Washington Iron Works Skidder

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Washington Winch

The Washington Winch is a steam-powered logging skidder, or cable winch. It was imported to Australia in the 1920s and was initially used to move the large Jarrah logs from the forests of Western Australia. It was later sold to the Forests Commission of Victoria for salvaging timber after the 1939 Black Friday fires.

The winch is located at Swifts Creek, Victoria, and is a unique part of Victoria's cultural heritage and logging history; left intact with engine, spars and cabling still rigged for work it is the only steam powered engine of its kind in Australia. It is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register,[1] and managed by the Department of Natural Resources and Environment.

Washington Iron Works

Washington Iron Works was a company in Seattle, Washington, founded by John M. Frink, that built these steam skidders. The company was active from 1882 until the 1980s when its various divisions – manufacturing cranes, logging equipment, and presses – were gradually sold off. The Works closed in 1986.

Washington Iron Works engines revolutionized steam logging in the 1920s and 1930s. The steam-powered winches were mounted on heavy log skid frames which allowed the winch to be transported to new sites. Many Washington skidders can still be seen in North America.


The Washington Winch operated either a high lead or a skyline system. The high lead system was not often used as it only partially lifted the logs off the ground, which caused the logs to become caught in rocks, and left behind a "snig track", which deepened over time. The skyline system involved two large spars (trees) used to create a "flying fox" to lift logs over the rough ground. Riggers climbed 60m up a large tree and headed the trunk, which would cause the tree to sway violently. They then secured the spar with guy cables and attached the tackle. This operation was dangerous and physically demanding, often taking a full day, with lunch sent up on a rope. The Washington Winch was used to harvest Alpine Ash which would then be used for high-value products such as furniture, flooring and architraves.

Washington Winch on the far left, with rigging and spars visible near center of image


  1. "Washington Winch, Victorian Heritage Register (VHR) Number H1825, Heritage Overlay HO293". Victorian Heritage Database. Heritage Victoria. Retrieved 2011-04-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

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