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Collinsville, QLD

Historic mining town once so radical it was nicknamed "Little Moscow" now known as the Pit Pony Capital of Australia.

Collinsville is a mining town. No matter where you look in this small town you are reminded of its mining heritage. There is a memorial statue at the entrance to the United Mineworkers Club (now known as the Collinsville & Scottsville Workers Club) in Railway Road which bears testimony to the miners that have been killed in the district's mines over the years. There is the impressive Coalface Experience Museum at the Workers Club. There are eight murals around town representing aspects of regional coal mining. The entrance to the town boasts an impressive brass statue of a Pit Pony and even the local pub has been renamed the Pit Pony Tavern. In 2013 the mining company, Glencore, closed the local mine down. It had been making a loss for years. Then, with an increase in price, the mine was reopened in 2016. Between the two events houses in the town were selling for as low as $65,000. Today, with the price of coal rising, the mine has reopened and Glencore are, once again, employing over 300 people in the mines. The other company operating in the area - Q Coal - have mines on the southern end of town: Sonoma mine, Drake mine, Jax mine and, in 2017, a new mine under construction called Byerwen mine.

Location

Collinsville is located 87 km south-west of Bowen, 1,144 km north west of Brisbane and 187 m above sea-level.

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Origin of Name

During the building of the railway in 1917 the district was known as Moongunya which was thought to be a local Aboriginal name for "coal". In 1921, as a town began to develop, it was renamed Collinsville after the local MLA Charles Collins who represented the Bowen electorate from 1915-1936.

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Things to See and Do

Walking Around The Town
There is a pleasant, and easy, walk from the Pit Pony bronze sculpture, down the main street (Scottsville Road) and around into Railway Road to the Coalface Experience at the Collinsville & Scottsville Workers Club. Along the way there are a number of interesting murals (mostly depicting the role of the Pit Pony in the history of the town), past the pubs in town (notably the Pit Pony Tavern) and past the town's modest memorial to the miners who have died while working underground. There are information signs along the way which recall places such as the Pioneer Picture Palace (built 1923 and operated until 1984) which became a grocery and vegetable store and the Pit Pony Experience Donators Wall (near the bronze Pit Pony).

The Pit Pony Statue
In 2015 meetings were held to raise money to build a bronze statue of the town's last pit pony. Pit ponies hauled empty skips into the bords for the miners to fill, then hauled full skips out to the rail end where a winch rope was hooked onto a string of full skips and then winched to the surface. They also dragged metal sleds full of supplies for the miners all around the pit, pulled electrical boxes into position and delivered rolls of cable and drums of oil. They were eventually retired in 1990. The statue is located on the median strip in Sonoma Street at the entrance to the town.

The Coalface Experience
Located upstairs at the Collinsville & Scottsville Workers Club in Railway Road (you pay your entry at the bar), The Coalface Experience uses a combination of interactive displays, audio-visual exhibits, two theatrettes and historical records, to present visitors with a history of the coal mining industry in Collinsville and an interpretation of the past, present and future of Queensland’s coal mining industry.
By focusing on the lives of individual miners (their recollections are caught on video) it offers a deeply personal insight into the struggles, strikes and the mateship which lie at the heart of this very dangerous and difficult industry. The museum also shows visitors what life was like for the coal miners, both above and below ground in the 1950s.
The museum’s opening coincided with the 50th anniversary of the town’s biggest underground mining disaster, in which seven men were killed in an underground gas explosion on October 13,1954. It honours those men, and 19 others who have also lost their lives on the Collinsville coalfield. For more information tel: (07) 4785 5452.

Reservoir Hill
Turn off the main road from Bowen at Walker Street and then turn into Shrubsole Street and you will reach Miller Street which ascends to the Town Reservoir Hill which offers good views over the town. It is possible to see Mount Devlin to the north, the Leichhardt Ranges to the east, and the Sonoma and Collinsville mines to the south and west.

Collinsville - Scottsville Walkway
If you feel like some exercise there is a 3.7 km tarred walkway which runs beside the road from Collinsville to Scottsville.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Collinsville Coal Mine
Today Collinsville is an open-cut mine at the northern end of the vast coal deposit known as the Bowen Basin. The mine produces coking and steaming coal with the coal being shipped out from Abbot Point north of Bowen. The mine is not open for inspection. It has been estimated that the mine still has coal reserves of approximately 196 million tonnes of coking coal.
Mining began in 1919. Mount Isa Mines (MIM) gained a controlling interest in 1972. In 2003, MIM was purchased by Xstrata. Management of the mine was continued by Thiess until early 2013. In July 2013, the new owner, Glencore, dismissed 249 workers in an effort to return the mine to profitability. By 2016 they were preparing to rehire 200 workers and reopen the mine with new equipment. They eventually employed over 300 miners. The mine is now vulnerable to price fluctuations and the increasing move towards renewable energy.

