that in a few days after treatment the sleepers supphed were found be craclnng very extensively, and a considerable distortion in shape began to show 1tself. .

Mr. Hohler said of them- -The sleepers were split, and there wa · a certatn amount of distortion due to the drying process and, perhaps, to the boiling. lVIr. Saunders stated they were splitting rather at the ends-- quite a nun1ber were inches by 4.;} inches instead of 10 inches by 5 Inches. Out of 500 only

nine up to the specification .. Some are 8! by 4! inches, aJ?-d . ·on1e 8

by 4 inches.· doubts to whether the ;:;leep ero would stand In th"J for

any length of tin1e.



Wilkinson, the Government Analyst, to whon1 sarnples were forwarded,

r:eported that .strong of m?ulds were noticeable on each treated sample

forwarded to hrm, and that rt was evrdent that an attack of the sleepers by n1ould is not prevented by treatment with sugar and arsenic.

New Zealand.

A smnewhat sin1ilar state1nent to lVIr. vVilkinson's was rnade by ICirk ' ot New Zealand, when giving evidence before the Forestry Cmnmission. New Zealand pine and birch sleepers have been powellised for the New Zealand so far the pine f;lee·pers are concerned they appear to have been a

(hsastrous fmlure. _ Nir. J. Burnett, Chief vVorking Uailway, New Zealand, in a let ter to

Nir. Deane, dated the 5th of July, 1913, states that in 1909--10 the Powell Co. treated 4,956 white pine and 605 red pine sleepers fresh frorn the saw, and 1:500 white pine t:>easoned for about twelve n1onths. Exmnination from two to two and a half years later showed that of those fresh from the sa \V 66 per cent. were decayed and all had to be

removed frorn the line, those naturally seasoned before treatment were all in good order. Similar tin1bers treated vvithout natural seasoning used in connexion with a signal installation decayed in about two years. Subsequently, but before the treated sleepers had shown signs of decay, he gave an order for 60 ,000 powellised birch sleepers.

Consequent on the u11favorable results above rnentioned, the Departn1ent have decided not to purchase any rnore powellised sleepers, and also to close down their own plant for five or seven years. By that time the success or failure of the process will be definitely proved. Mr. Burnett adds that if the process proves to be a success it will

be highly advantageous to the Depart1nent and the country generally. Captain Saunders, Engineer in charge of the Port Augusta end of the Trans­ continental Railway, and who vilas Engineer in charge of the New Zealand powellising plant, said that he had been a firm believer in the process, but in 1911, he

received inforn1ation that the pine sleepers were decaying, and to a large extent corroboni.ted the opinion of lVfr. Burnett. On lOth .Tune, 1912, he sent a lengthy n1emo. re powellising to t he Engineer-in-Chief, lV[r. Deane, of which the following is an extract:--

" It has been elai1ned, however, by the patentee that the process will preserve all wood frmn being attacked by dry rot. This staten1ent has not been borne out in New Zealand, where t housands of white pine sleepers have t:>hown very marked evidences of decomposition after being two yean-; in the

ground, and the Railway Departn1ent have cancelled their contract \vith the Powell Company for all orders they had placed with the c01npany. " Captain Saunders stated that just prior to his leaving New Zeala.1_1d was advised of the decay of the pine f:>leepers, and had been shown some treated brreh tunber which also had decayed.

· Mr. Gorton clairns that a number of the pine were affected. by rot before

being treated, sorne being returned as unfit for treatn1ent, and t hat it wa '->_ po . .;sible the whole of thenl were affected prior to being treated. ln regard to t he bu:ch sleepers, he stated that, at a special investigation, railway officials being present, no trace of deterioration could be found; also he en1phatically asserted that the New Zealand

Government were still powellising sleepers. Mr. Coombs, lVIanager for the New Zealand Powel.l Company: stated that he believed .the failure of the pine sleepers was due to t he solutiOn not haVIng been brought to the boiling point when the timber was being treated.

In a letter dated 30th April, 1914, lVIr. Coombs admitted t hat an official notice had been received from the New Zealand Government t hat, a,· far as sleepers were concerned, they intended closing their powellising works until the sleepers already powellised were tested.

It seen1s strange to your Commissioner. ' .'vhen . Captain • 1 aunder· advi. ed

Mr. Deane, prior to the completion of the negotiatiOn w1th t he_ We ·tern Au. trahan Government for powellised karri, of the failure. of the treated pine_ · leeper,. , that he (Mr. Deane) should make inquiries through the Interested c01npany In. tead of through the Government of New Zealand.


Your are satisfied that the result of. powellising in New Zealand,

so far as the white p1ne sleepers are concerned, has proved a failure, and that there has not a sufficient time since the treatment of the birch sleepers to justify

any opinion bmng expressed.

. Any method of treatment which fails to extract the whole of the sap from the timber, and does not secure absolute impregnation of the solution, must fail to be successful in -the treatment of timber, and especially in a wood like karri. • .l\1r. Julius states that the general characteristic of karri is the acidity of the sap, and that primarily this was the reason of its developing dry rot. Mr. · W. B. Hirt, Works Chemist for Cuming, Smith Limited, said, " he did not think the process could be a success unless the sap was wholly removed. It depends on the removal of the sap containing albumen and on the infiltration into the fibre of the .wood of some substance containing material inhibitive to the growth of moulds and destructive fungi. If the sap was not entirely removed there would be distortion of the timber, and cracks would occur and give entrance for destructive agencies to get in."

That thorough impregnation can be · secured is undoubted, numerous analyses by chemists of high reputation proving this to be the case, but it is open to question whether the same results can be obtained when timber is treated· on a commercial scale. Mr. Stacey, Government Analyst, Western Australia, stated that he had failed to find any trace of arsenic when analyzing a nun1ber of samples . of treated jarrah sleepers, and seven analyses of jarrah piles failed to show impregnation. Analyses were then made to discover whether sugar could be found in the treated timber, the result showing invert sugar from ·08 to ·31 per cent. Subsequent examinations, however, showed that untreated timber in its natural state contained invert sugar varying from

·13 to · 28 per cent. The whole of the first 1,000 sleepers treated by the Western Australian Govern­ ment for the Commonwealth were conden1ned by the Department, owing to the analysis failing to show any trace of arsenic in the centre of the timber.

Your Commissioners cannot determine whether the process effectively extracts all the sap fr01n the timber, but there is undoubted evidence that in numerous instances the solution has failed to impregnate the tiinber. Opinions differ widely on the efficiency of the various treatments and devices that are in vogue for the preservation of timber, because there is very little reliable information to show what method of preserving sleepers from decay is best. It seems to your Commissioners that it is absolutely impossible to determine on the facts and }udge of the efficiency of a new process without an honest and accurate inspection of the class

of timber adopted for treatment, the method of treatment, so as to insure that it may be adopted on a cmnrnercial scale and careful periodic inspection when in use covering many years beyond the life of the untreated sleeper. Any process, before it can be proved of value as a treatment, must have the test of time, and its success or efficiency cannot be determined upon any theory. Lengthy practical tests supervised and inspected by disinterested engineers and scientists must be demanded before it can be assumed that it has been successfully demonstrated that the process has any commercial value. -

In the United States there is a Forestry Department connected with the Agricultural Bureau, and for the past ten years they have been making the most exhaustive tests there of various methods of preserving tyes on many of their railway systems in the States, and we believe it would be in the best interests of the Commonwealth if, in connexion with the proposed Agricultural Bureau, there should

be established a Forestry Department, advisory to the States on all matters pertaining to the afforestation, conf3ervation, and preservation of timbers, to which might well be added their nomen cia ture and standardization .





i. urge the immediate appointment of a Tender Board,

the necessity for whiCh has been forced on their attention throughout the whole of the inquiry. .

2. In every case where artificially treated tin1b ers are supplied to the Common­ wea:lth for public works, care should be taken, where in1pregnation of

antiseptics forms part of the process adopted, that the impregnation shall be thorough and in accordance with the approved formula.

3. Your Commissioners recommend that in all contracts let by the Government for the supply of goods or construction of works, public tenders should be invited, and a deposit insisted upon as a guarantee of good faith that the goods shall

be supphed or work constructed promptly and in accordance with the terms of contract. ·

4. The evidence of the most experienced experts examined proves conclusively that the 8-ft. sleeper gives as good a road, if not better, than that of a 9-ft. sleeper. The experience of New South Wales leaves no doubt on this subject, and the saving to be effected by using the 8-ft. sleeper over long lengths of railroad will be enonnous. Your Con1missioners, therefore, strongly fecommend that the size of sleeper to be used

on roads of standard gauge be 8 feet x 10 inches x 5 inches.

5. The severity on untreated timbers in the far north, with its extreme climatic conditions of tropical rains and intense heat, and white ants, render it necessary that on the railways of the Northern Territory careful tests, with complete records, should be made with sleepers of steel, reinforced concrete, and timbers treated by approved processes. This matter should receive prompt attention.

