Established in 1988 as part of the Australian Bicentennial activities, Miners' Park is located next to the present-day Pine Creek Railway Station Museum and the station master’s residence. It has many pieces of historical mining equipment with interpretive signboards, which describe the equipment and explain how it was used. The self-guiding interpretive signs and displays give a comprehensive view of the technology and life in the goldfields in the late 1800's and early 1900's. There are two kiosks which record the history of mining in the Pine Creek area and the South Alligator River Valley. There are also some spectacular looking Boab trees in the Park. The Pine Creek Goldrush Festival is held each year at Miners' Park and includes gold-panning championships. See also three travelogues.
The Pine Creek BP Service Station is across the street from Mayse's and the post office. When we could not get a steak sandwich takeaway for dinner at Mayse's (it was closed), we went to the deli in the service station. They make excellent steak sandwiches (10.50 AUD with the "works," i.e., salad, egg and bacon) too. A Solo lemon drink was 4.50 AUD. There is also a mini-market at the service station.
Pine Creek is the closest town to Zig's (1+1) work house in Kakadu National Park, so he knows it well. We got there about 15:10 on 26 Aug 2010. We first went to Alex Gory Park where the historical railway precinct is located; however, the museum in the old railway station and the shed with the restored 1877 Beyer Peacock steam locomotive were closed. It was interesting to look around anyway. Miners' Park is adjacent to Alex Gory Park.
A small kiosk in Miners' Park has signboards that explain the history of mining in the Pine Creek area. Pine Creek began as a small camp set up by an overland telegraph wiring party in August 1871. One of the party, S. W. Herbert, reported that workers found gold in post holes and Acting Goldfields Warden, George McLachlan, reported gold in the creek itself. Gold was discovered at nearby reefs in 1872. The first major reef was the Priscilla, and the Union, Howley and others followed. A rush began and diggers arrived by the hundreds, but most were unprepared and conditions were harsh. Food was short and expensive, lodging was virtually non-existent, and diseases such as malaria and dysentery were rife.
The major finds were reef gold which required heavy machinery and individual miners had little luck. European labor was generally hard to employ, unproductive and costly. Reef mining operations were also inefficient and by May 1874 operations had virtually ceased. The companies decided to use Chinese workers, and Bloomfield Douglas was contracted to acquire 200 Chinese from Singapore. On 5 Aug 1874, 186 Chinese "coolies," a word derived from the Chinese K'u li meaning "bitter strength," arrived at Port Darwin and were sent to the goldfields. The impact of the Chinese was dramatic. They were hard working and enterprising. Some grew extensive gardens and sold the goods. Others introduced new methods of mining that resulted in increased returns.
The gold mining boom collapsed in 1874, because of exaggerated claims, high labor costs, a decline in gold, and a shortage of water. The railway came in 1889 and ensured Pine Creek's survival. However, the production of gold declined steadily from the late 1890's until tin and wolfram replaced it in 1907. By 1917 only a dozen miners remained.
Uranium was discovered in 1953 at Coronation Hill, and El Sherana began in 1956 with treatment plants being constructed at the South Alligator River and Moline. Eleven uranium mines operated in the area before mining ended in 1964. Further finds east of Pine Creek in the Alligator Rivers area saw mining at Narbarlek and Ranger during the late 1970's.
The 1960's and 1970's brought new hopes for Pine Creek. Iron ore, silver, lead and zinc were discovered and again the town became a service center for the miners. However, by 1973 the companies had ceased operations. Iron ore mining at Frances Creek only lasted seven years and closed in 1975. The town of Pine Creek declined until an increase in gold prices in the 1980's saw several companies increase exploration, start an open cut mine, and rework old mines with new technology.
The Pine Creek Historic Railway Precinct is the most complete remaining example of infrastructure associated with the old North Australia Railway (NAR). Although a number of the original railway buildings were removed following the closure of the line in 1976, besides the railway station, station master's house and locomotives shed (see separate tips) the Precinct still has the goods shed, loading bank, weighbridge, crane and water tank.
The historical Station Master's House was built at the same time as the old railway station when the North Australia Railway (NAR) reached Pine Creek in 1888 and was officially opened on 30 September 1889. Both buildings were designed in South Australia and use easily transportable corrugated iron for the exterior walls. For some reason, the windows and doors are shut and it is not open for touring. I took a picture of the signboard, but it is very difficult to read. Some things that I can discern include: it has two brick-lined underground water tanks; it was was not just a residence for the station master; the building originally had three rooms (kitchen, bedroom and living(?) room; the windows were originally enclosed with woven bamboo and palm matting; the building remains largely unchanged except for its external appearance; and it has been used as a private residence, a youth-hostel, shop, and craft center.
A large shed near the old Railway Station Museum houses an operational 1877 Beyer Peacock steam locomotive and carriage. It was restored as a “Centenary of Federation” project by the Pine Creek Community Government Council, and is believed to be the oldest restored locomotive in Australia. The locomotive was built in 1877 at Manchester, England. It was used on the Port Augusta and Eyre Peninsula Railways until it was purchased in 1915 at a cost of 1000 GBP, shipped to Darwin on the SS Tasman, and reclassified as North Australian Railways (NAR) Unit NF5. It operated between Darwin and Pine Creek from 1915 until it was decommissioned in 1945 and placed in the yard of the Darwin Infant School. The locomotive was acquired by NT Museums in 1977. It was taken to Pine Creek in 1983 for the film "We of the Never Never" and brought back again on a permanent loan in 1994. The title was transferred to the Pine Creek Council and restoration work started in November 2000. One year later at a cost of ~120,000 AUD, the restored locomotive carried passengers for the first time in 57 years at the official opening on 17 Nov 2001.
