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Wood Block Roads
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roverdriver



Joined: 18 Oct 2008
Posts: 974
Location: 100 miles from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

PostPosted: Tue Apr 12, 2011 11:34 am    Post subject: Wood Block Roads Reply with quote

In another thread on the Forum, mention was made of wood block roads.

In about 1973 I actually salvaged some wooden blocks from road reconstruction in the Melbourne suburb of Coburg. There were lots of wood block roads in and around Melbourne. In later years the blocks had been covered with tar, however where that coating had worn off passing cars created a particularly interesting sound as they rattled the shrunken blocks in the middle of a hot dry summer.

Here is a quote from an article about wooden block roads in Sydney-

Woodblocking

The appointment of Adrien Mountain as the new City Surveyor in 1879 signalled a change in the method of road building. Mountain was keen to experiment with different methods to supplement or replace macadamised roads. The first experimental woodblocks were laid in King Street, between Pitt and George Streets, in August 1880.

Sydney did not pioneer the building of woodblocked streets, which were first tried experimentally in London in the 1840s, but it did embrace the method with enthusiasm. The method utilised Australian hardwoods which were exceptionally well suited to the task and very long lasting. From today’s perspective the use of so much hardwood for street making seems profligate, but in 1880 it seemed the Australian bush could yield up a cheap and durable source of urban improvement for the foreseeable future, and the roads, which were better than anything previously built, were enormously popular.


The rest can be found here-
http://www.cityofsydney.nsw.gov.au/history/sydneystreets/How_to_Build_a_Street/Woodblocking/default.html

I also came across this from The Argus Newspaper (Melbourne) of March 12th 1906.

A CURIOUS DISCOVERY.

Portion of Little Flinders-street, between Queen and Market-streets, is being paved with wood blocks. For fifty years past there has been a macadamised road on that section of the street and this had to be taken out down to the foundation before the wood blocks could be put down. In doing this the workmen came on a number of logs of wood, about 2ft. below the existing surface of the road.

The presence of the logs has provided a mystery for no satisfactory explana- tion can be obtained as to why they were originally put there. The logs are ap- parently blue-gum, and have been cut into lengths of 5ft. or 6ft., and set in regular order in the road. Old residents say that in the very early days there was a corduroy road there, and it was at first thought that this was a portion of the old track. The

logs are, however, over a foot in diameter, and such large timber is never used for corduroy. A more probable theory is that the logs were laid down to fill some hole or bad spot in an unmade road. If they were part of the original road they would be 8ft.

or 10ft. long, and there would be many of them. But there are only a few logs, and they are only about 5ft. or 6ft. long.

At the spot where the logs were found there is a slight hollow, and it can be easily understood that before the road was pro- perly plotted out, and provision made for drainage, it would be a wet boggy patch, where a few logs would be useful in pro- viding a firm surface. That portion of the Lane was curbed and metalled and chan- nelled in 1856, so that the timber must have been put in prior to that date. The contrac- tor was yesterday selling the logs as curios at 2/6 each. Two specimens were sent to the Forestry department and one to the city surveyor's office.


Here is a link with some photos of laying tram lines and a wood-block road.

http://www.walkingmelbourne.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=4364
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peterwpg



Joined: 10 Apr 2008
Posts: 2104
Location: New Brunswick. Canada

PostPosted: Tue Apr 12, 2011 2:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

According to the interwebby page below, wood blocks still survive in Chequer Street, Islington, London. However I flew in with Googly streets and can't be sure as it would appear that they didn't photograph the Easten bit. The road seems to have been cut by a walkway.


A quick search comes up with quite a few references to wood blocks in various towns although as yet I can't find a social networking site that caters for wood block road spotters.

http://www.secret-london.co.uk/Old_Street.html

Anyone wandering around Islington with a camera ?
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P3steve



Joined: 24 Nov 2007
Posts: 542
Location: Great Yarmouth, Norfolk

PostPosted: Tue Apr 12, 2011 3:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not so much a road but here in Great yarmouth the Haven bridge in the town centre dating from early 1930 is paved on the road way with wood blocks, the tar surface seems to wear very quickly and there forever replacing the blocks.
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BigJohn



Joined: 01 Jan 2011
Posts: 643
Location: Nr. Lancaster

PostPosted: Tue Apr 12, 2011 8:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There used to be a wood block road between Brook St and Greenbank St in Preston, it was still there in 1980. It was on a hill, and a nightmare to stop at the bottom with the T junction on Greenbank St in the wet. The blocks went to slime. I think it might have been to silence the sound of solid tyred works trucks when it was a railway repair shed, before MGD Graphics started building printing presses there.
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victor 101



Joined: 03 Apr 2009
Posts: 417
Location: East Yorkshire

PostPosted: Tue Apr 12, 2011 8:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I remember them taking up the trolly bus rails in Holloway Rd, north London and people taking the wooden tar blocks to burn on the open fire.
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roverdriver



Joined: 18 Oct 2008
Posts: 974
Location: 100 miles from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

PostPosted: Wed Apr 13, 2011 11:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Australia is of course the source for Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) which is one of the word's more durable timbers. It was used for the roads as well as for railway sleepers.

The wood burns well giving out great heat, so during the Great Depression, there were many times when sections of road disappeared overnight to keep poor families warm.

It too gets very slippery, so I expect that is why it was tarred over on roads.
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