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Recent Updates from 2005

Plaque History

Other News


DESERT UPDATES from Connie Sue Beadell

For 2000 to 2004 (including the first Callawa Track Retrace)


13 January 2005

    My report this time is to update you on our TJM sponsored trip in August 2004 along Len's lost Callawa Track, as reported in the first of 3 articles in 4X4 Australia, February 2005 edition. Anne and Connie Beadell, Mick Hutton at start of Callawa Track

    This piece of road was constructed by the Gunbarrel Road Construction Party in 1963, and was the second to last road made before the ending of the road project. It extends north-west from Gary Junction, through Well 35 on the Canning Stock Route, and joins up with the Overland Telegraph Line near Eighty Mile Beach in far NW Western Australia. It follows a line of trigonometric stations erected by National Mapping the previous year. It was superseded almost immediately by the WAPET road (Kidson Track) for which Len's road is often confused as the two roads are very closely aligned. The two roads were also constructed at the very same time. The WAPET crew had more resources at their disposal and it was this route that was largely used instead. Our job in August was to retrace Len's lost road to make sure that it does not get forgotten.

    This task was not an easy one, as there were only traces of the original road left. This meant hours of painstaking pre-trip research and plotting by Mick Hutton (my soon-to-be husband!!). This trip was a real Off-Track Expedition, which basically means that there was no road at all. The Retrace involved 661 kms of low-range, 1st and 2nd gear travel. We averaged 37.7 kms per day for the 18 days of the Callawa leg. NMF 178

    At this point I must say that the Callawa Track is not a trip to be attempted without extensive preparation, most importantly fuel, water, tyres and navigation. A fuel drop midway is a necessity pre-trip as the fuel economy for this level of Off-Track travel can range between 30 to 50 litres per 100 kms. For that distance you will not be able to carry enough fuel and water to see you through. The road is not marked on current maps and is not a track to be followed in any sense (don't be fooled by the photo above at the beginning of the Track from Gary Junction). We saw traces of it every day, but it cannot be used to navigate a way through. Please contact Beadell Tours before contemplating travelling on the Callawa Track.

    The tyres were another issue entirely. The party had a total of 70+ punctures for the whole trip, bearing in mind that 5 of the 8 vehicles that started did not finish the entire distance. The countryside was suffering from the effects of cyclonic rains and subsequent fires which left a terrain full of spikes as hard as steel all over the landscape. 99% of the punctures were stakes in the shoulder and sidewalls. Mick and I had MRF Steel Muscle L LT 7.50R16 - 14 ply Tubed tyres on our vehicles and we were the leading 2 vehicles of the 3 vehicles that finished. Basically you need a tyre that is thick and strong in the sidewall or you will not get through.

Mick and Daniel erecting Calvert plaque

    All that said, for Mum and I it was an important trip, as it completed our first-hand experience of all of the roads made by Len and the Gunbarrel Road Construction Party. It was a leg that Len had not taken us on in the early days as it was a long way away from Adelaide and "not very interesting". Being able to finish the Callawa means that I have now travelled on all of Len's roads; something of which I feel very privileged.

    To mark the start and finish of the Callawa we erected 2 plaques, plus another at a junction with the WAPET road at a place called Twin Gum Hill. To incorporate some early history into our trip Mick erected 4 plaques to mark where Rudall (2 places in 1897), P.E. Warburton (1873) and Larry Wells (Calvert Expedition 1896) crossed the Callawa Track.

    To continue with the Callawa Track Mick and I have incorporated the leg from Gary Junction to Twin Gum Hill in our July "End of and Era" Expedition with Beadell Tours. Click on the link  Expeditions  to find out more about this type of trip and the preparation required.

    It was a superb experience.


TJM Products for their overall sponsorship

Australian Geographic for their help with the plaques

Reids Radiodata HF communications

Len Beadell Books & Tapes

MRF Tyres

Kunawarritji Community

Codan HF radios

Natural Lightscapes


18 July 2004

    Quite a lot has happened since my last report. More plaques have been erected, more stolen (including one of my replicas...) and more are to be done this year. Our total count of Len’s replicas will number 25 or 26 once this current batch have been finished.

