The Ah Toy family have been living in the Northern Territory for over one hundred years. For generations, the family ran the old bakery and then the general store in the town.
At the peak of the mining boom the town's population included over 2,000 Chinese. The Ah Toy Bakery, which is an old corrugated iron shed, is a reminder of what life must have been like in the town around 1900. The building started life in Mount Diamond in 1908 as Jimmy Ah You's Butcher's Shop. When he moved to Pine Creek (1915) he brought the shop with him and rebuilt it using local timber. To bake bread he used ant bed mortar from the bush to build the ovens (they date from 1922) which are still standing today. Jimmy Ah You and his son, Jimmy Ah Toy, baked bread in the ovens until World War II. During the war the Army commandeered the bakery to supply the troops. Sadly, after 1945 bread from Darwin suppliers was trucked into the town and bakery closed.
Ah Toy's Store, located at 35 Main Terrace in Pine Creek, was opened in 1935 by Jimmy and Lily Ah Toy. It is now run by their son, Eddie, who was selected as Territorian of the Year in 2005. This is an amazing family. Eddie's sister, Joyce Chin, although now retired, was a famous educator in Northern Territory.
The Ah Toy's former bakery and baker's shop now become a key element of Pine Creek's main street scape. The shop and bakery form an excellent example of vernacular iron and timber buildings of the region from the early twentieth century period of the Northern Territory's history. At the Main Terrace frontage the shopfront abuts the footpath, with a timber and corrugated iron verandah over the footpath. The shop (which may have incorporated a residence) is timber framed and clad with corrugated iron. The roof is gabled and clad with iron. Extending from the rear of the shop is a group of timber framed, fibro and iron clad structures, including the bakery which contains two ovens (one of which, the older, was constructed with ant bed mortar). A well is located at the rear of the allotment. Several floors are of patchwork concrete, ie concrete broken up and moved from another location.
The Ah Toys family is one of the most enduring Chinese families in the Northern Territory. Members of the Ah Toy family still live in the town. The future of Ah Toy's Store is now in question, with younger members of the family not sure if they want to take on the commitment of the family business or living in a small country town for the long term.
National Trust Museum (Overland Telegraph Line Repeater Station)
This building was originally erected on the Goldfields at Burrundie in 1888 as the home of the mining warden. It was moved to Pine Creek in 1913. Over the years it served many purposes, including as a doctors residence, clinic, dispensary. During the war, it was taken over as a military hospital. In the late 1940's it was used as a post office and telephone exchange.
The building is now an excellent museum of local history, mining and the Chinese in the area. There are interesting displays of old bottles, a display of Chinese artefacts from the area, and an excellent display of the rocks of the area including a piece of yellow cake and some superb fossils of shrimps. Look through the building to find out more about the gold rush, buffalo hunters and the Overland Telegraph Line. It also houses the library which offers public internet access. The library open from Monday to Friday from 1pm to 5pm.
These water gardens, in the middle of the Pine Creek township, were created after the old railway tracks were pulled up, when the railway lines closed in 1976, leaving a series of unsightly trenches. Those trenches were then turned into a series of attractive ponds and landscaped gardens. Water Gardens just like an oasis in the outback.
There is impressive windmill that was moved here in Pine Creek in1991 from the small settlement of Wauchope 800 kilometres (500 miles) to the south. The area near the new location for the windmill was once the cutting for the Darwin to Larrimah railway. When the windmill was moved here, the idea for the Water Gardens began.
In 2005 an irrigation system was installed to bring water from the disused Enterprise Mine pit to water the town's parks and gardens.
Bird watching opportunities at the gardens are also excellent with the wet and dry seasons each attracting a variety of different species. A new, cost effective and sustainable means of using agricultural grade water from a retired mining pit is being applied to preserve the green belt throughout the town of Pine Creek, including the many fountains and falls at the renowned Pine Creek Water Gardens.
Established in 1988 as part of the Australian Bicentennial activities, Miners' Park is located next to the Railway Station and the old Station Master's residence. It has many pieces of historical mining equipment with interpretive signboards, which describe the equipment and explain how it was used. The self-guiding interpretive signs and displays give a comprehensive view of the technology and life in the goldfields in the late 1800's and early 1900's. There are two kiosks which record the history of mining in the Pine Creek area and the South Alligator River Valley. There are also some spectacular looking Boab trees in the Park.
