Sunday, January 5, 2014

Sovereign Hill - Ballarat

Obviously, once again, first impressions are not always a good idea to go by. I was not impressed driving into the very dry and very dead town. The buildings are old and nothing was happening. Must admit it made me think of Klamath Falls. Our room is in an older part of town...that said the place is cool with real wood floors and old style period furniture. It fits in with Sovereign Hill, a very we'll developed old mining town we visited.

1000 candles a day - made by hand!
Panning for gold
They have gone all out on Sovereign Hill, recreating the old mining town that started the community. There are recreations of the tents people lived in, problems with the immigrants that came for the gold, particularly the Chinese, tours of a  mine and local stores that were common in the day - 1850's.  While the people came to find gold, others came to provide things they'd need. Mines used over 1000 candles every day so candle shops bloomed, using tallow from the animals killed daily to feed the thousands of men living there. They are still making candles there, dipping them repeatedly on huge racks into the melted wax...paraffin now. Could you imagine the stink from the tallow? Boys were apprenticed at the shop for four years...with no pay! Afterwards the owner, because they now had the knowledge, helped them set up their own shop because there was always a need for candles.
They build and maintain their carriages
Building each wheel - one by one!
They also needed carriages to haul good, gold and people so that business bloomed and is still going today. They have some of the early machines, all in working order, where they demonstrate how to create the wheel hubs, spokes, wood rims and the metal rim to finalize it. They run a number of carriages around the hill, carrying people in a real horse and buggy. They build and maintain what they have.
The machinery they have all runs on steam...and they still have 100 plus year old boilers cranking out the steam to run the milling machines, elevators into the mines and more. Fascinating.

Blacksmiths, cooks, tent makers, seamstress, post office, and even scribes all moved in to make the camps function and eventually become a city. It was fascinating to wander through and see everything.

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