    We are also adding a few here and there; for example on the Gary Junction Road near Jupiter Well. As some of you know the new road location (regraded due to bad flooding a few years back) has bypassed Len’s plaque on a desert oak 11 miles east of Jupiter Well. What we are going to do this year is replace the plaque on the original tree (we secured the one Len erected in September 1990 for safe-keeping), and add a pointer plaque onto a newly blazed desert oak south of the new part of the road. This new plaque will have the bearing and distance to Len’s tree; by the way, that portion of the old road is visible if you want to drive to it instead of walking or bushbashing over to it.

    We also plan to erect plaques indicating the start and finish of The Gunbarrel Road Construction Party’s "Callawa Track"; the stretch of unused road from Well 35 on the Canning Stock Route north west to Callawa. The Wapet Road made that part of Len’s road network obselete almost before it was finished, but we would like to ensure it never gets forgotten (more on our Callawa Track Retrace trip later). The junction of the Wapet and Callawa Track will also sport a brand new plaque with a new post design.

Ration Truck project 2004

    The Toyota Landcruiser Club of Victoria have just completed a project to partially restore and move the old burnt-out GRCP Ration Truck to Kiwirrkurra for its protection. It involved a move of around 30 kms from its original site and was done with the help of the Kiwirrkurra Community. A new plaque indicates the original site of the truck’s demise, and one was also placed with the truck giving some history of what it was and why it is special. Incidentally, Doug Stoneham (Len’s bulldozer driver with The Gunbarrel Road Construction Party) joined the Ration Truck group, and was involved in some of the preparations. He was actually there when the truck caught fire in 1960 (during the making of the Gary Junction road to Jupiter Well), and all of this happened a few days into the "Longest Towing Operation in History" when Doug towed the broken-down grader from this area around 750 kms back to Giles. Our thanks go to Charles Norman and his team, plus the community of Kiwirrkurra, for their hard work and enthusiasm.

All of these added plaques will increase our total number to 32; that is a lot of stamping!!

new Talawana drum

    After all of our efforts to replace Len’s drum at Talawana last year the plaque was stolen from it after a few short months. You can imaging the extent of our frustration! I made a new replica very soon after and thanks to Malcolm Bell from Perth, who willingly volunteered to make a new drum at home of his own theft-resistant design, Talawana now has a plaque once more. At around the same time my 50 miles west of Giles replica on the old Gunbarrel Highway was stolen and I must say that I began to wonder if I was beating my head against a brick wall by trying to keep these pieces of history alive. Thanks to the willing helpers of the Russell Guest Beadell Tracks Tour (May 2004) a new 50 miles west of Giles plaque is now in-situ.

    One exciting piece of news that makes it all worth while is the resurrection of another of Len’s long lost plaques, this time east of Sandy Blight Junction. Thanks to one clear photo from our invaluable helper David Hewitt I was able to stamp a new plaque that has been put on a new post (also arranged by David Hewitt) 12 miles west of Liebig Bore on the Gary Junction Road. The original plaque and post was lost long ago I suspect to fire, but we pretty accurately narrowed down the place and it was put into position by the Toyota Landcruiser Club of Victoria on their way to their Ration Truck Project in June 2004. Thank you to them once again!!

    Back to the Russell Guest Tour of May 2004, I would like to heartily thank them for their generous support of our Plaque Restoration Project. In order to continue with the plaque work we have decided to try some fund-raising, and the May participants were our guinea pigs! I made a memorial plaque which we raffled off and was won by a very deserving fellow from Kooweerup in Victoria. The money will go towards the cost of security screws, paint, aluminium, and steel posts onto which we will need to eventually secure all of our plaques, due to the security issue and also the eventual deterioration of Lens posts and trees. Some are holding out well despite nearby fire also, but I suspect our luck won’t continue for ever.

A great deal of thanks and gratitude go to all of the enthusiastic friends who are assisting us to keep up the maintenance of Len’s plaques and posts.