It is the venue for the Australia day festivities and local goldpanning championships held each year.
Railway Station Museum and Steam Engine
Pine Creek Railway Station Museum is located in the original railway station building which was built in 1888 and served as a communications centre (it was the local post office for a time) until 1976. The railway buildings in Miller Terrace include a station building, water tank, residence, weigh bridge and goods shed
On display are historic photos' maps and memorabilia depicting the North Australian Railway. Check locally for opening times, gold coin donation for entry.
The railway was a vital link for the town. It was most important for the transportation of cattle and goods. By 1930 the mixed goods and passenger train, also known as Leaping Lena, had a regular timetable. It left Darwin at 8.00 am on Wednesdays and was scheduled to arrive at Pine Creek at 4.46 pm the same day. Those travelling to Katherine had to spend the night in PIne Creek as the train continued south at 8.00 am the next morning arriving in Katherine at 11.00 am. After an hour's stop the train continued on to Burdam (the end of the line south of Larrimah) arriving at 5.51 pm. It was notoriously unreliable
Next to the station is the 1877 Beyer Peacock locomotive which is restored as a "Centenary of Federation" project by the Pine Creek Community Government Council, believed to be the oldest restored locomotive in Australia. It operated between Darwin and Pine Creek from 1915 until it was decommissioned in 1945. It was restored in 2000 as part of the Centenary of Federation celebrations.
Walk Through Time Footpath
Heading south from the railway station and locomotive is the historic "Walk through Time" footpath, which is made up of nine bays of tiles painted by local artists. The tiles from a time line along the footpath, commemorating people who have made a contribution to Pine Creek, from the Aboriginal people to the miners and pastoralists of the 1960's. More tile bays will be added in the future. Take a walk through Pine Creek's streets and discover its rich architectural history. Many buildings from Pine Creek's past remain intact and are easily viewed from the road. The old bakery, the old station masters residence, the mining warden's house, Ah Toys Store and the old Playford Hotel. Departing from the Railway Station Museum is an historic "Walk Through Time" footpath which records, through a series of nine bays of tiles, a history of the district through people ranging from indigenous inhabitants to miners and pastoralists.
With decor inspired by 1950s American diners, walls adorned with pictures of classic Hollywood glamour, and the shirt Leonardo De Caprio wore in Romeo and Juliet, this charming little pit-stop serves delicious mango smoothies
Enterprise Pit Mine Lookout
Access to the lookout is via a steep bitumen road close to the centre of Pine Creek Township (no caravans). This lookout gives a panoramic view of the Enterprise Pit which is an open cut mine, now full of water to the depth of 135 meters. Before being mined this area was known as Enterprise Hill. Now called Enterprise Pi
It began as the Enterprise Shaft in1906 and was worked intermittently until 1985 when Pine Creek Goldfields developed the open cut mine. During the 10-year life span of the goldfields mine 764,000 ounces of gold were extracted. Creek Goldfields ceased operation in 1994.
Old Chinese mine shafts can also be viewed at the top of the lookout. Sunset views are spectacular from this vantage point. It also provides a 360 degree panorama of the surrounding countryside.
Pine Creek Cemetery
The cemetery is just to the east of the town itself, on the relatively new bypass, and close to where the as yet unbuilt rail will be laid. It is a somewhat unkempt place, notable for some immense termite mounds within the fenced off area of the cemetery. It may also be considered as interesting that many of the headstones are constructed of a local stone that is virtually raw but for the quite excellent carvings on the one face of each. There are many graves marked only by rusting steel crosses, with no indication of date or name.
It must at all times be realised that the Territory is a relatively new part of Australia in terms of formal records and artefacts, and thus cemeteries appear much more modern than elsewhere in Australia. It was not that people were not in the hot, fever-ridden swamps, but that when they died they were buried where they lay, or not at all.
There are no paths and graves are all over the place instead of being in rows and what with the long grass and saplings growing everywhere. When a funeral takes place the coffin has to be carried from the hearse through winding tracks between graves, some distance to where the new grave is situated.