Just 27 kilometers from Broken Hill is the old mining town (now ghost town) of Silverton. Mining there pre-dated the mines at Broken Hill and was the sort of place where men had to be real men.
Before we reached the town, we turned off to see the old Day Dream Mine. It was established in 1882 and attracted a sizeable settlement which, while short-lived, boasted 500-odd residents at its peak. The chimney from the first smelters can be seen on the side of a hill along the old access road. We just stopped for a look and didn’t think the $32 price of a tour was really worth the money.
The town of Silverton sprang up after the discovery of rich silver deposits, although it was soon eclipsed by an even richer silver-lead-zinc ore body at Broken Hill. While he town is often referred to as a ghost town, there remains a small permanent population and a number of tourist related businesses. It is becoming something of a centre for artists with at least three galleries scattered around the wide dusty streets.
Pastoralists first began settling in the area in the 1850s, with the main trade route to the area, in those days being along the Darling River. Some years later in 1875, two men, drilling a well on a station south of the town site, hit a lode of silver. In October 1886 the Silverton Municipal Council was formed and held its inaugural meeting in January 1887 in the Silverton Municipal Chambers, which still exist.. The town’s population quickly increased reaching a peak around 3,000 in the 1890s, and the Silverton Tramway was opened in 1888 connecting the town to Broken Hill and South Australia.
Most of the original buildings have now vanished or lie in ruins, but there are some interesting buildings that remain, including the Silverton Hotel and the Silverton Gaol. Silverton has been the scene for more than 140 films and commercials thanks to the light, the character-filled colonial buildings and its scenic desert surrounds.
The hotel, especially, has been seen in several productions, and its inside walls are covered with memorabilia, these productions include The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, The Flying Doctors, and Dirty Deeds. At least one of the Mad Max movies was partly shot in the town.
Just a few of the old stone cottages survive and they stimulated my imagination to reflect on what it may have been like to live in this rather baren desert environment. The old Catholic church once stood out as an island in the dusty landscape but it has been renovated and a garden planted around it. It doesn’t look nearly as bleak any more.
A little further on is a lookout where you can see right across the desert plains. They look dry and inhospitable – only good for emus and kangaroos. The panorama is so vast that if you squint your eyes, you can imagine that you can see the curvature of the earth.
Back in Broken Hill, we took a walk around the streets looking at the street scale of old buildings. They are a lot of old pubs in this town. I guess they go with the job of mining. Some are now just closed shells of buildings but the more entrepreneurial ones look to be doing well.
Broken Hill has been often been referred to as “The Silver City”, the “Oasis of the West”, and the “Capital of the Outback”. The town was founded in 1883 by a boundary rider named Charles Rasp, who patrolled the fences of the original pastoral lease. In 1883 he discovered what he thought was tin, but the samples proved to be silver and lead. The orebody they came from proved to be the largest and richest of its kind in the world. In 1885, Rasp and six associates founded the Broken Hill Proprietary Company (BHP), later BHP Billiton, and now back to BHP again. By 1915, BHP had realised that its ore reserves were limited and begun to diversify into steel production and mining overseas. Mining at the BHP mines at Broken Hill ceased in February 1939. The unions here were exceptionally powerful and many long term strikes were held over the life of mining operations..
BHP was not the only mining operation at Broken Hill though, and mining continued at the southern and northern ends of the Line of Lode. A small amount of activity continues to this day.
Broken Hill has a high potential for solar power, given its extensive daylight hours of sunshine. Nowdays, the town mines sunshine instead of minerals. The enormous Broken Hill Solar Plant, that we saw as we first entered the town was completed in 2015 and is one of the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.
My computer has now completely died. Last night, I could use it to write my blog post, but not to edit any photographs. Today. It will not even allow me to turn it on. So, I am back to my phone again. At least I was able to make an appointment at the Apple Store back home next week to get it repaired.