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Roadbuilder

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  • Roadbuilder

    Hello from Brisbane.

    My late father-in-law and I traversed the continent several times in the 90's including through the Central Road from Uluru (Ayers Rock) in the NT to Laverton in Western Australia. Part of this route traverses the Great Victoria Desert but also includes a substantial part of the Gunbarrel Highway. The latter nowadays attracts a lot of local four wheel driving interest and was the product of a man who most younger Australians have never heard of and maybe a few more older ones might have. This was Len Beadell whose small team constructed several thousand kilometres of rude bush tracks across the central and north western deserts as part of the British nuclear testing program in the 1950's and 60's. Prior to the testing there were virtually no roads in the region apart from a few very isolated stock routes and these were wanted to track the trajectories of the various missile firings - so working initially as an Army sureveyor with little more than a long wheel base Land Rover, D6 dozer and a Cat grader he was tasked to build them.

    The rough story is included in this YouTube clip:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JLss9TMCDx4

    The Gunbarrel is the most famous of the Beadell roads and got its moniker from the nickname of his team which was the Gunbarrel Construction Company - so-named because he was reported to have said that he liked to make things neat and preferred straight lines to curves. Many of the other "highways" are named after Beadell's family members - Anne, Connie Sue, Gary etc. His grader is on permanent display at the Giles Weather Station located near the point where the Gunbarrel crosses the NT-WA border. Not sure what happened to the Land Rover - apparently it is still about and I had thought that it might be either on display at the National Auto Museum in Birdwood (SA) or the National Truck Museum in Alice Springs (NT) but apparently not from my recent visits to both. Just have to keep looking.

    Beadell wrote a few books about his experiences and these are worth chasing up - one is "Too Long in the Bush" as a starter.

    Also as a bit of an aside. few Australians, even today, realised that nuclear detonations had ever occured on this continent. Woomera where the missile firings occured got a bit of publicity but Maralinga which took the blasts was well buried for years and really only got a bit of exposure when the British government was pushed to clean up the sites and pay compensation to the local aborigines who were not actually told to move. This was a bit paradoxical given the significant public angst over the US blasts at Bikini and the French testing at Mururoa in the Pacific.


    Cheers,

    Neil
    Last edited by S3ute; 02-14-2024, 10:31 AM.

  • #2
    The Beadell books really are worth reading. I somehow ran across them after vacationing "down under" in 2016 and they are classic "Land Rover" stories.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by mitherial View Post
      The Beadell books really are worth reading. I somehow ran across them after vacationing "down under" in 2016 and they are classic "Land Rover" stories.
      Hello again.

      Yes, despite their advancing age the books still have a reasonably popular following hereabouts. They’re commonly sold at many of the remote roadhouses in the outer blocks plus sometimes in the Australiana section of some of the larger urban bookshops.

      My late father-in-law had a few that he claimed to be favourite reading despite being only semiliterate having left school to go sink bore wells when he was about 13 years old. Despite that obvious setback he spent a lot of time out in the bush and also established a large rural earthmoving business which partly explained why the Beadell stuff appealed to him so much.

      Cheers,

      Neil

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