Beadell, an army surveyor, was given the task of carrying out an
initial survey of the area
that was to become the Woomera Rocket Range.
He continued to work on the rocket range after his discharge
from the army and was responsible for the
construction of over 6000 km of roads through 2.5 million km2 of the
Great Sandy, Gibson and Great Victoria deserts.
The first task was to construct a road running west to east across the
centre of Australia to provide a major
service access for the construction of all other linking
Being a surveyor who liked to draw neat lines on maps, he decided to
site roads in areas where long straight lengths could be built.
This would maximise the efficiencies of distance, fuel and
He light-heartedly called his small group of seven the
"Gunbarrel Highway Construction Party" as a reference
to the alignment of the roads they were building.
He led his party alone in a Landrover, often working alone many
hundreds of kilometres in front of the rest of the crew.
A D6 Caterpillar bulldozer driven by Doug Stoneham followed.
As they started each new section Doug would drive toward a
flasing mirror or flare shot high into the air.
After a few minutes Len would continue on with his work and
would keep a straight line by sighting back over his shoulder.
Scotty Boord drove the Number 12 Caterpillar
Supplies were carried in three 3-tonne trucks and a second Landrover.
Rex Flatxan was the mechanic. Bill Lloyd was the
long distance driver who brought up the rations, fuel and water.
Tom Roberts was the cook. Ron Rutherford drove the
He was a general hand who also cleared the road of debris
after the last pass of the grader.
The first 150 km of road from Carnegie Station to Mulga Park Station
was constructed in 1955.
In 1956 the next 575 km to the site where Giles
Meteorological station now stands was constructed.
The last 800 km to Victory Downs Station near the Stuart
Highway was finished in 1958.
Nowadays the Gunbarrel "Highway"is the name given to the collection of
tracks and roads that lead east from Wiluna
and eventually end up at Uluru. Strictly speaking,
first section from Wiluna to Carnegie Station is not part of the
It was an existing road before Len Beadell started blazing
the Gunbarrel east of Carnegie Station in 1955.
The distances heading east are huge!! This misspelt sign is
travelled along the Gunbarrel Highway after reaching Wiluna via Alice
the Tanami Road and the Canning Stock Route.
first 400 km or so (to beyond Carnegie Station) is a good gravel road,
well maintained by the Wiluna Shire.
solar powered pump filling a stock dam
had lunch at a very pleasant spot on the banks of Harry Johnstone Waterhole
(named in 1896 after the Surveyor General of Western Australia).
Carnegie passed this way looking for gold in 1896.
station was first taken up in 1938.
Originally a large
station of almost 4000 km2,
been amalgamated with other stations over the years and now
covers over 21,000 km2.
The true Gunbarrel
One of a number of Len Beadell trees
Gunbarrel "Highway" is not maintained.
Parts of it have become very corrugated due to
vehicles travelling too fast.
Sections of the Gunbarrel were in worse condition than the
Canning Stock Route.
The Gary "Highway" was built by Len Beadell in 1963 shortly after his
son Gary was born.
It runs to Windy Corner where the Talawana Track
goes to Well 33
on the Canning Stock Route and on to
Further north the Gary "Highway"
joins the Kidson Track
(to Well33 and on to Marble Bar) and the Callowa
Track to Well 35.
Beadell's former campsite near Mount Beadell
Heather "Highway" Junction
The Heather "Highway" was built by the Hunt Oil
Company and was named after Heather Hewitt,
daughter of the
superintendent at Warburton at the time.
Junction named by Len Beadell after his daughter, Jacqui
We all loved them.
These 8-12 metre high picturesque trees display a broad
weeping canopy which adds to their beauty.
Acacias sprout again after fire ....
The Gunbarrel grader
Giles we travelled 85 km to the WA-NT border.
Beautiful, beautiful Namatjira country in the late afternoon sunshine.
the WA-NT border to Docker
Walpa means wind in Yankunytjatjara and
Pitjantjatjara, the indigenous languages of the area.
Kata Tjuta is sacred to Anangu men. The traditional Law for Kata Tjuta
is still learnt and passed on today.
Under this Law, detailed
knowledge of the area is restricted to certain people only.
forbidden to pass this information on to the wrong people.
Therefore the creation stories of the area are not available.
In the old days the Anangu people would walk to the area from the lands
that we have recently passed through in the
The stream passing out of the Walpa Gorge has
always been an important source of water.
Women would camp
well back from the Gorge.
And so on the bitumen
We had some spare days so we travelled along
of the Oodnadatta Track from Marla to Oodnadatta
and then through the
Painted Desert back to the Stuart Highway at Coober Pedy.