6. The increasing scarcity of first-class timbers, and the enormous areas of forest carrying what n1ay be termed second-class timber for railway sleepers makes it imperative that the Commonwealth should look ahead for its supply of timber for the long lengths of railroad which will be constructed in the near future. We therefore recommend that the Commonwealth Government should immediately take the necessary

steps to create a Departn1ent in connexion with the Bureau of Agriculture having for its object the testing, treating, and proper seasoning of timbers for use in railway and other public works construction. The necessity for the standardization and proper nomenclature of Australian timbers was forcibly brought under our notice. In various

States the same name is applied t o quite different timbers, whilst the sa1ne ti1nber carries varying names in different States. The importance of this subject cannot be too strongly urged.

7. That Western Australia possesses ample supplies of jarrah timber to fulfil the requirements of the Commonwealth for many years to come.

8. Summarizing the various practical tests of. railway sleepers and other timbers over 3 inches in thickness, your Commissioners consider-(!) That, so far as the test of powellised karri at E.ast P erth is concerned, there are many reasons for doubt and uncertainty, as-

(a) All the evidence up t o the time of your Commissioners: visit to Perth was that 30 karri sleepers had be n placed 1n the track at East P erth. This number was reduced by Mr. Light to eighteen, and when we visited t he ite there were

but twelve, one having been t aken up each year for inspection purposes. (b) The reports stated. that karri sleepers. suffering dry rot had been sandwiched in between t he treated karn sleepers

so as to affect, if pos ible, the treated sleepers with the disease. This was not fo und to be the ca. e, and your Commissioners _ are justified in querying whether the intervening untreated karri leeper · were . ound or not

when placed in the track.


(c) rl'hat if the treated timber were selected lmrri and naturally t>easoned, then, according to all expert evidence, including that of lVIr. Light, a much lon ger life than six or eight years might reasonably be expected. (d) That it is difficult to understand why, wheu the Government

had their own powellising plant at Banbury, and had recently powellised 40,000 to 50,000 jarrah sleepers for maintenance work, no effort was made to effectively test powellised lmrri.

(2) That the second test , viz. , that of a powellised karri cul ve rt, was absolutely ineffective as- ·

(a) The karri used was selected kan·i, and had been naturally seasoned in Government workshops for four years .. (b) That the timber was powellised twice, and possibly three times, to secure impregnation. (c) That your Commissioners, when making their inspection,

discovered that the bed log and other timbers in the culvert were of untreated jarrah. (d) That the period wl:J.ich had elapsed since erection (four years) was too short to justify any expression o£ opinion on the

merits of the treatment. (e) That the untreated jarrah was perfectly sound and free from attacks by white ants.

(3) That the test of 2,000 powellised New South Wales bluegum sleepers was an entire failure, the evidence being clear that the treatment had proved injurious to the timber.

(4) That the various tests made at the request of_ the Victorian Railways, Messrs. Alcock and Co ., and John Perry, resulted in serious injury to the timber treated. That the treatment of the mountain ash sleepers has resulted in severe shrinkage, serious splitting and warping, and has not been proved to be inhibitive to moulds.

(5) That the tests made in New Zealand have, in regard to the treatment of white pine, proved absolutely unsatisfactory, and in that of birch sufficient time has not elapsed to justify the expression of any opinion.

(6) That your Commissioners have no evidence of any number of sleepers having been treated by the process and having withstood the test of time.

(7) That the great majority of the railway engineers ·whom we examined declared that while prepared to give the process a trial they would not recommend its adoption on such an extensive scale as the contracts entered into by the Commonwealth Government.

(8) Your Commissioners, therefore, have come to the conclusion that there was no justification for the entering into of a contract for the supply of 1,400,000 powellised sleepers at a cost of approximately £560,000.

(9) Your Commissioners are unanimously of opinion that in entering into the contract with the ·western Australian Government for the of powellised sleepers the then Minister for Home Affairs acted wholly upon the advice of his responsible and expert advisers.

(10) Your Commissioners, however, realize the great benefit which would accrue to Australia if some method could be proved to be an effective pre­ ventive against dry rot and thus to the life ?f our inferior woods. Railway engineers have reahzed that t he d1fficulty of obtammg good serviceable sleepers is increasing, and would readily welcome any process which they were satisfied would to the life the provided the added cost of treatment d1d not unduly mcrea ·e their maintenance costs.


(11) Yo ur Commissioner:-; do nut GOllsider that t.l1e evid ence wholly condemm; the process---insta nce:-; have been brought under t heir observation where timbers f.rom] inch to H inehes in thickness have been improved by t he process--btit there is no evidenGe of any description which

could be accepted as Ro und t hat a fair and impartial t rial of the process has proved effective and ha;; given an ad dccl life to the treated. A h·ial of four or fi. ve ::-;ection:-; of 5 or 10 mile: :; each would probably have been j ustifi.ed, but your can fin d no excu::-;e for a

decision which involved the Comn1onwealth in a capital expenditure of £560 ,000 , to which must be added the enormou:-; cost of maintenance should the result be similar to that experienced in New So ut h .. Wales and New Zealand.

Your Conunissioners de:-;ire to record their appreciation uJ: the effi cient serviCe rendered by .l\l.r. J. Ulmer, the ::;ecretary t o the Conunission.

Jn conclusion, your Commissioners have much pleasure in submitting to Y OUT Excellency this report.

Your Commi::;sioners have t he honour t o be

Your Excellencv's most obedient ::;er vants, J

H. GREGORY (Chairm an). (L.s.)

A. POYNTON. (L. s.)

H. SINCLAIR. (L. s.)

J. BENNETT. (L.s.)

W. J. McWILLIAMS. (L .s. )

J. ULMER, Secretary.

Melbourne, 30th July, 1914.

. L


ADlVIINISTRATION.- HOlVIE AFFAIRS DEP ARTl\fENT. . We agree w!th our colleagues that it is not conducive to efficiency that Colonel Miller should continue to nominally hold the positions of Secretary for Home Affairs and for Commonwealth Railways whilst he devotes himself to the duties

of of the Federal Capital Territory, and think that it would be more

If the officers who are doing the work are appointed to the positions and

given the full responsibility thereof. At the same time we consider that for the efficient and economic organization of. the Department the practice instituted by the ex-Minister for Home Affairs (Hon. King O'Malley) should be continue

In technical matters, each deal direct with the lVIinister, and be responsible to him for the proper conduct of their respective subdivisions, subject to ·a general supervision of the Permanent Head. It should be clear that no individual can be master of all subjects, and no great industrial, financial, or commercial organizer attempts to master all the details. The Divisional Heads in command of the sub-Departments are specialists in their branches of work, and will best discharge their duties in the degree that they are left free.

\Ve find from inquiries made that in most States of the Commonwealth it is the practice, after the necessary approval has been obtained, to allow the expert and responsible railway officers to prepare (in conjunction with· the Crown Law authorities, if necessary) the contract documents in connexion with the supply of material or execution

of works required by their respective branches. In our opinion this is the correct course, as to centralize the business in the Permanent Head would lead to delays in references to the railway officers who are really responsible and know what is needed, and the magnitude of the operations would lead to congestion. Had the recognised

procedure been followed by the Engineer-in-Chief in the cases brought under our notice, everything in connexion with the entering into of contracts would have been in order.

TENDERS FOR TRANSCONTINENTAL RAILWAY SLEEPERS. With regard to the use of Tasmanian timbers for the Transcontinental line, we wish to point out that although the Engineer--in-Chief (Mr. Deane) expressed his doubt about the suitability of this particular t imber, the Minister of the day was anxious that all the States who could provide the sleepers should have an equal opportunity of tendering. Under these circumstances Tasmanian timbers were included in t he schedule. References have been made to the saving t o be eff ect ed by using

Tasmanian timber, but naturally when considering tenders t he fir st cost is not the only consideration; the quality of the article offered is borne in mind in addition to price. The Engineer-in-Chief, aft er receipt of t he and definitely . refused to recommend the acceptance of t he Tasmanian timber. In connexion with the Huon Company's t enders it must be remembered t hat t hey

were hedged round with such · stipulations t hat the was forced. to

conditions into serious consideration, and bearing In m1nd t he E ngineer-In-Chwf' · attitude, he was reluctantly co mpelled to relinquish, for time being, the of

Tasmanian timber on this National project . As an Instance of

Imposed, the Huon Company were not prepared to guarantee .the ::ffect1ve trea ument by the Powell process of Tasmanian timber, and although t hen· . pnce per sleeper :vas 3d. cheaper than Powellised Karri delivered at Port Augu. t a, It mu .t be ed

that the Western Australian Government absolutely guaranteed effective However it was wit h our co ncurrence t hat the recommendation · wa made t.o give a trial to 1'00 ,000 Tasmanian sleepers to replace a similar number of mountain ash sleepers, the contract for which was recently cancelled .. \Ve feel It our dL1t y to

point out t hat the use of Tasmanian t im? e.r in Ceylon , 1anilla,. or the. tate·

is not a suit able comparison, as t he of the at.m.o phen c ond1 wn.· the e

countries would be far different to t he conditiOns pertaining on t he Tran. nt1nental route. F.7514· c

With respe_ct to Lewis and this firm telegraphed on the day tenders

Apnl, 191_2-to the Engineer-In-Chief that they were prepared to supply

1! milhon of sleepers In three years at 6s. Sd. each. The Acting Engineer-in-Chief, on 4th May, 1912, asked Lewis and Reid to confirm the offer and to supply definite par­ ticulars." In reply_ the firm sent a tender, on proper form, dated 15th May, 1912, to supply Jarrah sleepers at 7s. each, delivered at Port Augusta. The Minister,

on of the Tender Board, ruled that a tender received fifteen days late

was Mr. Deane mentions this tender when on the 21 st 1912, he reported

to Minister upon the tenders received, and recommended the ordering of powellised karn sleepers-he suggested the offer might be considered later on-so that it is not understood how he was unaware of correspondence which had taken place in his own office. For reasons hereinafter mentioned it was decided to adopt the use of· powellised sleepers. .

