If ever there was a ghost town that personifies the rise and fall in the fortunes of the mining towns of outback Australia, it is Silverton, a remote outpost to the north of Broken Hill so close to the NSW/SA border it almost doesn't matter in which state it resides.
Once a thriving mining centre, what remains today are the bare bones of a once thriving community, and an example of what happens when a mining town goes bust. The same landscape that was once home to a legion of miners, however, is now inspiring a new generation of artists who have breathed life back into Silverton. Its iconic pub, which rocketed to fame after appearing in the first couple of Mad Max movies that were made in and around Silverton, is a hive of activity and a credit to its owners, Peter and Patsy Price, who have done amazing things with the place.
Patsy and Peter Price, Silverton Hotel
Although less than 60 people live in Silverton today, the town has enjoyed a new life. It is now managed by the Silverton Village Committee, which includes locals and Government representatives. Although few buildings remain, the culture remains vibrant. The same landscape that was once home to a legion of miners is now inspiring a new generation of artists. Its rich history and art galleries attract people from all over the world.
Silverton had its origins in the late 19th century, when the Barrier Ranges were alive with mining activity. Mining claims sprung up as pioneers arrived to seek their fortune in the outback earth. What became Silverton emerged in 1880 and quickly took on the role of the area's largest township as it offered a central, flat position and a reliable water supply.
Originally called Umberumberka after the nearby township from which it was considered an offshoot, Silverton was truly born in 1883 when its name was proclaimed and it received a post office in 1883. At that time, Silverton boasted a population of 250, but in a matter of months that number had doubled. Within two years, 3,000 people had set up shop in Silverton - the peak of the township's population.
Once Silverton was established, it quickly began to flourish, with businesses, medical practitioners, solicitors, and entrepreneurs of every type springing up to line the streets. The Silverton Municipal Council was formed in 1886 and held its inaugural meeting the following January. As the town grew, the traditional methods of transport - wagons drawn by animals - had been all but exhausted.
It became apparent that a railway line would be of benefit. While the South Australian Government constructed a line as far as the border, the NSW Government declined to extend the line through their territory. Thus, the Silverton Tramway Company - locally and privately owned - was formed to build and operate the line. It was opened in 1888 and ran from Cockburn, through Silverton and on to the newly discovered Broken Hill. The line functioned up until 1970, having transported 57 million tonnes of freight and 2,881,000 passengers, when trains were re-routed at Cockburn to bypass Silverton.
In its heyday Silverton boasted every convenience, including a newspaper, Masonic Lodge, goal, gymnasium, hospital, jockey club, football team and Methodist Church. The trade union movement, popularised by its successes in Broken Hill, originated in Silverton in 1884. Formed at a public meeting, the Barrier Ranges Miners' Association was a friendly society aiming to assist those injured in a mining accident.
Ruins of the original Silverton Hotel, where the BHP mining company was formed
In 1886 the association resolved to form a branch of the Amalgamated Miners' Association of Australasia. They pushed for workers' rights under the banner "United we stand, divided we fall", and unionism was born in the region. That wasn't the only thing to happen in Silverton that would have repercussions farther a field. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited was formed in 1885 when "the Syndicate of Seven" put their money where their mouth was in a room in the original Silverton Hotel, agreeing to register the Broken Hill Proprietary Company or BHP. Ruins of the building where it all happened remain today at the back of the present day hotel. BHP would have a huge impact upon the country's mining industry and the State's finances for generations.
Ironically, the region's rich mineral deposits that Silverton was built upon were also the cause of its eventual decline, as larger mines sprung up in nearby Broken Hill. The Municipal Council was taken off the NSW state register in 1899, leaving the State Government in control of the town, and many of its buildings were transported into Broken Hill by teams of donkeys, camels or bullocks.
Mad Max 2
The unique land and light has led to Silverton being immortalised on both television and the movie screen. Silverton's unique landscape has drawn filmmakers from around the world. Print and television commercials have been made there for decades and the film industry is today an integral part of Silverton. Most locals had at least a walk-on role in Mad Max II, which was filmed in and around the town in 1981. The odd set still stands today, dotted around the Mundi Mundi Plains.
So vast is the desert landscape around and beyond Silverton, from the Mundi Mundi Plains lookout it is possible to see the curvature of the earth by scanning the horizon. The Mundi Mundi plains lookout is often described as being on the edge of the world From the top of the hill, the flat lands stretch out for an eternity. Take a self-guided walk and take a champagne picnic! Visiting at dusk and watching the sun dip behind the alluvial fans on the edge of the vast plains is an unforgettable experience. Mundi Mundi plains lookout is located 29 kilometres north of Broken Hill or four kilometres north of Silverton.
Since it was filmed here, it is no surprise that Silverton is home to Australia's first and only museum dedicated to Mad Max 2. It is a passion an obsession which has seen now local man, Adrian Bennett, pack up and move halfway around the world from Bradford in England to live his dream of owning and operating a museum dedicated to Mad Max 2. He says he didn t really start collecting things for the museum until he moved to Australia, and being in the heart of the Mad Max country here he was able to meet people who were kind enough to donate items such as photographs from personal collections. Adrian has collected many original action vehicles, props and relics by fossicking around the film locations himself.
Items are displayed in such a way that it tells the story of the film. This visually stimulasting museum is a result of a lot of hard work on Adrian's and his family's part. Offering a large collection of photographs, life size characters in full costumes, original and replica vehicles including two Interceptor s one of which was built by Adrian himself. The museum also exhibits memorabilia with souvenirs available for purchase.
Open 7 Days 10am 4pm (except Christmas Day) and unless otherwise stated. Admission fee applies.