The history of the Gunbarrel Highway

Submitted: Thursday, May 10, 2018 at 11:37
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A bit of information about the Gunbarrel Highway for those interested.

Done most of it and would be happy to do it again. Great track.
What other people think of me is none of my business.
Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.

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Reply By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Thursday, May 10, 2018 at 14:15

Thursday, May 10, 2018 at 14:15
Yes Chris, I too have driven the full length of the Gunbarrel several times, once in the company of Connie and Mick.

It certainly is a great drive, one of the best, and I also hope to do it again.

Lennie certainly had his tongue in his cheek when he named it the "Gunbarrel" though ------- just look at the map! lol

For the 60th anniversary of the building of this road, Connie and Mick are escorting a tour along the full length of The Gunbarrel departing Kulgerra Roadhouse on the 14th May, but I would bet that it is fully booked. They will be on it again in 2019.

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Reply By: RobynR4 - Thursday, May 10, 2018 at 20:11

Thursday, May 10, 2018 at 20:11
Thanks Chris.
If you ever get the chance to read any/all of his books, do yourself a favour.
Some funny moments, some amazing stories of survival and pending disaster (eg when the food truck caught fire!) and such tongue-in-cheek, typical Aussie stuff.
Love 'em.
Thanks, Len for your legacy and for recording it.

Robyn :)
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Follow Up By: Greg J1 - Friday, May 11, 2018 at 05:37

Friday, May 11, 2018 at 05:37
Robyn. You do realise where Chris’s photo was taken ???
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Follow Up By: RobynR4 - Friday, May 11, 2018 at 19:56

Friday, May 11, 2018 at 19:56
I've never looked at it that closely (the outback is full of old burnt out wrecks-my bestie and her partner unwittingly added to the tally a few years ago).
The truck!
THE truck!!
Well Chris, I've no doubt that YOU have read Len's invitation to read was directed at anybody and everybody who hasn't...

I need to go and dig out my Len books and start on them "just one more time" (!) this weekend...


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Follow Up By: Greg J1 - Friday, May 11, 2018 at 20:17

Friday, May 11, 2018 at 20:17
Hi Robyn.

What I find a little disheartening is when we stay in a caravan park (which is rearly I must admit) is the number of older Australians who have never heard of Len Beadell. We have traveled on a number of his roads and the thrill of seeing one of his aluminium markers still excites me. Although most these days are replicas I just love reading and photographing them.

Love the way you added : the truck the truck.

Great to see another Len fan on here !!

Cheers Greg
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Follow Up By: Kenell - Saturday, May 12, 2018 at 12:11

Saturday, May 12, 2018 at 12:11
Well said Greg. It often amuses me how we educate our primary school children on bushrangers but not unsung legends like Len and his team. Every kid in school knows who Ned Kelly was. Ask them who Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson were or what happened at the Dig Tree etc and they don't know. Sadly much of our history, and geography for that matter, is just not being taught.
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Follow Up By: Idler Chris - Saturday, May 12, 2018 at 16:36

Saturday, May 12, 2018 at 16:36
Yes RobynR4, I have read most of his books and also travelled most of his tracks. I should check as I possibly travelled all of them over the years.
I have done Emu to Maralinga three times but it is now closed.
What other people think of me is none of my business.
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Follow Up By: RobynR4 - Saturday, May 12, 2018 at 20:42

Saturday, May 12, 2018 at 20:42
Well I'm only in my 40s and am a huge fan of Len, Malcolm Douglas, Jack Absalom and all those great adventurers.
Admittedly I hadn't heard of Len until I took my dad to Broome for a surprise birthday trip about 15 years ago. On the bus to Derby and the Horizontal Falls the bus driver played Len's Shepparton Talk.
I was hooked.
What a character.
Whenever dad found one of Len's books he'd buy it for me.

