|The Muja open cut coal mine at Collie
Western Australia's most important coal mining town
Located 203 km south of Perth, Collie is Western Australia's most important coal mining town. It proudly calls itself 'The Power Centre of the West'.
The area around Collie was first explored in 1829 when Captain Stirling led a party into the area as part of a general reconnaissance of the area to the south of Perth. Accompanying Stirling were Lieutenant Preston and Dr Alexander Collie. Collie (after whom the local river and the town are named) was the physician on the HMS Sulphur which had brought Captain Stirling to the Swan River colony.
The following year the Surveyor General John Septimus Roe travelled through the district as part of his general exploration of the south west. There seems to have been little interest in the area until coal was discovered in 1883.
Coal was vital to industry during the nineteenth century. It was the most basic and most essential form of power. It was therefore perfectly logical that shortly after the settlement of Swan River that government should offer a free grant of land to the first person to discover coal in the colony. Coal was found in various places around Western Australia but, for the most part, the deposits were poor, the coal existed in isolated locations and the cost of mining it made it uneconomic.
In 1883 coal was discovered along the Collie River. There is some dispute as to whether the first find was made by Arthur Perrin (who held the grazing lease) or George Marsh, a shepherd in his employ. Perrin announced the discovery in 1889 when he took out a coal mining lease of 300 acres. The following year the Collie Commercial Coal Mining Company was formed. It was clear that the area's supplies of coal were sufficient to justify the development of a town. In 1895 a railway line to the coalfields was commenced and the following year Collie was declared a township.
The establishment of the railway station meant that a station name was required. The station was originally called Collieville or Coalville. This was later changed to Colliefields and even later it was shortened to Collie, after Dr Alexander Collie.
The success of the coal mining ventures ensured the continued prosperity of the town. By 1899 Collie had a population of 600 and the mines in the district were producing over 55 000 tonnes per year. By the beginning of this century coal from Collie was being used extensively throughout Western Australia. The production level had increased to over 170 000 tonnes by 1910.
Today the estimated reserves of the Collie coalfield are around 2 000 000 000 tonnes of which it is believed that about 400-600 000 000 tonnes can be successfully extracted.
Things to see:
|Bottlebrush beside the road near the Collie Open Cut mine
Collie Tourist Information Centre
Collie has gone to considerable trouble to entertain and inform the visitor. The Collie Tourist Information Centre, conveniently located next to the Steam Locomotive Museum and over the road from the Collie Museum, is a good starting point. It is easily identified in Throssell Street by the statue of a coal miner which is outside the building.
One of the town's most intriguing attractions is the Tourist Coal Mine which is located next to the Tourist Information Centre. This replica of an underground coal mine has conducted tours which offer the visitor a rare insight into the internal workings of a coal mine. Tours usually last about 30 minutes. Enquire at the Tourist Information Office for times. Contact (08) 9734 2051.
Steam Locomotive Museum
On the other side of the Tourist Information Office is a remarkable collection of old Steam Locomotives. The Steam Locomotive Museum has 'F', 'V' and 'W' class locomotives all superbly restored as well as an old front end loader and a puffing billy. It is a pity that some 60 old locos had been broken up for scrap before someone realised that they should be preserved.
Over the road is the Collie Museum, an excellent display of local memorabilia which is housed in Collie's original Roads Board building.
All Saints Anglican Church
Two blocks away on the corner of Venn and Harvey streets is All Saints Anglican Church which was opened in 1915 after it had been built with money provided by a Lady Noyes in England. Built in a traditional Norman style the church has superb brass candlesticks and an altar crucifix which reputedly date from the seventeenth century. In the Sanctuary is a large mural which took 8 months in 1922 to paint. It was actually painted on a large frame in Perth and attached to the sanctuary wall later. It is interesting to note the local subject matter at the extremities of the mural. On the far right are two miners framed in a pit tunnel while on the far left are two Aborigines sheltering under a tree.
There is an excellent series of sheets on the history of the church which describe in great detail the figures in the mural. Titled The History of All Saints Church, Collie it is available from the Tourist Information Centre.