We cannot agree with the Report of our colleagues in connexion with the contract for supply of powellised karri sleepers entered into · with the Western Australian Government. The Engineer-in--Chief and the then for Home Affairs were convinced that powellising so added to the

hfe of a sleeper by rendering it iinmune to dry rot and white ant that it was an economical proposition to use the powellised article, although the price was slightly higher. For instance, if- as contended by lVIr. Deane and other experts-the life of a j arrah sleeper is 14 years and the life of a powellised karri sleeper is double that time, it follows that 720,000 jarrah sleepers delivered at Port Augusta at 6s. 9d. would cost . . . . . . . . . . £243,000

to renew them at the end of 14 years at the same price would cost another . . 243,000

Total £486,000

to which must be added cost of taking up worn-out. sleepers, trucking and laying new sleepers, and disturbance of business on the second occasion-a considerable expense-whilst 720,000 powellised karri sleepers at 7s. 9d. each, to last the same number of years as the two lots of jarrah, would cost £279,000

Saving by using powellised karri least £200,000

To show that the Minister was not averse to the use of jarrah it Inay be mentioned that although Lewis and Reid's original tender was declared informal, subsequent arrangements were made whereby this :firm were given an order for several hundred thousand j arrah sleepers.

With reference to the suggested unbusinesslike methods of the Home Affairs Department in failing to call for tenders for the supply of powellised Victorian mountain ash, it must be borne in mind that general tenders had only been recently invited, and the avenues of supply had been practically limited to the Huon Company of Tasmania and the Victorian Powell Wood Process Coy. For reasons already explained the former company was practically out of court, and negotiations were entered with the latter. Further, the Huon Company were not prepared to erect the necessary plant to powellise the sleepers required, viz., 100,000. Under these conditions we cannot agree that the Home Affairs Department adopted unbusinesslike methods in this instance.

CONTRACT BETWEEN GOVERNMENT OF COMMONWEALTH AND WESTERN AUSTRALIA FOR SUPPLY OF 1,400,000 KARRI SLEEPERS. In the Majority Report, reference is made to the delay in constructing the railway line connecting the karri mills with the trunk line, and special reference is made to the interval of :five months elapsing between the acceptance of the contract and the commencement of construction. It must be remembered that sites for Nos. 2 and 3 mills had not been selected when the acceptance of the contract wa notified, and some delay of necessity occurred in this regard, and also in the surveying of the proposed railway. In addition, the State Railway Construction Department had also to construct developmental lines in other portions of the State, and statistics show the rate of con­ struction in the State generally was unprecedented.

Bearing these facts in mind, it is entirely erroneous to say " With a complete staff of officials and workmen and all requisite plant for railway construction, to allow five months to elapse before starting operations, and then took twelve months to complete 17 miles of railway in very easy country to connect existing railways with mill site. '

Further, the exceptional severity of the winter was admitted by all.

87 7


regard to the estimate of the manager, Mr. Properjohn, as t6 the maximum

production the _three karri mills of, 53,36_0 sleepers per month, we would point that this estimate only provided for five shifts working, whereas apparently six

could have been employed. Further, the " Spot " mill plant could have been

utilized to make up any deficiency. Mr. Scaddan, Premier of vVestern Australia also stated. if the three mills could not keep up the contract supplies, his was wilhng to erect another mill. We entirely disagree that the evidence showed that "the capacity of the mills had bee;n greatly and that there was not the faintest hope of the Western

:tustrahan Government ?eing able to fulfil its contract." We believe, and our opinion Is supported by the evidence of competent unbiased witnesses examined before the Commission, that Mr. Properjohn's estimate was very conservative, and that the plant available would easily be able to fulfil all contracts.

. . We further disagree that the State Government· displayed any lack of vigour In Its . e_fforts to_ fulfil contract, the evidence plainly showing that every possible expeditiOn, consistent with reasonable economy, was manifested. '£o emphasize that the State Government was desirous of avoiding any possibility of delay in the construction

of Transcontinental line, we desire to draw your attention to the fact that supplies of ]arrah sleepers were repeat edly offered by the State Government and accepted by the Commonwealth Governinent. Further, whilst taking evidence we were assured by competent authorities that there was not the slightest possibility of delay in

construction through lack of sleepers. In regard to the cancellation of the contract between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of vV estern Australia, we must express our surprise and regret that the Commonwealth Government acted so precipitately in cancelling

the contract during the investigations of the Commission, and immediately prior to the evidence . being taken in Western Australia. We consider that, in justice to the State, the merits of their case should have been investigated before such drastic action was taken.

The evidence plainly shows that sufficient sleepers were available at each end of the line for at least three months' work, and the cancellation of the contract is therefore all the n1ore inexplicable. .

We feel that the language used in the lVIaj ority Report, viz. : " One witness pleaded guilty to having deliberately suborned a witness" would hardly be borne out by a close study of the evidence, and further, a careful perusal of t he t elegra1n will indicat e that subornation is a charge which could not well have been

substantiated. The officer concerned erred, but only through excess of zeal, and not with any criminal One of the signatories t o this R eport

(lVIr. Burchell) has been mentioned as having called the Secretary of t he

Bunbury Lumpers' Union as a witness , and it would be well t o place on record what actually occurred. Whilst Mr. S. l\ticMullen, the Commonwealth Timber Inspector, was being examined at Bridgetown on Friday, 12t h F ebruary, he stated, in answer to Mr. Poynton, that " he had heard from the Jarrah Inspector that he had been told by

t he Secretary of the Waterside ' V orkers additional charge was t o be made for handli:ng powellised timber. " As this was purely hearsay ev-idence, Mr. Burchell , with a desire to obtain definite inforn1ation on t he point, suggested t o lVIr . P oynton that the matter should be allowed t o reJnain in abeyance until evidence \vas taken at Bunbury t he next day, whe11 the opportunity could be availed of t o secure t he the Secretary

of the Wat erside Workers there. Accordingly, when the Con1misswn aro e, ir. Burchell mentioned the 1natter t o the Secretary, suggesting that a wire sho uld .be ent to l\1r. Bolden (t he Secretary of t he Union) to insure his attendance, as t.he tm1e Commission would have at Bunbury would be liinited. There 1\1r. Burchell's ceased, and he had no knowledge of anything t hat tran. to t1he of the t elegram by the Secretary notify ing Mr. Bolden of t he IntentiOn of the Comn1I .. wn

to call him the next day. We cons.ider t he State Government were acting within their 1·ights in to produce files of papers until t hey had been to t h.e Law Ie

as these file s contained many details of costs whiCh m1ght preJUdiCially aff t th tat trading concerns if made public per mediun1 of Commi The refu. al to ar

the evidence of Mr. Johnson, · t he Minist er for Pubhc vVorks In P ert h, "' · · renuou ·ly fought by the undersigned, as we co nsidered t hat Mr. J ohru on would pro e one of the

inost important witnesses, and even without the file of papers, could have supplied, cross-examination, material facts. In justice to the State authorities, it must be

out that 1\!Ir. Johnson offered to supply all the papers asked _for, with the

exceptwn of those folios which contained the figures upon which his estimates of costs were based, but this offer was rejected by a majority of the Commissioners.

I-IANDLING POWELLISED TIMBER. ·we ccncur Vilith the Majority Report on this subject.


" T e consider the reference ,made to the Western Australian State's liability to pay royalty is one outside the purview of this Comrnission, and therefore unnecessary. At the same time we consider, if any preference is to be shown, the Western Australian Government are entitled to it, as they have been responsible for experimenting and pioneering the process. At the same time an examination of the arrangement entered into between the State Government and the Powell Company reveals the fact that the reduction was made primarily owing to the large quantity of timber to be powellised; secondly, the granting of saw mill rights over 15,000 acres of karri country ; and lastly, the agreement on behalf of the Government to accept 1,000,000 powellized karri sleepers from the Company.

When the decision was arrived at to use powellised karri sleepers on the Transcontinental Railway, the Western Australian Government decided to powellise karri sleepers as a State enterprise. To this end an agreement was entered into with the Powell Wood Company, dated 9th February, 1912, under which the State agreed to pay as royalty:-

(a) For all timber treated for the use and requirements of the said ment within the State, 9d. per 100 superficial feet. (b) For all other timber so treated, 2s. per 100 superficial feet. Subsequent negotiations between the ex-Minister for Home Affairs (Hon. King O'l\1alley) and the company reduced the amount of royalty from 2s. per 100 superficial feet to I s. 3d. per 100 superficial feet. The amount payable on the accepted tender for

1,400,000 sleepers was thus reduced considerably.


We concur with the Majority Report on this subject.


We concur with the Majority Report on this subject.


Our views on this question have already been placed before Your Excellency in an Interim Report, suggesting the adoption of a shorter sleeper.


