From the tiny hamlet of Blackball we returned to the hustle and bustle of city life in Greymouth. Just outside town alongside the Grey River is the site of the old Brunner Mine. This mine produced top quality coal and for a while the slack was turned into coke in the mines 25 coke ovens.
This coke was in demand by the smelting industry even in Australia where 5000 tons a year were being exported. Once the demand for coke slackened off the coal slack was dumped into the river as it had been previously.
The bridge over the Grey River has been re-built several times, the first being before it was officially opened when the south east anchor gave way having been incorrectly built. It took another 8 month’s to rebuild it.
The bridge took the coal and coke across the river to the railway yards and bought other materials back. At it’s peak there was a railway wagon crossing the bridge every 5 minutes making it extremely dangerous for other vehicles or pedestrians to get across. A request for a pedestrian walkway over the top of the bridge finally came to fruition in 1885.
Since our last visit the Department of Conservation have made a lot of improvements at the site including a memorial to miners killed in mining accidents. The Brunner Mine Disaster in 1896 being the worst with 65 men and boys being killed in an explosion. There is a report that the pit ponies refused to enter the mine on the morning of the accident and eventually had to be led blind folded to their eventual death. Perhaps the miners should have taken more notice as animals are renowned for senses that humans don’t have or know how to use.
The following enquiry reads like a re-run of the current arguments over the Pike River Mine Disaster where the mine owners ducked for cover blaming the miners. The latest addition to the memorial being the names of the 29 Pike River Miners.
After lunch we strolled into town from our latest overnight camp site taking us only 10 minutes. We re-acquainted ourselves with places and sight’s seen on our last visit some 10 or 12 years ago.
This included the arrival and departure of the Trans Alpine Express train from Christchurch which is how we made our last visit here. August or September are good months to take this trip when there is plenty of snow on the mountains.