The first thing you will see upon entering the town of Beaconsfield in the West Tamar region is the imposing mine shaft. It stands tall behind the Beaconsfield Mine and Heritage Centre and as we later found out, can also be seen through the ruins of the old buildings. However, Beaconsfield isn’t just about mining as we discovered on our recent visit.
by Kathryn Heathcote
As we stepped through the corrugated silver doors and into the Beaconsfield Mine and Heritage Centre, we entered a bygone world of steam and communication. A red phone box stands central to the entrance with a wind up telephone inside. Harry, my 14 year old, entered the box and made a call. The telegraph pole and wires connected and allowed me to receive his call via an old, wall-mounted phone.
This wasn’t the only interactive display. You are encouraged to twist, turn, dial, pull or push wherever you see a gold hand. Harry explored every single gold hand he could find.
Trapped: Story of Todd, Brant and Larry
Moving through the Beaconsfield Mine and Heritage Centre you enter the world of Tasmanian mining and in particular the story of the collapse disaster on ANZAC Day 2006 involving Todd Russell, Brant Webb and Larry Knight.
The story of how and what these men were mining is told through a series of displays and television footage within a caged mock up of the inside of a mine. Todd Russell appears as a hologram to explain the circumstances in more detail. If you miss any details the first time around, you can press the display to hear it again.
Did you know the Beaconsfield Mine was famous for being the wettest mine in Australia, pumping out 70 litres of water per second, the equivalent of 250 Olympic swimming pools per day?
The story of Todd and Brant is told through various media; the team that helped them and a child’s toy that inspired and gave hope. You can crawl into a tunnel the same size as that which Todd and Brant survived in for 14 days and see the press footage of Larry Knight being laid to rest.
Beaconsfield Mine and Heritage Centre: Olden Days
Further exploring of the Beaconsfield Mine and Heritage Centre takes you on a trip down memory lane (for those of us that can remember) and for those too young to know, a trip back in time. Apple packing, old tools, nautical knots to get you in a twist; school desks with an ink well and pen enticing you to dip the nib and practice writing in calligraphy. A hospital room that today would make us cringe… except for the baby scales that made my son laugh: “do they really weigh babies in that!!” There was also a huge jigsaw puzzle that we never did manage to finish.
You can rest for a while in cinema seats and listen to the fascinating story behind the Batman Bridge before making your way through a tunnel to the outside ruins, man ferns, pump rods and shafts. Children will love to pan for gold, while adults can soak in the history of the surrounds.
History For Kids in Tasmania
On our arrival, Harry was given a search and find quiz. Armed with his green slip of paper and a pencil he went in search of a whole range of creatures, big and small. Walking round the centre with her two small children, one lady remarked that a visit to the Beaconsfield Mine and Heritage Centre is a brilliant way to encourage children to look and read the displays and learn a little about Tasmanian history.
The Beaconsfield Mine and Heritage Centre is located in West Street, Beaconsfield in northern Tasmania. For more information visit the website of the award-winning tourist attraction or phone 03 6383 1473. You can also follow Beaconsfield Mine and Heritage Centre on Facebook. Kathryn and Harry were guests of the museum, invited to visit on behalf of Think Tasmania.
Kathryn Heathcote from Evandale won tickets to the Porcelain Punch Travelling Medicine Show by entering one of our giveaway opportunities, then offered to write a review of the show. She has also had two other articles published showcasing her Cradle Mountain Snow photos and her son’s theatre production titled There Goes the Neighbourhood.
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