We concur with the Majority Report on this subject.


Whilst agreeing with our colleagues in regard to many points mentioned under above heading, we feel the following facts should also be made known :-KARRI.

The use of karri sleepers on the Great Southern Railway in Western Australia was certainly productive of generally disastrous results, but the evidence shows that the trees from which these sleepers came were not select ed, but the forest was cut out "in the face. " Further, it was also shown that the " heart " and " sap" wood, following the English practice, was all included when cutting the sleepers. It is to be noted, however, that there not a few instances where karri sleepers remained in this



particular line for Inany years, and from this it is evident karri used underground cannot be condemned. .we append some extracts from reports issued by the \Vestern Austrahan Government In 1906, and compiled by l\1r . Julius. "Karri.- It is not generally considered that karri is a suitable t imber fo r underuround works or placed in water, but there are records of its being used under such conditions for 30 t o 40° years with only

a very small amount of decay . In superstructure works of wharves and jetties it has been taken out 20 years' service and found not only pra.ctically as good as when first emplaced, but even better ,

bemg sound throughout and extraordinarily hard, so as t o be almost unworkable with ordinary tools. Karn piles have also lasted for long periods vvhere t he conditions have been favorable." "Dry :fnts, &c.- Dry rot is a disease to which ' cut ' timber is subject, and which destroys the fibre , r educmg It ultimately to a powder .

The . diseases occur generally in timber used in damp and unventilated co nditions, par ticularly :vhen the timber has been used in t he ' green ' state, and hence railw ay sleepers are very prone t o develop It .

It t o be infectious, and is probably due t o, or at least assisted by the decompositio n of t he sap .. As known that certain of our timbers are more prone to t his disease than others, a chemical exammatwn of the saps was made, the results of which are given in table No . 5. Fr oi?- the preceding remarks with regard to the development of dry rot it is seen that t he presence

t he sap the chief source of trouble. This can be avoided in t hose t imbers that are generally aff ected,

either by usmg seasoned timber for sleepers, and preferably in so me dry well-ventilated ballast, such as blue n:etal, under which conditions karri will give excellent results, or by artificially removing the .sap from t he t1mber when green, and r eplacing it by some suit able substit ute. Such a process is now being experimented u pon, which promises not only to render the timber P.ractically immune to dry rot, but also t o attacks fr om white ants, and should this process , which is both

simple and cheap, prove successful as experiments to dat e promise, t here can be no doubt that karri will prove one of t he most valuable ' sleeper' timbers in the world."

From these it will that, apart from liability to at tack by dry rot, karri

is in n1any respects superior to jarrah. We desire to emphasize t he fact t hat t hese reports were compiled some years ago, long before any serious controversy arose relative to the respective merits of jarrah and karri timbers. And further , the evidence shows that many thousands of jarrah sleepers are removed from the road annually, owing to

this class of timber, otherwise perfectly sound, failing t o hold the dog spikes . In this respect karri is undoubtedly a superior timber, and t he annual saving in n1aintenance when karri is used should be very material from this stand-point alone.


We concur with the J\IIajority Report on this subject.


\Ve concur with the Niaj ority R eport on this subj ect.


\Ve concur with the Majority R eport on this subject.


The l\1ajority Report exhaustively discusses the P owell P! ocess, but we .feel t hat some of the statements made are not justified in view of the and as Instances of this we wish to direct Your Excellency's attention to t he :- .

The fact that the Powell process has not been adopted In

Britain and America is no doubt accounted for by local co nditwns, I_n our opinwn , has no bearing whatsoever on t he treatrnent as applied to Australian tl_ mbers, or the efficacy thereof. . . f' 11· . · -' f •

Reference is also made in the onty R eport t o t he value o .Po.we LIng, 1 a success , to any country possessing large of clas of and we

wish to point out that , since t he Con1n11sswn ceased takm g evidence,. 1t ha. b en published in the daily press t hat t he Nort h-West R aih:ray Company of India ha.· into an agreement with the P owell of India to powelhs 1 le per.

of inferior tiinbers. From this fact It IS fau t o as. ume .t he exhau. tlve t e t. made in India have amply demonstrated the of the Ing proce ·, ·

We feel that in considering t he ments and of t he Powell tr at1nent,

experience in other portions of the world should have uue weight. 1 The fact that the _ small plant erected by he We. trahan Powell _ompany wa.' closed dmvn is only an indication t hat its purpo e wa · ed. pland

t reated_ small quantit ies, for e.' , and :until t e.. f Ime h een

con1plied with the company could not po. sibly ex end he1r op ratwn ·


The l\1ajority Report leaves the inference that the engineers in Western Australia had recommended the use of powellised karri on insufficient tests, and we beg to quote the following evidence to show that .this was not so :-8414. Will you tell us what tests have been made by you of this process ?- The first test we made was with some karri sleepers. We tried it on the karri first. I might say that for some years my idea was to use karri sleepers. It seemed to me a pity that we should not make use of timber which was so good for holding the dog spikes, and I was always on the look out for a preservative. When the powellising process came along, I thought we might make some use of the karri. I consulted with Mr . Julius, who knew my views and he said, "Give it a trial." ';y e fitted up a small tank, a very temporary arrange­ ment, and put m p1pes to boil the stuff as an experiment. VVe treated some sleepers, and these sleepers have been in the road ever since. " Te knew nothing about the process at the time, and did not know what we ought to do or leave undone. It was simply an experiment, so much so that we did not put any arsenic in the timber. We never thought of that.

8505. ·we had the witnesses, and examined them, and they had the timber treated by the experts from the Powell Company, and they described in their report how all the larger timbers were shattered. The small timbers were all right, but the large timbers were shattered, and, in their report, while not condemning the process, they do not recommend it for railway sleepers. That is in Victoria, where, I suppose, £100,000 has been spent by those people in erecting a powellising plant. The process proved all right with small timbers, but the question was whethet, with larger timbers, they could regularly get the impregnation ?- Oh, you can get the impregnation all right.

85b6·. Have you heard the result of the powellising of your first vat of sleepers ?- Yes. 8507. It was a failure, was it not ?- So I understand. I have a piece of timber out here, if you would like to see it, a pile 19 inches in diameter, and the Government Analyst has given me a certificate that he has it in the middle.

8608. You would like to show us some samples of powellised timber ?- Yes ; I produce a piece of a jarrah pile. 8609. How far from the top of the pile was that piece cut ?--Four feet. This is a portion of a pile which had been driven, and the top has been cut off. We sent this to the Government Analyst, and the borings in the centre and the outside were made by him for the purpose of analysis.

8610. By Mr. Burchell.- Have you received the Analyst's report ?- Yes. 8611. By Mr. Bennett.- Which analyst ?-Mr. Stacy. 8694. You have heard the results of the trials by the Governments of New Zealand, Victoria, and New South \Vales of the powellising treatment ?--Yes.

8695. And in the face of that information do you still think the Government justified in ordering a million and a half of powellised sleepers on your tests ?-If they use the local timber here, I a!n satisfied of it. Of course, I do not know anything about New Zealand or Victorian .timbers. 8752. If good untreated timber can be obtained at a reasonable price, you still think it would pay to utilize powellised karri ?- I think it would. Karri holds the dog spikes better than jarrah, and that means less cost in maintenance, because, first of all, when a man sees the dog spikes standing up alongside the rail, as I do sometimes, he has to walk along with a spiking hammer and drive them down. He does that once ; next time he has to either restore the sleepers or plug the hole, and tha,t means money. 'iVith the karri sleeper, that is what you are saving.

8753. Has any karri sleeper lasted long enough to prove whether the do g spikes do hold longer 1 --Oh, yes. Capital appears to be made of a report by Mr. Light, Chief Engineer for Existing Lines, Western Australia, under date 2nd Septen1ber, 1911, wherein Mr. Light states

that the sleepers used by the State railways are " principally karri and jarrah," and comn1ent is made that "this is far from correct." The further statement is made that, according to Mr. Light's own evidence, there were 6,000,000 jarrah sleepers, 8,000 wandoo, and 82 karri sleepers in use in the State system. · AB a matter of fact, when . Mr. Light submitted his report, in 1911, there .were 60,000 karri sleepers in the Torbay Junction-Denmark Section, whereas the evidence given by Mr. Light before the Conl­ mission refers to the present time. From this it will be seen that Mr. Light's statement,

of 1911, that "principally karri and jarrah sleepers are in use " is actually correct, and his subsequent evidence is in no way contradictory, as the karri sleepers on the Denmark Railway had in the interim been ren1oved from the line.

The use of the word " karri " before " jarrah n in the report of 1911 is easily explainable, and will be readily understood when it is remembered that the largest jarrah timber n1erchants in the State are known as Millars' I{arri and Jarrah Timber Company.

"\Ve feel that Mr. Light had absolutely no ulterior motive in placing karri before jarrah, but only followed lo cal custom in referring to the two classes of timber.

The Majority Report in referring to this matter adds :- " Thi. error is very misleading, and we can only assume it was due to inadvertence; but we cannot under­ stand why it was not corrected when attention was drawn to it. " The subjoined letter from l\1r. Light to Mr. Deane clearly demonstrate that when attention was drawn to


the apparent discrepancy, the original statement of the former gentleman was substantiated, and we consider there is no justification for the words used in the Majority Report :-_

Dear Sir ­

lOth October, 1913.

