In Ipswich, the majority of coal came from either the North Ipswich or the Swanbank/Blackstone formations. Our local interest, of course, is in the relatively nearby North Ipswich measures known as the Tivoli Formation because it was this coal that provided the energy for the great Easton and Anderson pumps of the Mt Crosby Pumping Station (steaming from 1892 to 1948). Coal mining at Tivoli began in the late 1860s and continued through to the 1970s. While much of the activity on the Tivoli fields was closer to Tivoli proper, there were at various times more than fifteen collieries that worked north of the Warrego Highway (roughly Chuwar). These mines can generally be divided into two classes; those which were relatively long lived, even profitable, and intersected the Eclipse (or Benley) seam; and the exploratory tunnels of the hard-up miners that intersected and tried to work the poorer Waterworks seam.
The Waterworks seam probably got its name from wasted attempts to supply Ipswich City Council's Kholo Waterworks with cheap local coal (1878). Although it was well known for its poor quality, the Waterworks seam continued to attract desperate miners for years after this. They were captivated by its thickness (up to 20ft) and the fact that the earlier miners had [wisely] left it all to them. But it always turned out to be stony, and optimistic hard men wasted part of their lives gambling that it must get better somewhere.
The wealthier operations, such as that of John Wright and Co. and the Ipswich Coke and Coal Company, tested the Waterworks seam but generally confined their operations to the proven Eclipse and Benley seams. Most of their collieries were clustered around Holdsworth Road and the termination of the Ipswich to Tivoli railway. Most notable is the tragic Eclipse No1 Colliery that collapsed during the 1893 floods causing multiple fatalities, among them two of John Wright's own sons.
The hard-up men prospected widely, and Messrs Morris and Thorne even tunnelled in the precinct of today's Karana Gardens and Blackwall Road. It is likely that they pinned their hopes on the Waterworks seam and the fact that their workings would be closer than Wright's to the Mt Crosby Pumping Station, a very large consumer of coal. Poor luck for them that the Waterworks seam stayed bad and the Chief Engineer was something of a connoisseur of coal. One should not underestimate the hardship and danger experienced by such men and women, as evidenced by this entry in Chief Engineer Joseph Stewart's letterbook of 1898:
"I examined Morris's property. It is situated on the opposite side of the road to Wright's new mine and about the same distance [?] from the pumping station. He has a hole driven in exposing a thin seam of coal with two bands if stone in it. It looks very dusty dirty coal and very soft. He had some on top which he was riddling and picking and he told me that two days previous he got two places in Ipswich to take a load to try it. He has no machinery and does all the work of getting the coal himself with the assistance of a young girl and he says he can get from 2 to 3 tons of coal daily. Morris was formerly a grocer and went insolvent. He seems very hard pushed and that will account for his primitive way of working."
Morris prospected a mine near the southern end of Lansdowne Way and a tunnel on Blackwall Road (portion 177 and 176). Thorne's tunnel was also located on Blackwall Road between Brodzig Road and Scholtes Road (portion 181). These mine locations are an indication that Blackwall Road is one of the oldest Roads in the district and that the combination of Coal Road, a portion of Blackwall Road, Scholtes Road and Allawah Road formed the original access to Mt Crosby in the 1860s.
- Thorne and Morris's mines were permanently remediated before the development of the Karana Gardens Estate