Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 8, October 1967


By Jack Nelson

About 60 years ago my brother, Bill Nelson, worked for Walter Hume who had contracts to get timber out of the bush behind Waimate [Waimata – E]. Although our family then lived at Te Puke, we periodically passed through the district as we had previously lived in Mackaytown and we often visited Bill, who was then married and living at the Woodlands Homestead with Walter Hume.

The men who felled the trees used Bullock Teams to haul the logstothe Tram Lines, after which Walter and Bill took over their transport to Knight's Mill. It was not easy going but the splendid teams of horses knew their work and did a wonderful job. On down grades they "followed" the loads, and Bill would stand on a jigger board and operate the brakes. He had a ratchet brake on the rear bogie, where the jigger board was secured, and he worked the front bogie brakes with a small block and tackle line. Braking these trucks of long kauri logs down an incline, fairly steep in places, with sharp turns, was a skilled job in every detail.

Crouched under the big logs on the jigger board it was a work of art for Bill to hold on, especially as he had to speed up in places to get round the sharp bends. Stopping on the way down was out of the question, as the horses couldn't get past the trucks to start off again. There were about of two miles of tramline down to the flat at the bottom of the hill. About half way down there was a sharp incline where there was a set of points and this was the first stop. The points were shifted and Bill would use the other bogie to brake the logs down the remainder of the incline to the flat where he waited the arrival of the horses (which wasn't long!).

Horse power was used for the remainder of the journey to the mill. There were four horses, single file, with no reins and they just did what they were told. The leader, Bell, was a beautiful upstanding, intelligent animal, who knew all the short-cuts after leaving the half-way points. Bill would call, "Come on Bell!" and the horses would be on the move right away. Of course they would be well looked after and full of oats.

Most of the kauri logs came from up the Valley when the mill first started. I know there were two separate teams of bullocks, working at different stands along the tramline. Harry Dally was one owner who had some good bullocks, 18 of them. Both contracts were to land the logs on the skids at the tram side.

One day there was an accident and two of Bill's horses were slightly hurt. His first thought was, "The Bullocks", and he waited for Harry Dally to arrive. To his surprise Harry told him he had two bullocks that used to work on a tram up North. So they took the harness off the two lame horses, and put it on the bullocks, with the collars upside down. These were connected with the horses, which were terrified. Bell was rearing to go, but the other horse at the rear was trying to back. As luck would have it the tramline was on a slight down grade, and Bell was doing the job by herself. But it wasn't long before they settled to the upgrade and certainly proved their worth, quite unaware of the excitement they were causing.

Everybody who lived along the line and around the Mill was out following the procession. Then the Mill stopped work and all hands enjoyed the spectacle. They had never seen anything like it before, and neither had Bill who was more than pleased with his staunch workers. Although many photographs were taken of the "Bullock-Horse Team", I haven't one to present with this true life story of the old logging days.