Day out to Silverton

We were woken to the excited sounds of the children as they watched the horses in training going by right past where their swags were set up. It made us laugh to see the children all rugged up in their fire coats sitting in their camp chairs that they’d line up against the fence so they could watch the horses.

We were all up early and ready to go off to Silverton for the day. Our first stop was to the Historic Day Dream Mine to do an underground tour. The kids were very excited about going underground.

To get to Day Dream Mine you head out of town on the Silverton Road then take a right onto a gravel road. It is another 13km along this road and through a couple of gates to the mine site. The road was a typical outback gravel road with some good sections and others that were very corrugated. Katie enjoyed the drive.

I was astonished when we were approaching the mine to see a sign beside the road that said this was the site of a township in the late 1800’s and some 500 people lived there. It is such a remote location.

When you arrive at the Mine you check in with the lovely Maggie (who has a strong Afrikaner accent) and she takes your order for tea, coffee, milo and scones. Then you wait out on the verandah for the tour guide.

Scattered around the main building are lots of old mining machinery and tools. There is a toilet block back up the hill.

Our guide Jeremy arrived and gathered our mixed group. We had lots of grey nomads, a couple of young people and we had the only kids. Jeremy led us onto the mine site for the surface part of the tour and explained the mine was established by prospectors wandering through the area and finding substantial deposits of lead, tin, zinc and silver. Word got out and more prospectors followed. Remember these prospectors would have all come on foot.

The mine grew and we were shown where the black powder was stored in an underground dugout to keep it at the right temperature.

We were shown to where the windlass used to be above the shaft and then we were led to a shed where Jeremy gave a safety briefing and we were issued with hard hats with lights. We’d been told when we booked the tour to wear sturdy shoes so we’d all worn our boots.

Jeremy led us down into the mine and it was very steep with steps just cut into the rock face. At times the ceiling was so low you had to bend over double. Luckily there’s a hand rail to hold on to.

For the next hour we were led up and down tunnels all carved into the rock by hand. At the bottom we were about 130 feet underground. The tunnels were mostly very narrow and then occasionally opened up into wide spaces. Jeremy explained that this is because the ore body the miners were following must have widened there and all the ore had been removed creating a big wide space.

Children as young as 8 years old worked in the mine sorting ore. They were used because they were small and could fit in tiny spaces. Although about 3 years of doing this was enough for the children to start losing their eyesight so they were then moved above ground. Our kids were amazed by this.

We passed an exhibit of old mining tools and a wooden wheelbarrow called a ‘Cornish barrow’. They were called that because they had no legs and were used to get in and out of smaller spaces than a usual wheelbarrow could fit.

At one part of the mine we came to a large opening and there was room for the whole group to sit around in a circle. Here Jeremy demonstrated how the miners working in threes would drill the holes in the rock. One would hold the spike and the other two would swing the sledge hammer in a rhythmic tap tap. Pity the poor guy holding the spike. It was his job to hold it steady and after each tap turn it a quarter turn so it drilled into the rock. Broken or sliced off thumbs was a common injury. Remember too that those miners were working by candle light.

Riley got to help with the demonstration and he was the spike holder!

There were two candles burning and Jeremy asked us all to turn off our headlamps. We were left with just the two candles and that is how much light the miners would have had. Incredible! Then Jeremy snuffed them out. It was pitch black. You could not see your hand held in front of your face! No wonder miners had horrific accidents such as falling down shafts.

As we had climbed down into the mine to exit we had to climb back up. Once back on the surface we had to hand in our hard hats and we were counted by Jeremy to ensure we had all returned to the surface.

The next tour group was assembling so we found a lovely sunny spot on the verandah where we were brought our previously ordered scones with jam and cream and hot drinks. The scones were delicious and the hot drinks were served in tin mugs. These were very welcome after our tour underground.

We left the Day Dream Mine and headed back out to the Silverton Road. On the way we asked everybody for a rating out of 5. We got 4.5 to 5 from everyone so we all thought it was a great experience.

A Mulga tree. These trees used to be everywhere around Broken Hill but most have been cut down to use as timber to shore up the mines. They are a very slow growing tree and this one could be hundreds of years old.

Silverton is only a short drive from Broken Hill and we’ve been there quite a few times already. However the children had never been and Katie hadn’t been there since she was a teenager.

Silverton is a lovely historic town with a current population of about 60. At it’s heyday in the late1880’s it had a thriving population of some 3,000. Silver and lead were found in the area and the town grew from there. The Silverton Tramway was built in 1888 to link with the SA railways and was Australia’s first private railway.

As Broken Hill mines were established Silverton fell into decline. Many of the buildings were transported to Broken Hill on jinkers pulled by camels, bullocks or donkeys. This is why so few buildings remain in the village to this day.

Although Silverton has a small population it is a vibrant community and the area has become famous for its popularity as a film set. Many movies and commercials have been made in and around Silverton. A Town Like Alice, Mad Max and many many commercials. The iconic Silverton Hotel has been used in many of those.

We stopped off at the old Gaol which is now a very good museaum housing memorabilia from Silverton’s past. Then we walked around the corner to the Silverton Hotel for some lunch. Our plan to drive out to Mundi Mundi Lookout was squashed as the road was closed due to the filming of a new Chris Hemsworth movie. Apparently he drove through just before we arrived at Silverton.

So after a quick drive around town we headed back to Broken Hill. We headed out of town again to visit the Living Desert and the Sculptures. The kids all declared the horse their favourite one. The view from the top of the hill is amazing. We recommend a visit here to any visitor to the area.

We had a quick stop at the Supermarket before heading back to camp. The kids played on their scooters, Katie met another couple camped with a New Age Bilby, and we all enjoyed delicious home made chicken burgers for dinner. What a great day!


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