The small township of Longwarry, Gippsland, is 84 km east of Melbourne. It is on the eastern edge of the Koo Wee Rup Swamp, with the foothills of the Great Dividing Range to the north.
The railway into Gippsland was begun in the mid-1870s. The section linking Bunyip to the west, and Moe to the east, was constructed from 1875 to 1878. Sleeper cutters, working in the dense forest along the route, set up camp where the railway line crossed the track to Longwarre pastoral leasehold (1868) to the south. The location was briefly known as Level Crossing. Many workers took out miners' rights to ensure tenure of their land. Soon a number of small sawmills were set up. When a siding was installed for Fraser, the first sawmiller, it became known as Fraser's Siding. From the 1880s many mills worked in the hills to the north, in the headwaters of the Bunyip River, and tramways were constructed to bring the timber to the rail line.
Because of the volume of timber being loaded, a railway station was opened in 1886. It was named Longwarry after the pastoral run which had a loading yard at the station. The name is of Aboriginal origin and thought to mean divided waterholes or meeting of two waters. Timber, palings, shingles, firewood, posts and rails, as well as bricks, were transported from Longwarry. By 1903 the Australian handbook described a thriving town servicing the sawmills:
In 1926, severe bushfires destroyed many of the mill settlements in the forests and families then moved into Longwarry. Bushfires ravaged many mills again in 1939 and by 1945, most mills were closed.
As the sawmills around the town cleared the landscape, dairying became an important activity. In 1921, a dairy Cooperative was formed. Milk was collected and sent by rail to Melbourne milk depots. Sand from extensive pits near the town was also transported by rail.
Longwarry's progress has been slow. Residential development has been limited by drainage problems and commercial development is hampered by proximity to Drouin, a much larger town. Many of the town's original buildings have been replaced. In 1953, a large new hall replaced an earlier one destroyed by fire. A new Union church was constructed in 1961, a new Catholic church in 1953 and a new Seventh Day Adventist church in 1975.
Sawmilling was important to Longwarry's economy in the 1990s, with three mills in operation. Dairying is the main farming activity in the district and the milk factory is the main employer in the town. In 1972, the cooperative was bought by a large company and, after further takeovers, owned by Bonlac. Formerly it produced mainly butter and cheese but powdered milk became the main product. Bonlac closed the factory in 1999, but six years later it was reopened as Longwarry Food Park, making fresh and powdered milk products. Smaller blocks of land near the town, originally subdivided for village settlement schemes, are utilised for horses, dogs and rural living.
The town has lost the staffing of the railway station, where the railway gates were closed manually until 1989. But community spirit is strong, with a number of sporting teams, clubs and civic organisations. A town newsletter has been produced since 1979.
Longwarry has a shopping centre, a recreation reserve, a bowls club, three churches and a school (131 pupils, 2014).
Census populations have been:
* Includes Longwarry East and Longwarry South
Back-to-Longwarry Committee, A brief history of Longwarry, 1964
G. Butler, Buln Buln: a history of the Shire of Buln Buln, 1979
J. McDermid, Level Crossing, Fraser Siding, Longwarry, 1978
K.A. Pretty, Buln Buln to Baw Baw: a history of the Shire of Buln Buln from 1978 to 1994 and its transition into the Baw Baw Shire, 1965
M. McCarthy, Settlers and sawmillers: a history of West Gippsland tramways and the industries they served, 1993