An operational former Western Australian Government Railways TA class diesel-electric shunting engine and open carriage are also housed in the shed. They were given to Pine Creek by the Larrimah Progress Association.
The original Pine Creek Railway Station (198 meters above sea level) opened on the North Australia Railway in 1889. The Railway served mainly the mining industry. The line was extended to Katherine in 1917 and eventually as far south as Birdum. Although during World War II the Railway carried troops and equipment from Larrimah to Darwin, mining is what made it profitable. In 1976, when the Francis Creek Mine closed, the Railway became uneconomical and shut down all its stations. The Pine Creek Railway Station is now a museum with historic photos, maps and memorabilia about the North Australia Railway. It still includes the original restrooms, parcel office and waiting room.
Ah Toy's Store was opened in 1935 by Jimmy and Lily Ah Toy. It is now run by their son, Eddie, who was selected as Territorian of the Year in 2005. This is an amazing family. Eddie's sister, Joyce Chin, although now retired, was a famous educator in Northern Territory. Zig (1+1) and I did not stop at the store at 35 Main Terrace in Pine Creek, but I took a couple of pictures as we passed by. Had I known all this history then, I would have stopped for sure. It reminds me of the historic neighborhood store, Manuel's, in Albuquerque, NM, where I live. BTW, Ah Toy's is where you check in if you stay at the Kakadu Gateway Caravan Park. The Pine Creek Diggers Rest Motel (32 Main Terrace) is nearby.
It was about 15:45 and we wanted to get some takeaway for dinner. Zig (1+1) said that Mayse's was the best place in Pine Creek for a steak sandwich. Mayse's is located downtown between the Pine Creek Hotel-Motel and the post office, next to the tennis courts. However, they had closed at 15:00. The deli in the BP service station across the street had good steak sandwiches too (see a separate tip).
The Katherine Town Council web page tells us that the Walk Through Time Walkway heads south from the railway station and locomotive display. The footpath is made up of nine bays of tiles painted by local artists. The tiles form a timeline along the footpath, commemorating people who have made a contribution to Pine Creek, from the Aboriginal people to the miners and pastoralists of the 1960’s. More tile bays will be added in the future. When I was there on 26 Aug 2010, I saw the marker but did not realize that there was an associated footpath. The NT Nomads Blog for 20 Feb 2011 has some pictures of the tiles and mentions that unfortunately some of the Aboriginal stories had been vandalized.
Some time way back in history, a politician came up with a brilliant idea - lets build a railway line from London to Adelaide and therefore link Melbourne and Sydney with the world. Great idea BUT . . .
The line from Darwin (then called Palmerston) sort of went ahead in fits and starts and no doubt MANY trips to the pubs to quench the thirst in the terrible climate of Northern Australia. The line was built in 3'6" gauge and not the 'standard' gauge of 4'8.25" as used on NSW railways and nor the 'broad' gauge of 5'3" as used by South Australian (NT was part of SA at the time) and Victorian railways (long been a bone of contention in Australia where even today there are many rail gauges in regular operation). According to the Wikipedia article the train in the 1930's was known as "Leaping Lena," but I strongly suspect it had many unprintable names. The real hey day for the line was during WW2.
We arrived at the museum and was met by the volunteer as shown. I was bearing a gift from the south - a Puffing Billy Railway 'Assistant Conductor' certificate that I hand out to kids young and old on Puffing Billy (see my Belgrave pages for more details). His eyes gleamed as he saw the gift and Lady Gaw and I were freely admitted with the certificate representing full payment.
Sadly our time was short as it had been 'stolen' by the non arrival of The Ghan (see tourist trap for details) so it was a quick dash through the station building and loco/carriage shed as I snapped away with my camera. I would have loved to have stayed longer and lingered lovingly over old photos, timetables et al - the very stuff that museums are made of. The fact that it is a railway museum is an even greater attraction. The museum also contains mining relics and the station masters building (interior is not open to the general public).
Phone number as shown below is the National Trust of NT and not the Pine Creek Railway Museum.
Open 10am - 2pm Monday to Friday (NOT OPEN AT WEEKENDS) and entry is by a $2 'donation' but the volunteer will accept other items as 'payment' - horse trading is alive and well in the NT - LOL
About the photos:
1. Main station constructed in 1888
2. An original loco from the 1880's - and yes with a little bit of work it will run again "one day."
3. Map of the proposed line from London to Adelaide.
4. The volunteer who runs the museum and claims he thinks he owns a shirt with collar and proper boots - not thongs - when VIP's visit.
5. Would have been fun riding in these carriages.
Forever more remembered as the place we lost poor OH_DK...
Anyway, Miners Park is across the road from the rRailway Museum.
With a stack of signs to read and loads of ancient equipment to check out, Miners Park is an ideal place to have a wander around.
It is interesting to note that Miners Park is where the Goldpanning Championships and Didjeridoo Festival are held in June every year.
Well I'm not really into horse racing, but we passed the local Pine Creek racetrack and there was a race meet on at the same time as our big weekend coming up in Darwin.
I thought....what a great idea! .....and pitty that we had already got plans, because if not, then I would have liked to have attended a day at the races in this little town whilst on holidays :o)
Anyway, I have included it as a 'must see' because I do think it's an interesting thing to do whilst on holiday in the outback. ....Great chance to have a chat with the locals, few laughs at backing a donkey ;o) ....and in general an enjoyable day out :o)
So now that you know this place exists....why not check out the link below to see if there's a race event happening when you visit next :o)
The Pine Creek Railway Museum is located in a set of buildings which were built in 1888/9 and include the station building, water tank, weighbridge and goods shed.
There are displays which show the history of the district and the railway.
Admission is by donation (gold coin).