In the heart of Collinsville, a town etched in coal mining history, stands a testament to resilience, camaraderie and the indomitable spirit of the miners who dedicated their lives to the depths of the earth.
The Collinsville Coalface Experience was inaugurated on the solemn occasion of the 50th anniversary of the 1954 Collinsville Mine disaster and is more than a museum. It is a reverent journey into the past, an acknowledgement of sacrifices made, and a reminder of the lessons that echo through generations.
As visitors step into the Coalface Experience they are greeted by the haunting echoes of the past and a tribute to the miners who toiled beneath the surface. The experience commences with a moving video that provides a window into the life of a coal miner and their families. Local voices weave tales of hardship and tenacity, exemplifying the unbreakable union spirit that bound the community together. This tight-knit bond was the very essence that fuelled the mining towns, especially in small communities like Collinsville.
The journey through the Coalface Experience is a tapestry woven with multimedia displays that spotlight diverse facets of coal mining. From the valiant pit ponies to the advent of modern safety protocols, each exhibit unfolds the intricate threads of an industry that was as rewarding as it was demanding. The experience unveils the evolution from tallow lamps to the revolutionary Davy lamp, tracing the path from manual labour to mechanisation.
Stage Two is a chronicle of the evolution of safety and a testament to the progression of safeguards that have protected the lives of miners. An interactive touch-screen display immerses visitors in the perils and challenges miners faced underground. The accompanying film showcases the meticulous measures undertaken by everyday miners to ensure their well-being.
The heart of the Coalface Experience lies in its commemoration of the tragedies that forever altered the mining landscape.
The 1954 mine disaster, where seven lives were lost due to a gas outburst, is painstakingly re-enacted through a Pepper’s Ghost theatre. This sombre depiction serves as an homage to those who fell, a reminder of the sacrifices embedded in the coal miner’s legacy.
The story doesn’t end with hardships as it’s a tribute to the unity that emerged from struggle. Collinsville, once dubbed “little Moscow,” was a crucible of trade unions and social equity. The miners’ union, unwavering in their quest for safety and just working conditions, carried the fight to even the highest levels in Brisbane. It was a community of solidarity, rooted in the understanding that the journey was collective and the victories hard-fought.
Emerging from the Coalface Experience visitors are invited to the replica State Mine tunnel situated at the Workers Club, a site where the annual Miner’s Memorial Day is held. Here, the stories of heroism and heartache are etched into the very walls, a reminder that history must never be forgotten.
The words by Jock Graham found on the museum wall encapsulates the spirit that fuelled these men, “By profession and birth I’m a man of the earth, I burrow in it like a mole; I dig it and drill it and blast it and fill it, for the great commodity coal.”
The coal miners, from seasoned deputies to novice wheelers, stood shoulder to shoulder, a diverse team with a singular goal – to unearth the black gold.
In the words of Greg Watson, “The mateship that evolves from working with a crew underground, relying on each other at all times, I haven’t seen anything like it anywhere else in the world.”
Amidst it all, pit ponies emerged as steadfast companions. These noble creatures, often Clydesdales, worked in perfect unison with the horse wheelers, guiding miners through the darkness. More than mere beasts of burden, they were lifelines, guiding souls through treacherous terrain. As Mervyn McCarthy recalled, “If your light went out… you would grab the horse’s tail… and it would lead you half a mile in the dark to the surface.”
Australia’s last pit ponies, Warrior and Mr. Ed, retired in 1989 marking the end of an era. Their contribution went beyond the physical and they embodied the spirit of unity and perseverance that defines the coal mining legacy.
The Collinsville Coalface Experience stands as a living embodiment of the past, a repository of lessons etched in sweat and sacrifice. A tribute to the battles fought, victories earned, tragedies endured, and the unbreakable spirit that fuelled it all.
We recommend you take the time to visit and remember those who dedicated their lives to the depths.
|17/19 Railway Road, Collinsville Phone: 07 4785 5452 www.coalfaceexperience.com.au