Bowen River Hotel
Located on the Bowen River 8 km from Strathmore Station Homestead and 23 km west of Collinsville, the Bowen River Hotel is a hotel which was restored in 1999. The pub was originally established around 1860 as a resting on the banks of the Bowen River, was donated to the National Trust of Queensland in 1974 by Ted Cunningham, of Strathmore Station. It lay abandoned until 1999, when it was rebuilt, using traditional timber preparation and carpentry methods. The pub is comprised of two buildings, connected by a covered walkway and is a fine example of bush carpentry and jointing with wooden pegs. The hotel has a wonderful collection of photographs, paper clippings and memorabilia from bygone years. For more information tel: (07) 4785 3388.

Fossicking
The area around Collinsville is known to contain quantities of opalised wood, petrified wood, hornblende, prehnite crystal, jasper, calcite, amethyst and agate and is therefore popular with gem fossickers. A fossicking licence is required and fossickers must also obtain permission before entering private property. For the best places to seek the local gems, contact the Bowen Lapidary Club, tel: (07) 4785 6312.

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History

* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area around Collinsville was home to members of the Biri Aboriginal language group.

* The first European in the area was Ludwig Leichhardt who reached the Suttor and Burdekin Rivers to the west of the present town in April 1845.

* Leichhardt was followed by a number of explorers of whom the most important was George Elphinstone Dalrymple, who explored the area in 1859-1860. His forays happened to coincide with the establishment of the separate colony of Queensland (December 1859) which led to the official opening up of the district in early 1861.

* Between 1861 and 1863 the entire area was taken up by pastoralists. Strathmore Station was the first to be established in the district.

* The European settlement of the area led to the discovery of significant deposits of gold, silver, lead, bismuth, gemstones and, in 1866, coal.

* In 1912 the Bowen River Coal Prospecting Syndicate was formed to mine coal in the area.

* Coal seams were verified in 1914.

* In 1917 construction of a railway from the coast to the coalfields began.

* By 1919 coal was being extracted from an area which, at the time, was known as 'Moongunya' - thought to be the local Aboriginal word for coal. The underground mine was operational from 1919 until the 1960s.

* By 1921 a town was created by the Queensland government around the coal mine. The state primary school was established in the same year.

* By 1922 nearly 100 lots had been sold. The area was renamed Collinsville after the local politician Charles Collins who represented the Bowen electorate from 1915-1936.

* The railway finally reached the town on 31 August, 1922. Over 200 men were employed in the local coal mines, the town's population had reached nearly 700 and there was a hotel, a picture theatre, a dance hall, a bowling green and several shops and tradespeople.

* The Post Office opened in 1923.

* In 1924 the Post Office officially changed the name of Scottsdale to Scottsville to avoid confusion with Scottsdale in Tasmania.

* A hospital opened in the town in 1926.

* By 1936 Collinsville had four strong and powerful Communist trade union branches. A Catholic primary school was established in the same year.

* In 1954 seven men and two horses were killed in the Collinsville State Coal Mine due to the collapse of 450 tonnes of earth.

* In 1960 the Queensland government closed down the State-run mine in the area, claiming that it had experienced 'a long period of friction with militant trade unions'.

* The mine was subsequently sold to private enterprise which managed to win a large contract with Japan, thus keeping the town economically viable.

* In 1967 a powerhouse was built. It was closed in 1988.

* In 1983 a railway line was opened to the open cut mine at Scottsville.

* The railway was modernised in 1985.

* In 2013 the mine was purchased by Glencore and closed down until it could make it economically viable. It had been running at a loss for 18 months.

* The Pit Pony Tavern was opened in 2015.

* 2016 Glencore announce that they will open the coal mine again and employ 200 miners.

* Today the area around Collinsville produces over one million tonnes of coal per annum which is shipped to the new deepwater coal-loading facilities at Abbot Point near Bowen.

* In 2017 Glencore produced 4 million tonnes of coal from their Collinsville mine. Q Coal produced 6 million tonnes.

* Glencore estimate they will produce 8 million tonnes from their Collinsville mine in 2018.

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Visitor Information

The Collinsville Visitor Information and Tourist Centre is located in the Collinsville Showgrounds, cnr Stanley and Conway Street, tel: 0418 556 560. Also check out the Bowen Visitor Information Centre, 236 Bruce Highway, Bowen, tel: (07) 4786 4222.

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Useful Websites

There is a fascinating website Collinsville Memoirs Online which records the history of the town through over 20,000 images.  Check it out at http://www.memoirs-online.com.au. The official local website can be accessed at http://www.tourismbowen.com.au/collinsville.

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Got something to add?

Have we missed something or got a top tip for this town? Have your say below.

4 suggestions
  • Tell us specifically where the 8 murals are. Perhaps a mural map.

    Bev Appleyard
  • QCoal are not good local citizens!!!!

    http://savecoralcreek.com/

    Thor Prohaska
  • Charles Collins was also Premier of Queensland for a couple of hours as interim Premier, That may have been just before Collinsville was named after him.

    Geoff Fielder
  • Never met more happy genuine friendly people. Very deep long heritage in the area ! Even saw a local yocal bloke rock up at the ‘river’ pub on a horse. More original than Croc Dundee Paul Hogan – feeding $20 notes into a police machine. He justified himself saying how 38% goes into honest struggling charities like the salvoes !!

    Brad ‘Rizzo’ .poet . Brzeski from nambour