In reply to yours of the 28th August. In view of my statement having been doubted, for your information I have to advise that at the time my letter of 2/ 9/ 1911 was written we had over 60,000 karri sleepers in the track--the locality \vas from Torbay Junction to Denmark, a distance of 28! miles. Some were laid in the year 1886 and the balance in the year 1896. ·

Yours faithfully, (Sgd.) E. E. LIGHT,

H. Deane, Esq., M:.Inst.C.E.,

Chief Engineer of Existing Lines.

Engineer-in-Chief for Commonwealth Rail·ways, Department of Home Affairs, 84 William-street, Melbourne.

The attempt to further discredit the concluding paragraph of lYir. Light's Report of September, 1911, appears to us to be entirely uncalled for.

The Railway Departnwnt's powellising plant, at Bunbury, was erected in 1908, and if the object was not to treat" such ti1nbers as are susceptible to dry rot and termites " then we cannot understand for what purpose the plant was erected. The claim for the refers particularly to " dry rot" and " termites," and it is absurd to suppose

the plant was erected for any other pu:&pose than to combat these two pests.

The quotation of evidence to show that lVIr. Light did not officially recmnmend the use of powellised karri seen:1s to be irrelevant, the fact remains the powellising plant at Bunbury was erected during lVIr. Gregory's ?"egime as lV[inister for Railways, and obviously he must have been thoroughly acquainted with the object in view.

From the evidence subn1itted it would appear t hat there is room_ for a difference of opinion as to whether karri untreated is a suitable timber for railway sleepers owing to dry rot developing when placed in the ground. vVe desire to quote from a report by Professor l\1:acKenzie, F.S.I., written from Morton I-Iall, Liberton, and bearing date

21st January, 1910 :-" You will observe two sections of the timber treated by your (Powell) process are absolutely free from attack, notwithstanding the severity of the test , while the untreated sections are attacked all round. By this test, I am satisf1ed that this deadly fungus (dry rot) 1vill no t attack the tissue of any timber treated

by your process."


The Powellising Wood Process Ltd .

Dear Sirs, On the 13th November, 1906, you se nt me three sections of karri (Eucalyptus diversicolor) to test for '' dry rot." The sections were marked :-1. N 175.- The timber in its natural condi tio n.

2. A 175.- Processe d by your treatment. .

3. 17 5.- Processed to prevent t he ravages of.wh1te ants. As to the lat ter I had no means of testinO' . I think it more satisfactory to you to fo rward the timbers a::; they left the test. 'That will sho w them in their exact condition.

These sections have been in contact and embedded in active " dry rot" for nine month ·, and, as you can see, t he following is t he result :- . . . .

The processed section 3, No . 175- though there are spores upon 1t, 1t JS not attacked by t he fungi-some of the fun gi adhering, but dead. .

1. N o. N 17 5.- This section is covered with fungus, which goes , I_ tfunk, t_ o pro:e that t he treated wood will r esist t he disease, while the woo d in its natural conditwn w1ll peld read1ly to 1t . 2. No. A 175.- Spores and some fungi issue adhering, but dead. . I need hardly mention t hat the timbers were placed in a most favorable position for attack. All

the woods placed along with them were quite " eaten out .' D. F. _L\ ·KENZIE F , ,I,



From this it would appear that it is impossible to develop dry-rot fungus in pr?perly powellised karri timber. This laboratory t est is strongly supported by the evidence of J\1r. Thompson, Engineer-in-Chief, Western Australia, who said:-7921. Do yo a consider that the East Perth test has been effective yet '1- Yes; the powellised, as con,1pared with the unpowellised, has shown to advantage. The unpowellised timber was rapidly destroyed, the powellised is there still. In other words, unpowellised karri placed in that position has only a

hfe of a couple of years. . 7922. But, according to the evidence we had, that timber was affected when it was put in; it was sandwiched in between sleepers affected with dry rot ?- The sleepers were put down in 1906, powellised alongside unpowellised, and I inspected them in 1911 and 1912, and found the unpowcllised ones were suffering badly, practically ruined through dry rot, whilst the powellised ones were sound.

7932. Do yo u consider it an effective test on which to base a recommendation for t he use of powellised kal"l·i sleepers ?- As far as the preservation of timber from dry rot goes, yes. 7933. You consider you would be justifi ed in recommending the use right through ?--Yes. 7960. Yon think the tests made here were sufficient to justify the process ?- I am convinced t hat the process is sufficient to prevent dry rot and white ants in karri . I ca nnot speak with regard to the timbers in any other State.

804-3. On the test of 30 sleepers of th at kiml, do you think you would be justified in recommending the Government to accept a tender for 1 million sleepers ?- Yes. 8044. On that test ?--The test of a few would be the same as a test of a number. 8105 . What conclusion did yon come to as the result of those experiments ?- That it was a good process .

8106. You would be quite prepared to recommend it ?- Yes. 810.7. What is yom· opinion of karri as a timber ?- It is a very good hardwood indeed, except for the one fault that is is liable to dry rot. 8108. If any process could be devised which would overcome dry rot in karri it would mean a distinct ad vantage to the State and to the Commonwealth as a whole ?- Yes.

8128. It is a big responsibility to recommend the Government to such a large expenditure in con­ nexion with the powellising of karri timber, but you are quite satisfi ed that the tests which have been made in Western Australia are sufficient to justify you in making that recommendation ?- Yes. 8133. In the construction and maintenance you are undertaking now, do you propose to use onl y powellised timber ?- I would not like to say. It all depends on·the quantities of timber we can get, and the rate of deliveries.

8134. But if yo u have mills that are able to deliver the whole of· the powelliscd karri you want?-­ 'fhen I should prefer to use karri. powellised. 8145. If, as constructing engineer, you were asked to advise a company as to what sleepers they should use, would you advise then to lay down only powellised karri ?- I would be prepared to do so, if I could get them.

8146. But, putting the getting of them out of mind altogether, would you be prepared to rec ommend a company constructing a line like the Transcontinental Railway to put down only karri timber ?- I would. 8202. Have you any idea what causes this dry rot in sleepers ?- It is a fungus growth-a disease.

8203. Does the powellising kill that disease ?-I consider it does.

Mr. Thompson's attention was called to the fact that the Port Hedland line consisted of powellised j arrah sleepers, and his remarks thereon were-8126. Do you consider that if powellised kani had been utilized on t he line it would have been equally effective ?- I consider so .

8127. You believe in the process ge nerally? - ! do .

Also the evidence of Mr. Light, Chief Engineer of Existing Lines, Western Aus­ tralia, clearly proves that powellised karri will resist dry rot. 8428. I will read the report:- " Some years ago a number of processed sleepers, karri, were placed in the line, sandwiched in between sleepers badly affected with dry rot, and have stood the test well, proving thoroughly resistant to the inroads of the fungus." ·

8519. And the only test yo u have given us is that of thirty-five sleepers, eighteen of which are at East Perth ; only those few sleepers and the naturally-seasoned karri in the bridge. Do you really think you were justified in going in so extensively for the process on the stren gth of t hose tests ?- I considered the test was good enough at the time, because the sleepers at East Perth were put down in about as bad a place as yo u could find. They were not in dry sand, as reported in Melbourne, but practically half in water. So bad is the place that even the rails were eaten away.

8520. Why were some not put in in a hot, dry cli mate ?- We wanted to test them in th e worst place. 8548. I want to know whether y ol}. consider six years an effective test ?- Undoubtedly, hom what I saw of the sleepers. 8783.- You said t his morning that the eighteen sleepers which were originally laid down at East Perth were laid half in and half out of water ?--Yes.

8784. Is the line at present in the same condition a.· it was then, and if no t, in what way was it altered ?- How do you mean ? 8785. The formation ge nerally surrounding it ?- I t has altered a little in the last few months. We put in a siding to the new power house, and that has partly drained t he cuttings . It catches a spring befor e it gets to the main cutting, but the water is still in the cutting.

8786. There is no doubt toot the particular spot where the sleepers were laid was one of the worst places where powellised ka.rri co uld be tried ?-Yes, we have a wooden drain on either side at the bottom to try to clear the water off.



Arising out of your previous evidence, you were asked by a number of members of the

Cornmtsswn of the alleged insufficient t est carried out by you, that is the 30 m 35

s,leepers placed m the lme at East Perth, near in 1906, and on which you recommended the

State m 1911, the use of powelhsed karn sleepers on the railways after a test of only five years -y?u. st1ll cons1der the Government would be justified in expending the large sum of half­ a-tmllwn of money on powelhsed karn sleepers for use m the construction of the Trans-Australian Railwa v, and you expressed yourself do consider expenditure justified. Can you gi;o

the vhe reason on whJCh such opmwn JS based ?-That rs taking the test carried out o£ the 35

slceperR m the two places. 10645. Yes ?-Well, the reason I recommended, and would still recommend it, is that when the sleepers were powclliscd-tha.t 35- the question arose as to where was the worst place in which to put them. The chHJf place at the t1me was the Graat Southern, where sleepers were badly eaten every few ye.ars. I asked the Inspector whJCh he considered the wo rst part of the line, and he said at t he 24 or 25 m.Ilc , wh.crc sleepers never lasted more than four years. The first lot; had decayed in four years, and those Wlth whtch they replaced were worn out again in four rears. I said to him, " \V c arc sending you some powclhsed and [ want you to put them m the worst place." After t he expiration o£

f?ur. years an that the sleepers were good as the day they were pu t in.

