A new plaque will be unveiled at Thirroul Railway Station next week, explaining and celebrating the discovery of coal in the Illawarra.
A plaque was originally installed almost 20 years ago on Platform 2 at the railway station. The site was selected as Thirroul is a major transport hub, close to the coastline where the coal was first discovered. That original sign has faded with time so will be mounted on the wall of the waiting room next to the station master’s office, and a brand new sign erected.
Station Master Micheal Keelan is a keen supporter of local history and is enthusiastic about the new Discovery of Coal sign, which will compliment his existing collection of historical photos which he proudly displays on the walls of the waiting room.
The new sign is made from stainless steel and printed using modern technology which makes it more legible. It was manufactured by Brookes Engraving & Signs at Unanderra and funded by the Illawarra Branch of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM) and the Mineral Heritage Subcommittee. The sign is doubled sided so it can be viewed from both sides on Platform 2.
The unveiling will be held at Thirroul Railway Station on Monday December 17 at 11am.
A BRIEF HISTORY….
Coal was discovered in the Illawarra in 1797 when shipwrecked sailors walked from Victoria along the coastline to reach Port Jackson in Sydney. This was the first discovery reported to the Governor of the Colony of NSW.
The discovery of coal in Australia was confirmed by Dr George Bass who sailed to the Illawarra in a whaleboat with a small crew. His report includes a description of the 2.1 metre thick coal seam he found at Coalcliff. Bass returned to Port Jackson with three bags of coal and Governor Hunter sent samples on the ship “Britannia” to Sir Joseph Banks in England.
The first coal mine in the Illawarra opened on Mount Keira in 1849. The next colliery to commence was the Woonona mine which opened in 1857. This led to more mines opening to extract the Bulli Coal Seam where it outcropped along the escarpment.
By 1900, 12 collieries employing 2,300 men were operating along the coastline from Mount Kembla in the south to Balmain in the north. In 1907 there were 10 coke making plants operating in the Illawarra.
The Bulli Coal Seam is excellent coking coal and was utilised for smelting metal ores discovered at Broken Hill and then for steel production locally and overseas.
(information supplied by the Illawarra Branch of the Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM))