The Old Timers Mine is an attraction like no other, providing a fascinating insight into the iconic Outback town of Coober Pedy, its world-famous opal mining industry and its colorful people. The Mine’s extensive interpretive displays, historical memorabilia and the two underground dug-outs, fitted out exactly as they were in the 1920s and 70s, enable visitors to learn about the history and unique culture of Coober Pedy in a fun, interactive and informative way. Furthermore, the Old Timers Mine’s underground location in an authentic disused mine adds considerably to the experience from a cultural perspective, giving visitors a real taste of what life is like living and working underground in Coober Pedy.
Though the primary aim of the Old Timers Mine is to interpret Coober Pedy’s opal mining heritage, the attraction also plays an important role in educating visitors about the town in general. The majority of the attraction is devoted to telling this story. On display are tools and implements used 100 years ago to excavate and mine for opal, along with the original certificate of share in the Hutchinson prospecting syndicate and various other miners’ rights certificate. Historic tools, including a large collection of lamps, a ‘York hoist’ or motorized winch that was invented on the opal fields in 1958; a surveyor’s theodolite used between 1900-1940; and the first Coober Pedy opal mining blower, used in the 1960s, lasting only two days, can also be seen.
Items that tell the town’s cultural history include newspaper clippings found in the mine, some dating back to the 1920s; a century-old accordion squeeze-box used to entertain the miners; a c1960 Phillips wireless radio used in the dug-out; tins, petrol coupons and bullets from the World War Two era; historic Coober Pedy horse racing ribbons and trophies and the original Coober Pedy drive-in projector, last used for screening Crocodile Dundee in 1990.
An insight into healthcare in historic times is also provided; the Mine holds an original Royal Flying Doctor First Aid kit, complete with an explanation of how it was used to help treat and save the lives of isolated residents, along with a dentist’s chair and equipment used at the Mintabie opal fields. Other items include a horse-drawn road grader used to maintain local roads; a wooden wagon that used to travel between Adelaide and Anna Creek Station in 1875, an International truck c1956 and assorted historic typewriters and telephones, all once used in the town.
Film props and Ross’ rocket add to the experience by interpreting other interesting periods in the town’s cultural history. Modern opal mining machines are operated for the visitor to see and be involved in. There is also a noodling pit for all to find their own precious gemstone OPAL. You can also see the first opal discovered by 14 year old Willy Hutchison and a copy of a letter written to his mum about his find and his story.