I said, They wtlllast at least another four years, wh1ch JS doublmg t he hfe of sleep ers at that;

pomt, and conse quently where, in another place, sleepers will last ten years t hey ca.n be made to las!; at least twenty years." East Perth is as bad a place as any on the GrfJat So:.tthern, be ca use t here is alwa ys water in the cutting, and the sleepers are lying in the water. ·

10646. Then you have no hesitation whatever in recommending to -Ghc Stai;e Government t he use of powellised karri sleepers on their own roads ?-'I'hat is so. That really was t est of Ji ve ye.trd beforo 1 made the recommendation, but it was really made on t he first four years' G cst. 8652. How long have you been satisfied with the success of the process ?-I think about four o1· five years.

8i67. There arc tested timbers, such as some you have. 'l'ake the t im bers that arc generally used in railways, which have stood years of testing, and which arc practically proved as go ocl t imbers, with an average life of at least finccn years, will you s-till recommend this cxperime':lt with in[erior t imb en:; ?- ­ I should be inclined to recommend tre'1tcd karri.

8768. For such an enormous experiment as one a half million sle epers ?- Yes ; I certainly would. 8769. Then you accept the whole process as complet ely proved ?-That is so. 8857. Yon have heard the evidence of Mr . Burnet t , and the extracts frmn Mr . Burnett 's evidenec in New Zealand, and Mr. Fraser's evidence in New South Wales regarding the powcllising pr oces;;. Arc ,you still quite satisfied that the powellising of karri is justifie d, and will prove satisfactory ?- Yes, I am.

8858. As an engineer, ho·lding the responsible position which yo u do , and knowing your reputation is at stake, you are still prepared to make that statement ?-Yes; I am quite prepared to us e t hem in our maintenance. 9059 . And are you satisfied in the light of your experience with powcllising, and in the light of yo ur experience with those sleepers which you have put down and tested, and with selected karri timber, that the powellising will be beneficial to the Western Au stralian Govemment and to the Commonwealth ?­ I think so.

90i2. By the Hon. King 0'111alley.-However, you arc sa,tisfied, Mr. Light, that there has been no mistake made by the Commonwealth in entering into this business ?-I do not think there has been any mistake about it. I am satisfied that the powellising process is a success.

Under heading of Western Australia, it is stated that the only test made of powellised karri sleepers was the treating and placing in railway line at East Perth. We consider that this test is quite sufficient, and this Sl?Ot is, stated by

Mr. Light to be one of the worst places in the Western Australian hnes for sleepers, being in a cutting, and half under water half the year. In the Majority Report, reference is made to the that records had not been kept such as might be anticipated on such an important subJ ect.

We consider the sleepers still lying in t.he line are ample .and suffi cient of the value of the sa1d test. Further reference 1s made to the eff ect that Mr. Gorton stated that 50 powellised sleepers had been laid at East P erth.. On reference. to the evidence, question No . 24, Mr. Gorton was asked how rnany, and lus answer 1s as fo ll ow :::; : - "I do not know the nurnber," therefore it is plain t hat the statement made to what Mr. Gorton stated is not co1-rect. A further statement is made in the l\1a]onty R epOT t

that Mr. Julius stated that the number of powellised karri sleepers placed East Perth was 30. On reference to the evidence given by Mr. Julms, we fi nd thattlu s statemen t is also absolutely incm-rect, as Mr. Julius made no statement as to the number o£ sleeper. ·, and from the evidence it is proved t hat M!· Light :vas t he on ly t hat had abso!u tc knowledge of the exact number of powelhsed karn sleepers placed m the lmc at East Perth.

These two engineers were the only witnesses who appea red. before the Commiss.ion who were competent to express an opinion of powell1sed karn from actual practlcal expenence,


. evidence, coupled with Professor MacKenzie's report, is, in our opinion, quite warrant the use of powellised karri sleepers in large quantities, and

thoroughly JUStifies the acceptance of the original contract for 1,400,000 powellised karri sleepers. References are made in the lVIajority Report to the negotiations between the New South Government and the Western Australian Government for the supply

of .900,000 karri sleepers, and emphasis is laid upon the fact that none of the railway engineers were specifically asked to report on the subject to 1\'Ir. Griffith, Minister for Public Works, New South Wales. We wish to point out that the Powell process was comparatively well known in New South Wales, and up to that time very satisfactory results had been obtained. circumstances, we fail to see how any great·importance can be attached to

the. Minister for Public Works in New South 'Vales acting without consulting the engineers. We also consider satisfactory the explanation offered, viz., that until definite information regarding prices was available there was no need to obtain engineering opinions. Here again prices and qualities would of necessity be considered when finally determining the letting of a contract.

The ultimate failure of these negotiations was entirely due to the fact that the 'Vestern Australian Government finally advised their inability to supply powellised karri sleepers. The influence of these negotiations between the two State Governments upon Mr. Deane, the Commonwealth Government, and Parlian1ent, would no doubt

have great weight; but we do not agree that there was anything other than fair and legitiinate business intended. We consider that the reference in the Majority Report to the agreement entered into between the Po,:vell Company and the 'Vestern Australian Government, and the quoting of the clause:- " Of the acceptance by the licensee on behalf of the said Government of a tender by the patentees to said Govern1nent of 1,000,000 powellised karri sleepers" is entirely uncalled for. The references to the agreement giving no information as to price, and size of the sleepers, also penalties, is not unusual It is customary in Western Australia that contracts for sleepers are let on a printed form supplied for the purpose by the State Governn1ent, and thy conditions, prices, tern1s of delivery, penalties"; are set out in the said

contract forn1, and would not appear in the agreement dated 27th February, 1912, any more than would the saw-mill permit referred to in the said agreement. We attach no importance to the agreement failing to include all these details. Further references are also made in Majority Report :- " No effort appears to have been made

to enforce this contract, nor has there been any atten1pt made to supply, and it seems doubtful, in view of the fact that the Government had undertaken to treat 10,000,000 super. feet per year by this process, and intended and have since erected their own plants, whether it was ever intended that they should be supplied. " It is not correct to say, "nor has there been any attempt made to supply. " Mr. Gorton informe4 the

Commission the company were trying to increas e their capital to enable this contract to be fulfilled, but up to that date, for various reasons, had been unsuccessful. It however, a fact that 50,000 karri sleepers have been cut by the Powell Company on their concession in Western Australia. The ren1ainder of t his clause is pure assumption, as there is no evidence to support any such statement.

The l\1ajority Report states " in to the supply of powellised karri to

the New South Wales Government, your Con11nissioners desired to see the Western Australian Works Department's file on the subject of these negotiations, but its production was refused. " The file was certainly asked for, and, under certain condit ions, would have been made available. We quote from a state1nent n1ade by Mr. W. D. ,Johnson, l\1inister for Public vVorks, which fully explains t he position :- ·

There is absolu·bely no objection to the production th,t,t file , pr?vicled .matter . tLre no t disclosed to the public. There is no separate fil e dealing with those part icular been a misunderstanding over this, and I think it ought to be Th.ere is no obJeCtiOn to

you the file dealing with the negotiations for supply of. powelbsed karn to the So u ·h

·wales Government but on the file which contams the details of t ho e ne ot1at10n my e tnnatcs of cost of the production of sleepers. Mr. Munt, yesterday, took the r!pht attitude . The ommi i?n should not know these details, because it is desirable that the mformat10n should not be made pabh c. I am in competition in a trading co ncern with outsiders, and I do not want them t o know my co t and details. . M l\lf

The Ohairman.-Those instructions were given by the Premier prior to my summon to r. 1.unt. Mr. Johnson.-That is so; but I want to put 1VIr . lVIunt rirrht, becau. e there ha been a,




The Chairman.-! can only deal ':ith the resolution which has been approved by the Commission that we should ask you to get that order Issued by the Premier's office rescinded. . 1 11fT . J ohnson.-Am I to understand that you desire the State Go vernment to place the whole of the1r file s at your disposal-c-files containing the details of how we make up our estimates, as to the cost of the supply of t he materials, that it might be made public, that our competitors miaht know all our business ? If you t hat, it is distinctl:y: unfair, not reasonable to ask for, and, of c;urse, I ca.nno-t produce it.

Mr . lVIunu s summons was defimte and d1stmct. H e could have produced that which he was summoned to P!o.duce, but you asked him to produce more, and he could not produce it . I could no t . I objected to grvmg the same file to the Parliament of the State. The Chairman. ----:-But these instructions -vvere issued by the Premier priorto t hat.

_ M r ·. J vV ell, I say if want all the file s so t hat yo 11 can get the whole of my business

I cannot g1ve 1t to you. _ I am not go mg to trust a.nybody with the details of my business . The Oha,innan._:Will you give consideration to that request of the ?

