Darnum 3822The township of Darnum is situated on the Prince's Highway and Gippsland rail line, 110 kilometres east of Melbourne. The Moe River flats lie to the south and undulating hills to the north.
The township site had been surveyed at the same time as the railway line which was completed in 1878. A station was opened in 1880 and the township proclaimed in 1885. By that time, a general store was trading, the Commercial Hotel was operating, a Mechanics' Institute Hall had been erected and a school had commenced. The name Darnum is thought to be an Aboriginal word for parrot.
Land had been selected, mainly south of the railway line. Several sawmills were set up to utilise the timber as settlers cleared their properties. As tracks were impassable in winter, a narrow gauge tramway was constructed to haul timber to Darnum station.
By the early 1900s, most properties were cleared of millable timber. Larger areas of pasture encouraged dairy farming. Milk depots were established south of Darnum township about 1912 and 1915. The milk was brine cooled and railed to Melbourne daily for the whole milk market. From the mid 1930s, the milk was taken by road to Melbourne or local milk factories. In 1996, a large milk processing plant was being constructed close to Darnum by Bonlac.
The Moe River periodically floods the alluvial flats to the south of Darnum. The worst flood was in 1934. The Giant Gippsland Earthworm is found in this area.
Timber is still important at Darnum. From the 1930s, a sawmill commenced operations on the Princes Highway, while several worked north of the highway from the 1940s. In 1968 a treated timber plant was established in the town.
The highway and rail line, while vital in opening up the area, have ultimately come to bisect the town. In the 1950s, the rail line was duplicated and electrified. In 1963 the highway was straightened and later duplicated. The railway crossing was replaced by an overhead bridge and in 1997 a large interchange was constructed to service the new milk processing plant. The face of the town has also altered. The first Commercial Hotel was north of the railway but in 1932 the present Commercial Hotel was erected on the highway south of the line. The Mechanics' Institute hall was moved and rebuilt. In 1944, this building and others were destroyed when a bushfire swept through the town. A new Memorial Hall was completed in 1956 but this was moved in 1996 to accommodate the new interchange.
The Darnum Musical Village houses a large collection of antique pianos, organs and other musical instruments in an old church and historic house. The butt of a huge tree installed beside the highway recalls Darnum's links with the timber industry. Some of the natural dense forest of the area is protected in Mount Worth State Park, to the south of Darnum.
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