Another gorgeous memory from Len's books is the one about the dignitaries who came out to Moomba (?) and were the victim of some Beadell-inspired practical jokes...upon leaving, they (the visitors) flew low and fast over the tent city and flattened it beautifully!
Oh...and the family who lived in a lean-to and drove up to the fridge...
And the guy who needed Len's dental expertise...
And the Aboriginal guy who was moving alongside Len's car and the swarm of flies caught up with him...
And the dingo tracks found around his swag in the morning...
And the dry wit!!!!!!!!!

He's the sort of bloke that'd have to rate "up there" if someone posed that hypothetical "if you could invite anyone, living or dead, to dinner..."

To those who haven't heard of yourself a favour!!!

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Follow Up By: David I1 - Saturday, May 12, 2018 at 22:22

Saturday, May 12, 2018 at 22:22
I had the pleasure of meeting Len a number of times. He came to Victoria in the 70s and talked at a LCCOV meeting and my mate and I were hooked. We looked him up and went to his house in Elizabeth SA before we did 4 trips in 4 years to do all his tracks. Connie and Gary were just small children then. We would arrive at his home at about 10 am and left well after dinner. His stories and books were all signed personally and I treasure then. His instructions were all in Miles not Kms, and often he gave us tips about interesting side trips to do on our trips. Recently I did the Connie Sue again and looked up my notes. It was fantastic that things he mentioned were still there and in some cases people today do not know they exist. Ie Aboriginal painting, water wells, swimming holes all off the tracks, but not mentioned anywhere unless you knew where to look. His work at Woomera is testamount to his forethought and the Museum there is a real Beadell "Shrine". He is also buried there. A true modern day explorer
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Saturday, May 12, 2018 at 22:54

Saturday, May 12, 2018 at 22:54
We called in once again at Woomera a couple of weeks ago and I can report that the Woomera History Museum at the Missile Park now opens only occasionally when volunteer staffing is available. The phone number is disconnected.
The Heritage & Visitor Centre are currently restricting their hours to 9am to 3pm.
But of course you can visit Len and Anne's grave site at any time.

Although the village is being maintained very tidily, the missiles in the park are in need of some TLC.


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Follow Up By: Member - McLaren3030 - Sunday, May 13, 2018 at 09:33

Sunday, May 13, 2018 at 09:33
I believe that Len Beadell is probably our greatest adventurer, even though he did not set out to be one, he was just doing his job. Although I had heard of Len & his Gunbarrel Road Construction Party, it was not until the early 2000’s that I read one of his books and I was immediately hooked. I have since read several more of his books, and have a couple of DVD’s as well. I have driven parts of several of his roads, but I intend to eventually drive them all. Agree totally that more should be taught about people like Len in schools.


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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Sunday, May 13, 2018 at 11:27

Sunday, May 13, 2018 at 11:27

If you are just getting into Len Beadell, he has many great books to read, but you must also remember he was a fantastic story teller. The Gunbarrel Construction Park were a credit to the Australian Government and opened up thousands of kilometre of remote outback tracks that are fantastic to drive.

But when you read his books, you must remember that Len told them to spellbound those that were reading them, and at times what was written is not often quite true facts.

I suggest that you also try to get hold of another great book about Len Beadell, called "Len Beadell's Legacy" by Ian Bayly who will set a few truths and I know this caused a few issues in the Beadell household.

As for being our greatest Adventurer, that would be a very big call, as there are many great quiet Australian's that have also achieved many great things in a very quiet manner.