M1·. J ohw;on -I have told you, Mr. Chairman, that to give the details of my business, t he '.vholc of the file s, I cannot give them to you. Hon . Eing O'Malley.-Havc your details got anything to do with the contracts between you and the New South ·w ale s

11:'11'. J ohnson.- Absolutely. All 111y figures arc on the file,· all my calculations. My competitors

would hke to get thc: m. The Chairman.-That will do. 111r. J ohnson.-Is that t he whole The Chairman.-Yes.

The evidence referred to in the Majority Report in connexion with t he result o.f powellised flooring used by the Sydney Harbor Trust in cellars where unpowellised has been . previously l!sed and rotted in very short time, we consider strong

evidence as showing that the Powell process does protect ti1nber fron1 the attack of dry rot. vVe consider this evidence most valuable as showing the increased life of the powellised timber as against the life of the san1e timber unpowellised, and under very severe conditions the timber has been proved to be i1nmune to the attack

of dry rot.

The evidence given by Mr. Gordon, the Cit y Surveyor, Sydney, of his experience of powellising wood block used in Sydney street, said experience extending over six years. This evidence we consider of the utn1ost importance, and fully proves the superiority of powellised over unpowellised timber, and l\1r. Gordon further said (question

12,365) that the use of powellised wood blocks in the Sydney streets was saving the City Council thousands of pounds per year. The fact that the powellising of wood blocks by the Sydney City Council is saving that council thousands of pounds per year, after making allowances for the extra cost of the powellised as against unpmvellised wood blocks, we think is very strong evidence of the value of the Powell process, and cannot

be too strongly mnphasized. ·


1\!Iention is made in the 1\!Iajority Report as to whether t he karri sleepers used in the East Perth Cutting were of selected karri. \Ve find no mention in the evidence of same having been selected, to the contrary, they are referred to by 1VIr. Light as ordinary karri sleepers; whereas, the lrarri sleepers referred to as having been tested

by Mr. Julius and found in good order after nineteen years' service, are only a few, and were evidently the few selected ones which were left of a large number that were originally put in the line, and the attempt in the Majority R eport to belittle the value of the Powell process on this account is, in our opinion, . entirely. unwarranted; and we are of. the

opinion that the result of the test of powelhsed karn sleepers earn ed out by l\1r. Llght is of the greatest importance in favour of the vahw of the Powell process. With reference to the jarrah culvert on the which ·.been de tro_ye.d

by .. white ants, and replaced by a powelli. ed karn culvert, In t he lVIaJ onty R eport I stated that your Con11nissioners could fi nd no trace of white ant the ed

karri culvert or adjacent jarrah sleepers. We agree t hat there were no sign · of white ants in the culvert, but wish to state that one of the railway workn1en that were Ire ent during the inspection by your Cominissioners up pi e_ of jarrah tin1b er lying on the ground alongside the culvert, and sa1ne wa · with an s, and he _ . howed

same to. Commissioners. In view of this

It surpa ·. our _und e_r. tandJng how

the l\1a]onty Report can make a . nke that. 'W_I thi eviden of he

presence of white ants in the immediate VICID?-ty, and when 1 1 · red hat

jarrah culvert which had originally been put In wa. de. t!oyed by white ant , and .. been replaced by powellised karri which had ood .agmn. any ta k by h white

ants, we consider t hat this is further very · rong evidence of the value of the owell


process for treatment of timber to n1ake it i1nmune to the attack of the white ants, and more especially as the culvert was built of karri which, in its natural condition, is said to be very subject to the attack of the white ants. In the lVIajority Report an attempt is made to belittle the value of the Powell process owing to the fact that the State Railway had not used 1nore powellised karri in its lines since the result of the tests had been so favorable, and further,

1t states that the Wilgarrup Karri and J arrah Company were operating in karri country. We wish to point out that the said company had at the time a contract to supply the Railway Department with 6,000,000 feet of karri which the Railway Department powellised at their powellising plant, at Bunbury, and used in the con­ struction of railway waggons. We also wish to bring to your notice ·the fact that this was the only mill that was operating in the karri forests at the time, and it will be seen fron1 1\Ir. Light's evidence that this company had quoted hi1n for karri sleepers, but that the price was so high that the Railway Department would not accept same. . The l\tfajority Report states that specially selected karri undoubtedly would last longer than the proved life of the treated sleeper at East Perth. vVe wish to point

out that this statement is deliberately misleading, for the following reasons :-1. There is no evidence that these sleepers are from specially selected karri, but the evidence proves that such was not the case, and that both the karri sleepers untreated and powellised were taken haphazard as they

came and some powellised and the others left in their natural condition. 2. There has been no proved life of the powellised karri sleepers, as they are still in the line and in good condition, and appear likely to be there

for many years to come. Further, there is a very important fact which the Majority Report does not bring to your notice, as follows :- That the powellised and unpowellised sleepers were placed in the line at the same ti1ne, and while the unpowellised sleepers are all more or less decayed, the powellised sleepers are still sound. This we consider of the utmost importance in proving the value of the Powell process as applied to karri timber.

Further, we wish to point out that the evidence shows that these karri sleepers comprised the first lot of karri timber treated by the Powell process, and it is only reasonable to suppose that the benefits of the process would be more marked as further consignments of karri were treated, and thereby the treatment of this particular class of timber more fully understood.

In connexion with the evidence given before the Con1mission, it is only fair to say that, in addition to refusing to call Mr. Johnson, Minister for Public Works, Western Australia, several other witnesses were not called. We feel that the course adopted by the majority of the members of the C01nmission shut out some valuable evidence that was available both on the 1nerits of karri and the Powell process. The witnesses we refer to were :-

1. Mr. Bethell.-- This gentleman originally introduced the Powell process into Western Australia, and, owing to the manner in which the subpmna was issued at Perth, was unable to attend at the specified time. Mr. Bethell, however, did attend on the Commission later, and arrived at an undel"standing with the Chairman as to when he should be called. This arrangement was not adhered to. Subsequently Mr. Bethell was available in l\tfelbourne, but was not called. Important business then compelled lVIr. Bethell to revisit Western Australia, and, although this was known to the Chairman of the Commission, insufficient time was allowed prior to the closing of the taking of evidence to enable Mr. Bethell to return to Melbourne.

2. 1\lir. J. R. Smith.- We append copies of letters which passed between 1\tfr. Smith and the Commission. They speak for themselves :-

The Chairman, The Powellising Commission, Parliament House, Perth.

89 Oxford-street, l\'fa ylands, 19th F ebruary, 1'914.

Dear Sir I bea to inform you that about six and a half years ago I had a lot of fence posts and rough flooring boards They were all jarrah, and were used in connexion my house at above address .

The flooring boards were laid on the gro und for footpaths, and used m 6-ft. fencmg. The floorina was about 6 inches x 1 inch, and the po st s 5 mches x 3 mches. As I have reason to believe that I am 0

about the only private person within 500 miles of Pert h. who has any powellised jarrah in use-and who has had it in use about six and a half years-:wit hout removing from original place, I think it would be as well worth the while of the members of the above Board to mspect 1t.



. As I have no interest in the and only tried it for an experiment, i believe my

case IS of the utmost to_ the Com::msswn. The whi·t:,e ants are pretty thick on my land and

I show :you plenty of ordmary Jarrah whiCh has been eaten by white ants alongside powellised jarrah I hsJs not been touched by the ants. Nearly all my fence posts were powellised, but one

of , them, was not, only lasted _three and wa s absolutely riddled, and only the shell left.

I remo:ed It then, and placed a powelhsed post m res place, and during this last three to four years I believe the _white ants have not the post, although the pickets and rails alongside are riddled. I put

a, piece off of the posts mto a wh1te ants' nest, and after being there a year it had not been touched. 'I he boards on the ground have apparently not been touched either, and t here are a few hundred "fe et of them, and nmther posts nor boards have been moved since put in position six and a half years ago.

. As rny house is so near to Perth, it would be a pity to miss the inspection of this timber by yo ur Board, and yo u could t ake some ·of the posts and boards away if you wish, and test them or cut them up. The timber 1vas not of the best quality before it was powellised, but it was o·ood enouah for the purpose.



. I sh?uld be _only_ too pleased to place any of the material at your disposal, and do anything I can to assist you m yo ur mqmry. .

I am,

Yours respectfully, (Sgd.) J. R . SMITH,

care of Chief Accountant, vV.A.G.R ., Perth.

Legislative Assembly, \V estern Australia, 21st February, 1914 .

Dear Sir, . Referring to your telegram of even date, I am directed to inform you that your report has been received by the Powellising Commission, and duly considered. In view, however, of the quantity of evidence r ecei.ved from architects and others showino· the

efficacy of powellising to resist white ants, they have not considered it essential to take furth er evidence having this bearing.

J. R. Sm.ith, Esq.

Yours faithfully, (Sgd. ) .J. ULMER,


3. Mr. F. North, of Torbay Junction, came to Perth to give evidence before the Commission, bringing with him several cwt. of karri sarnples. This gentlemen for some unknown reason was not called, and returned to his home after wasting several days.

The Majority Report states that the test of 2,000 bluegum sleepers at Loftus had proved a failure. This we cannot agree with, and from the evidence it will be seen that ]\l[r. Fraser stated that these sleepers were destroyed by dry rot, and produced three sleepers to prove his contention. He admitted that he had never been to Loftus to

inspect the sleepers, and yet he said these sleepers produced were from there. This evidence to us seems extraordinary, and we cannot accept it. On the other hand, the following gentlemen gave evidence that they had personally inspected the sleepers in the road at Loftus :-

Professor Warren, G. A. Julius, A. H. Stewart, A. C. Samuell, R . H . Nesbit, H . Deane.

