Herberton: Tin Mining Town

This weekend just gone Innisfail was wet (again). We decided that a short inland trip might be enough to break out of the wet weather zone and see some sights. Picnic packed, we headed for Herberton.

Our intention was to visit the Historic Village but, alas, Covid-19 restrictions meant that it wasn’t to be: Numbers were still restricted to 20 visitors and our party of 5 (Grandad M along for a visit) was too many. Despite this, the lady at the front entrance was lovely and very informative, telling us about other potential attractions in town. She also let us know that the Railway Museum would soon be resuming trips to and from the Historic Village, so we didn’t really mind missing out, because combining a future visit with a short rail ride seems promising.

So, I hear you ask, “What else is there to do in a little country town like Herberton?” Well, plenty, as it turns out. As well as finding a great little park for our picnic: Well appointed with electric BBQ, picnic tables, fun play equipment and a cute historical church for your viewing pleasure; we also stumbled across the Mining Museum attached to the Tourist Information Centre.

Now, whilst I’m willing to admit that the adults did not have particularly high expectations for a ‘gold-coin donation entry’ museum attached to a little Tourist Info Centre, we were pleasantly surprised. It was full of historical pieces, well considered displays, and some activities for the kids. Miss A narrates our experience below.

In the middle of the carpark was a fenced off area with a warning: Hidden Hazards! Within this fence is the Dinnerbell Mine Shaft, thought to be at least 20 metres deep. It did not look like much from the top, but I bet it is a long hard fall, if you were to fall down there.

At the front of the museum there was a rather large collection of old mining machines. Grandad explained how the the five head stamp battery worked.

Just beside the path near the entrance to the museum there was an interesting monument with plaques telling the stories of people who died in the mines, not just in Herberton, but nearby. The first name on the plaque was only known as “Scott”, no last name. Scott died in an accident where he tried to activate dynamite with his teeth! It turns out that he did activate it, but it turned out quite badly for him!

The man at the front counter was very friendly and had a lot of information to tell about mining. Dad and Grandad spoke with him for quite a while.

On the left as we entered the museum there was a rock collection and some mining history. As we walked in further, we saw a rather dark-looking cave. Upon entrance to the tunnel, a voice spoke out, “Hey, I’m busy! See you later, alligator.” It gave us a little shock! It turns out, it was just a dummy dressed like a miner, with a sensor to activate the voice recording as you walk in.

It was very dark in the cave, and further in, there was a large display of beautiful rocks which glowed. That showed us what the miners were looking for in the dark caves: Different types of fluorescent rocks.

On exiting the tunnel we saw a display of the possessions of a real-life miner, ‘The Lone Miner’, and an interesting story about his life. Through his mining, he earned enough money to build a big house with proper working facilities and rooms. Even though he owned the house, he still lived in the small mining shack: A one room shack with no toilet. He did occasionally shower in the house or visit it to use the privy!

All of his real-life possessions had been donated to the museum. These included a crate of dynamite and pile of ‘Sunshine Milk Powder’ tins where he stored the tin he found mining. On the wall was his good brown suit, used on special occasions and for outings.

Further into the museum we found dioramas with cranks and handles you could turn, to make the models in the diorama move and show the stages of refining ore.

The model five head stamp battery was very loud! So, what one would be like in real life: Absolutely deafening! Mining seems likes very noisy work.

In the courtyard, at the very end, we tried to break apart a rock using hand tools. It was hard work, but I managed to chip some off. Somebody else had made a large hole! There was lever to push around to lift buckets. It was hard work. We had to turn one way to lift the bucket, and then back the other way to drop it back again. We also had a quick try at panning for gold, but didn’t find anything.

The Mining Museum was very fun. There are some walking tracks that I hope we can do in the future.

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