Fire destroys historic Trailside Museum at Cradle Mountain in "devastating" blow

OBLITERATED: TFS fire investigator Shayne Andrews carefully documents the remains after the burn. Picture: Meg Powell
OBLITERATED: TFS fire investigator Shayne Andrews carefully documents the remains after the burn. Picture: Meg Powell

The charred remains of one of Cradle Mountain's historic huts offers little evidence as to the cause of the fire that destroyed it.

The Trailside Museum situated in the Tasmanian Central Highlands National Park was burned to the ground on Monday morning, leaving just a pile of charcoal and some blackened foundations behind.

TFS investigator Shayne Andrews was on the scene, carefully documenting and inspecting the ruins to determine a cause.

"We're just trying to come up with a determination for it," he said on Monday morning, standing among the rubble and the rain.

"As you can see there is nothing left so it's making it very difficult to determine an exact cause."

Picture: Meg Powell

Picture: Meg Powell

He said it was unlikely to be deliberately lit due to the remoteness of the building, and that the material had a lot to do with the speed of the burn, despite the wet conditions.

"The structure itself is very, very old. All shingled roof, timber walls, so it's burnt very quickly," he confirmed.

"There's nothing to suggest anything suspicious because of its remoteness, and there were people staying up here last night so we've definitely ruled that out."

LOST HISTORY

In the meantime, Parks and Wildlife staff and scores of volunteers have been "devastated" by the loss of a key piece of Cradle Mountain National Park's history.

For nearly 80 years, the Trailside Museum has sat nestled along Connells Avenue (named for the very first park ranger), forming part of the historic Waldheim precinct.

"It was built in the 1940s and finished about '42," Parks and Reserves Manager for Cradle Mountain Nicole Sherriff said.

"Its original purpose was to be a trailside museum, but then World War II happened.

"I think it was set aside as an evacuation shelter, but I doubt it was ever used. It was also used as ranger accomodation after the war."

Then: The historic hut before it was destroyed. Picture: Garth Smith.

Then: The historic hut before it was destroyed. Picture: Garth Smith.

In the 1960s the little hut was finally turned into what it had been built for - Australia's very first trailside museum.

"I understand it had taxidermied animals in there, a map of the area, information on the geology ... a lot like what we have today," Ms Sherriff said.

"They were removed in the 1980s, primarily because the building was not completely weatherproof."

Since then, the building has become the home of various pop-up events, exhibitions for artists in residence and, importantly, the annual Weindorfer Memorial Event.

"There's just so many community members that volunteer around the area, it'll be really sad for them as well," Ms Sherriff said.

Gustav and Kate Weindorfer were instrumental in establishing Cradle Mountain as a national park. Picture: File

Gustav and Kate Weindorfer were instrumental in establishing Cradle Mountain as a national park. Picture: File

FLAMMABLE CHALLENGE

Ms Sherriff said one of Parks and Reserves' biggest challenges in preserving the historical precinct was the highly flammable nature of the materials.

"Most of Waldheim is made of some - if not all - King Billy pine," she said.

OBLITERATED: TFS fire investigator Shane Andrews carefully documents the remains after the burn. Picture: Meg Powell

OBLITERATED: TFS fire investigator Shane Andrews carefully documents the remains after the burn. Picture: Meg Powell

"When you're wanting to preserve the structures you are wanting to be in keeping with the historical use of King Billy, but noting that the stuff is very flammable."

Ms Sherriff said Parks and Wildlife was currently assessing future options for the site.

This story Historic loss at Cradle Mountain a "devastating" blow first appeared on The Advocate.