Big ‘n’ Bizarre

A road trip of Australia’s fibreglass monuments

The Big Miners’ Lamp

This is our first stop on the way back to the coast from last week’s visit to Bathurst’s Big Gold Panner. This week we’re in the old mining town of Lithgow to check out its contribution to Australia’s roll call of Big Things – the Big Miners’ Lamp.

This Big Thing is a rarity in that it’s been constructed without using a single piece of fibreglass, which is usually a staple ingredient in the creation of Big Things. The Big Miners’ Lamp is made of concrete and glass with aluminium for its conical roof and is attached to the Lithgow Tourist Info Centre, a spot that certainly ensures it has maximum exposure with visitors.

The Big Miners’ Lamp was the brainchild of a creative local with the wonderful name of Snow Vanderbelden. It seems Mr Vanderbelden (okay, let’s call him Snow) had lived in Lithgow all his life and wanted something to put the town on the map. Something that paid homage to Lithgow’s rich mining heritage while simultaneously acting as a bit of a tourist attraction. I can feel a Big Thing coming on.

Snow decided that a big miners’ lamp ticked all the right boxes and took his idea to Council for approval. Council loved the idea of Lithgow getting its very own Big Thing and enthusiastically gave the project the green light. Additional funding was provided by the Tourism NSW Gateway scheme, which was a state government initiative to promote and connect areas along the same transport corridor, like the Great Western Highway.

The Big Miners’ Lamp was officially opened by the Mayor of Lithgow and the NSW Minister for Tourism in 2005, making it one of Australia’s most recent Big Things. In the years since, it’s become an affectionately regarded local landmark, but has struggled to retain a true sense of purpose. Part of the problem is its size. While it’s certainly big for a miners’ lamp, it’s still way too small to accommodate anything useful like a café or gift shop. The most people can do is walk into it and gaze out of the glass windows like bugs caught inside a real miners’ lamp.

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