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Gunbarrel Road 
Construction Party

This is a tribute to all of the men who worked with Len for many years on the construction of the famous desert roads. They worked together in very difficult harsh conditions and were handpicked for the roles they were to carry out as they had to be not just hard workers, but tough, resilient and able to think outside the box as well.

To the members of the Gunbarrel Road Construction Party …… without whose resolution and hard work, despite extreme conditions, the 6000 kilometres of loneliest roads in the world which opened up 2.5 million square kilometres of the waterless wastes of Central and Western Australia could not have been made.” Len Beadell, Outback Highways

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Photo: Some of the men with the grader. from left: Scotty Boord, Len Beadell, Doug Stoneham, Paul Christensen. Photo: Len Beadell

Who were the Gunbarrel Road Construction Party (GRCP)?

Len Beadell's map of roads made by the Gunbarrel Road Construction Party

Len Beadell's map of roads made by the
Gunbarrel Road Construction Party

After Len’s initial surveying role at Maralinga was completed in 1955, later in the year he assembled a small party of men to assist with the building of the first stage of the Gunbarrel Highway, a prelude to future road-building projects. This party became affectionately known as the Gunbarrel Road Construction Party and, with various changes in membership over the years, were subsequently responsible for the creation of over 6,500 kilometres of access roads for scientific observations relating to Woomera, Emu, Maralinga and the subsequent worldwide geodetic survey. One of the best known of these roads is the Gunbarrel Highway which runs from Victory Downs, near the Stuart Highway, west to Carnegie Station, a distance of 1500 kilometres.

They were so named as Len liked to keep the roads as straight as possible – ‘as straight as a gunbarrel’

Who were the GRCP Members?

One of Len Beadell's original plaques from the Sandy Blight Junction Road, dated 9 April 1960

One of Len Beadell's original plaques from the Sandy Blight Junction Road, dated 9 April 1960

Len was always the team leader and according to Doug Stoneham, was well liked by all the men. “We all enjoyed Len’s company as our boss. He was forever bright and cheerful”.

 

One of Len Beadell's original plaques from the Sandy Blight Junction Road, dated 9 April 1960

The members changed over the years but the early members included:

Len Beadell – Surveyor

Doug Stoneham – Bulldozer

Scotty Boord – Grader

Bill Lloyd – Supply driver

Frank Quinn - Supply driver

Rex Flatman – fitter and heavy equipment mechanic

Willy Appleton – Driver/Cherry Picker

Paul Christensen – Cook

 

Other members of the team over the years included:

Alex Bonney - Fitter

Jim Kennedy – Fitter

Cyril Koch – Cook

Tom Roberts – Cook

Bill Schapel – Cook

Eric Ward - Cook

Eric Graefling – Driver/cherry picker

Ron Rutherford – Driver/Cherry Picker

‘Shorty’ Waldon – Grader

Even Lassie & Bonnie the dogs get a mention on a few of the plaques!

What did the members of the Gunbarrel Road Construction Party Do?

Click to the next page to read more of the stories that make up this team.

References

References

Beadell Tours website www.beadelltours.com.au

Len Beadell, Outback Highways 1979

Mark Shephard, A Lifetime in the Bush The biography of Len Beadell, 1998

Photo Credits

Photographs are copyright and are used with kind permission from the families of Len Beadell, Doug Stoneham and Scotty Boord.