One such person that I bet many of you readers out there will never have heard of before, was born less than 45 minutes from where I live here in Clare.
Sir Hubert Wilkins has been described :-

"Hubert Wilkins was truly the last - and one of the greatest - explorers. And much more than that. Born in South Australia, he spent much of his life outside the country - but always remained an Australian. He travelled through every continent and was a pioneer of aviation. He survived crashes and disasters, firing squads and sabotage, living long enough to be honoured by kings, presidents and dictators. He was a frontline photographer in World War I - and was twice decorated. He took the first ever film of battle and took the first moving images from an aircraft. He was the first man to fly across the Arctic Ocean, the first to fly in the Antarctic - and the first to fly from America to Europe across the then unknown Arctic (the New York Times called this 'the greatest flight in history'). In the 1930's he spent several years travelling in western Queensland and the Northern Territory - where many of his observations and views were ahead of their time. In the later years of his life he did work for the US military and intelligence - and in 1958 was buried at sea at the North Pole by the US Navy."

I am not having a go a Len, he was a fantastic guy, but like I said there are many other great Australian's that many have never heard of and have achieved many threat adventures.


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Follow Up By: Greg J1 - Sunday, May 13, 2018 at 17:47

Sunday, May 13, 2018 at 17:47
Robyn. I first learnt of Len in 1980. I was a teenager doing a fitting and turning apprenticeship under an old army engineer. I had heard stories about this old surveyor at lunch and smoko times.

My mother died when I was 10. My father married a much younger lady. She treated me badly and when I was a typical teenager I rebelled. After the forth time arriving at work with black eyes from my father my old boss said I think you need to head West young man.

Finally I caught the bus from Toowoomba to Mt Isa. I sat waiting for the bus beside an old black man. He was the nicest man I had ever spoken to. We caught the same bus and we talked most of the night. He bought breakfast for me in a small western Queensland town. He asked me about my black eyes( the fifth ones) I told him my story.

He related my story to a young army surveyor who told him to gather his family and get the hell out of an area in South Australia because all hell was about to break loose. He said those army white fellas know things.

He gave me some names and phone numbers of station owners who may have wanted men. I haven’t looked back since.

My only regret in life is never knowing this old black mans name.

Sorry for the long story but I thought you may appreciate a story about Len that will never get published

Cheers Greg

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Follow Up By: Ron N - Monday, May 14, 2018 at 00:46

Monday, May 14, 2018 at 00:46
I admire Len and his storytelling ability - and I've read all his books.

But it pays to remember that the crew he worked with, the dozer and grader drivers, the cook, the mechanics, and whoever else was there - all put up with exactly the same conditions as Len did - and the same events.

In addition, they were Govt-funded, and that beats trying to fund yourself, in the Outback.

Len did do some serious pioneering, bush-bashing work, out in front of the crew, with his Landrover - but if he had ever not returned, his crew would have been right out there, looking for him.

Then there are the plenty of other people who have worked constantly, or for long periods, in the same type of environment - station owners and employees, prospectors, contractors, other equipment operators - and also in the days of non-existent quick communication. Len at least had radios.

My own father spent a number of years in the early 1930's, working as a fencer and well-driller on W.A. pastoral stations - largely on his own - and often on the fringes of much of the interior desert country.

He often didn't see anyone for up to 3 or 4 weeks at a time. One mistake and he would have been up the proverbial creek without a paddle.
He told us about when he was out NE of Doolgunna, he came across an old prospector who was just living off the land out there - and who had been for several years.

I often wish I'd written down his stories, it would have made a cracking book on a par with any of Len's books.
There are many unsung heroes of the Outback, they just didn't get around to writing books about their exploits.

Cheers, Ron.
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Follow Up By: RobynR4 - Tuesday, May 15, 2018 at 17:17

Tuesday, May 15, 2018 at 17:17
Greg, Ron (and others!)
You are so right.
There are soooo many heroes of the outback and many of them unsung and unknown.
And yes! Len's team!!
Walk through the Stockman's Hall of Fame.
Read "Where The Dead Men Lie".
Look at little outback graves and wonder.
Ponder at outback ruins and what led to them being abandoned.
Our white history may be only short but wow, what they endured.
Even's not exactly a picnic for the residents of remote places when things go pear-shaped in some way...
I take my hat off to them all, whether familiar or unknown.
And I know many, many other people do likewise.
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