All of these witnesses stated that they could see no signs of dry rot in any of the sleepers at Loftus, and that sleepers at this spot in good ound condition, except that they showed signs of splitting from the dog rnke ; but a.· te ·t wa made to

detern1ine the value of the Powell process for making the leeper unmune to th dry­ rot fungus, we do not see any necessity to deal with thi_ e the que tion. Blueguin timber used on these sleepers is admitted to . be an Infenor and n_o generally

used for sleepers by the New South vVales Railway, and we maintain hat If o:r:ly three sleepers can be found showing signs of dry rot out 2,000 five_year ' te. t, It ·peak. highly for the result of treatment on what are admitted to be Infenor · l ep r .



The of various sizes and kinds of timber for the Victorian Railways

at_ the same tnr:e ·proved unsuccessful, as has been s.hown by the evidence; but we WISh to the fact that the non-success refers only to the fact that certain of

large sectiOns were not properly dried, and some were honeycombed in the centre.

ThiS effect was caused through the seasoning process only, which is entirely distinct from the. Powell process_. This checking of the timber was caused through too rapidly drying the larger Sizes, and, in our opinion, in no way detracts from the value of th8 Powell process, but was entirely the result of the artificial seasoning after had been carried out. The result of treatment of parcels of timber for Messrs. Alcock and also Perry and Sons, are said by the Mafority Report to have been failures. We WISh to draw your attention to the fact that the reported failures in these two cases was also_ due entirely to the drying after the powellising, and the powellising had nothing to do with bad results. ·

\Vith reference to the n1ountain-ash sleepers, 1\Ir. IIobler and lVIr. Sa1J.nders state that same had shrunk. This, of course, would be due to the nature of the timber, it being well known that this timber does shrink considerably; but the Powell process, we maintain, cannot be for this. The mountain-ash sleepers also cracked, but we have not seen any claim made that the Powell process will stop such cracks when the timber is stacked out in the sun.


We regret that the evidence given regarding the powellising of New Zealand timbers was very contradictory, and feel that, until ·an inquiry is . held on the spot, it would be unwise to indorse or condemn the process as applied to New Zealand. Grave doubts appear regarding the white-pine timbers treated, the evidence being very much at variance. It seems perfectly clear, however, that the company's plant was not as

complete as it should have been, and repeatedly the timber was not properly boiled. Therefore, to judge results from imperfect treatment is entirely wrong. At the same time, we wish to point out that the white pine is regarded as a particularly inferior Class of timber, and for reasons given above the tests should have been conducted under the most favorable conditions and strictest scrutiny. Vlith reference to the closing down of the powellising works in New Zealand, the evidence shows that the Government plant was working up to last Christn1as, and even, according to JVIr. Coo mbs' letter, this plant has only ceased treating sleepers temporarily pending results of further tests. rrhe company's plant is undoubtedly in full work right up to the present time.

In the Majority Report it is admitted that any method of treatment which fails to extract the whole of the sap from the tjmber, and does not secure absolute impregnation of the solution, must fail to be successful in the treatment of timber, and especially in a wood like karri. vVe agree with this entirely.

In the Majority Report stress is laid on the fact that the first 1,000 karri sleepers powellised were condemned by the State Government owing to insufficient penetration. As these were the first karri sleepers of this size ever treated by the process, were treated by inexperienced m·en, and the first treated at a new plant, it .is not to be wondered at that the penetration was found to be as good as be w_ished. At arne

time all must admit, when starting large new plants In any hne of business or manufacture, that the first goods produced are rarely perfection, and it has been admitted that the subsequent boilings have proved successful, and the penetration complete.

We agree · that the process of powellising should out under proper

supervision and by experienced hands, then we are quite convinced t.hat thorough penetration will be the result in all cases.

It must be thoroughly- understoo d t hat the in 'tal')CO or I u ce. ful pene ration far outweigh the number of so-called failure . Fr?m .Lhi. it i fair to CL • ume that> when properly carried ?ut, is bot h and practl ·abl treatment

once successfully apphed to d1fferent cla?se ... of tin1ber .·ho_uld natural1y mean hat success will attend each subsequent operatiOn If correctly arned out.




We agre.e with the Majority Report on clauses 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6. In regard to Clause 4 our VIews are alread.y before Your Exc.ellency. Whilst not wishing to throw any doubt. on the In clause 7, we desue to draw your attention to the fact

even to Jarrah the Western Australian State Government contemplates action :VIth to We desire to place on record

our VIews 1n connex1on w1th each speCific sub-clause of clause 8 of the :Majority Report-1. East Perth test of powellised karri sleepers-( a ) The e_vidence not disclose any specific number of sleepers

being. placed In the hne at East Perth, prior to Mr. Light peing exam1ned. It was only then that absolute definiteness and finality were reached. (b) This statement is exceedingly misleading, the inference being that a

report had been submitted that ·sleepers suffering from dry rot had been sandwiched in between treated sleepers at East Perth. No such report was ever issued, the actual wording of Mr. Light's report of 2nd September, 191 1, is-

" Some years ago a number of processed sleepers, karri, were placed in the line, sandwiched in between sleepers badly aff ected with dry rot, a"nd have stood t he test well, proving thoroughly resistant to the inroads of the fungus ." This does not mention E ast Perth, and as a Inatter of fact the sandwiching of treated sleepers with those affected by dry rot, did occur, but on the Great Southern Railway. (c) The Majority Report says :-" That if the timber were specially selected

timber, and naturally seasoned. " The strength of this clause is destroyed by the use of the word " if. " Further, there is no doubt the timber used at E ast Perth was not specially selecte9., nor was it seasoned. (d) We find that the excessive cost of securing karri sleepers prevented

this being done.

2. We entirely disagree, this culvert was erected as a test against white ants, and we consider that from the evidence, and our own personal examination, the test was satisfactory. Further, t he general evidence clearly indicates that powellising is thoroughly protective against the inroads of tennites.

3. We do not agree that the bluegum sleepers powellised in New South Wales "was an entire failure," the proof being that the majority of these sleepers are still in active service in the main line. 4. The results of the various tests n1ade by t he Victorian Railways, Alcock and Co., and John Perry were unsatisfactory, because of too rapid drying, and not in

any way due to the Powell process. The test of mountain::-ash sleepers certainly revealed shrinkage and splitting, but we cannot see -that any evidence was given to show that the shrinkage was. abnormal or injurious. All tin1bers split n1ore or less when exposed to the sun, and It has not been demonstrated that the splitting of the mountain ash was due to the process .

- 5. The New Zealand evidence being so contradictory, we consider that to say the test s " proved absolutely unsatisfactory " is not justified by fa ct s, and recommend further inquiries being made. 6. This clause is certainly wrong. A large number of have been treated,

notably Port Hedland- JYiarble Bar Railway, and te.sted, c.on. equently

it is simply a question of degree. We have In , aying, guided by the

engineers n1ost qualified to judge, that powelh. ed karn leepers ar a perfectly · afe investment. 7 and 8. During the co urse of the inquiry 89 witne se were of the.·e

47 acknowledged not having any practical know.ledge ?f the powelh 1ng pro ·e. '. Twenty-seven witnesses were favorable, and only eight _w1tn e. e unfavorable to the process. Of these eight witnesses, three gave evidence regarding h sleepers in New South Wales. Two others referred o one and the parcel f

The others were Mr. H. Teesdale Smith , who conduc ed orne mall pnvate expenment '


the representative of Perry and Co., and lastly Mr. Stacey, of the Government Analytical Department, Western Australia. Of the witnesses favorable to the treatment, most of them had had individual and distinct experiences, and were still prepared to utilize powellised timber. Six witnesses professed a desire for further tests and the elapse of a greater period of time, whilst even Captain Saunders in his evidenQe acknowledged that powellising, properly carried out, was efficacious and beneficial. In view of these facts, also that Mr. Thomspon and Mr. Light, the two engineers who have had most experience, both pledged themselves and their professional reputations on the success

of powellised karri, we emphatically disagree that ''there was no . justification for the entering into of a contract for the supply of 1,400,000 powellised sleepers at a cost of approximately £560,000."

9. We agree entirely with this clause.

10. In the main we agree with this clause, and are satisfied that in so far as karri timber is concerned, powellising will supply the necessary n1ethod of treatment.

11. VVhilst acknowledging the successful treatment of sn1all timbers, we feel that for reasons already quoted, there is no danger, financially or otherwise, in utilizing large quantities of powellised karri sleepers.

Finally, vye wish to emphasize that the evidence clearly indicates that where any doubt has been raised as to the efficacy of the process, it has always been traceable to inexperience and inefficient treatment. The Majority Report admits that the process is effective when treating small timbers, and as it has been proved that under efficient treat1nent larger sizes of timber may be effectively processed, the only logical conclusion we can arrive at is that, subject to proper treatment during the process, powellising is effective.


In conclusion, Your Commissioners have much pleasure in submitting to Your Excellency this Report.



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