Connie Sue Beadell

12 September 2003

On behalf of the Beadell family, I wish to heartily thank all of the participants of the Russell Guest Canning Stock Route tour of 2003 for their wonderful donation towards our Plaque Restoration project. The money will be put to good use next year for projects including the completion of 3 plaques along the Gary Junction road. I still have many other projects lined up and I'm very glad that Len's work, and our efforts to preserve what we can, is acknowledged and appreciated.

With many thanks......Connie Sue Beadell.

MAY - JULY 2003

Anne Beadell Highway

    This year has been a busy one for us, with 3 trips covering many of Len's roads and incorporating a couple of major plaque projects (taking our new replica plaque total to 21).

    My first trip was another Russell Guest tour; a repeat performance of the "special" we did last May. Again we covered the Vokes Hill Corner Rd, Connie Sue Highway, and the Gunbarrel in it's entirety from Jackie Junction to Victory Downs, among others. Doug Stoneham, Len's bulldozer driver in the Gunbarrel Road Construction Party, joined me on this one and as usual kept everyone entertained with his stories!! I want to thank Simon Murphy and his team at Rawlinna, and the women of the Kalka community (NW tip of South Australia) for their wonderful hospitality.

west of Everard Jn plaque

    June saw Mum, Doug and I together again, this time accompanying the Australian Geographic Gunbarrel Expedition. The 2 week trip started at Coober Pedy and wound its way north from the Anne Beadell Highway up the Connie Sue, across the Parallel Rd 2 to the Tjukayirla Roadhouse on the Great Central Rd. We continued on the David Carnegie Rd to the Gunbarrel Highway where we turned east to replace a long lost plaque of Len's 23 miles west of Everard Junction. His original plaque was in-situ for only a short while after it was erected in 1958 before it was lost or destroyed by fire. The bloodwood tree he used is thankfully still in pretty good nick, so we widened the original blaze, painted it, and my replica plaque was screwed into position. My thanks go to the many willing hands who helped to get the job done before the rain set in! From here we continued to the Heather Highway, Warburton, the old Gunbarrel to Warakurna and finally Yulara. My thanks also go to Todd Tai from Australian Geographic, and David Hewitt who helped to lead the Expedition. A good time was had by all of the 50 participants!

    After we said goodbye to the AG gang Mum and I and some friends headed off for the far western end of the Windy Corner Road. Here we placed a new drum next to the badly rusted one that Len put a plaque on to mark Talawana. We removed the original plaque from the old drum and placed it onto the new, after painting the new drum to protect it from the extremes of weather. It was a highly successful operation, one that I had been trying to do for quite some time. My thanks go to all who participated, namely Mum and Phil Sexton, Charles and Margaret Norman, and Mick Hutton. I also want to thank David Hewitt and Alan O'Shaughnessy who were a tremendous help in the preparation for this project. From here we had a leisurely trip home via the Eagle Highway, Hunt Oil Road, Connie Sue and Anne Beadell Highways. By the time we were heading home the building of the new roadhouse at Ilkurlka was finished (junction of the Aboriginal Business Rd and the Anne Beadell Highway) and they were about to furnish it inside. It is an impressive complex, but fuel will only be available by booking in advance at this stage.

Below is a brief update of the state of the roads -:

       The Anne Beadell Highway - In good shape going west from around 70 kms west of the SA / WA border, having been recently regraded by the Laverton shire. The new Ilkurlka complex is around 170 kms east of Neale Junction. The SA leg continues to have some washouts and short stretches of bad corrugations.

       Emu to Maralinga Rd - South as far as the half-way tree is pretty good, barring early sandhills and some fallen trees.

       Vokes Hill Corner Rd - Pretty good after some sandhill work for a while after leaving the Anne Beadell Highway.

       Connie Sue Highway - The regrade continues north for a short distance beyond Neale Junction. The rest continues to be not too bad although is corrugated in spots, with bad washouts here and there. South of Neale Jn is rough around the Nullarbor, then improves for a short way to the Tjuntjunjarra turnoff. The rest is very picturesque (despite some older burnt out areas) and quite OK. A new sign is being erected in Sept 03 to mark the northern end of the Connie Sue, thanks to David Hewitt.

       Gunbarrel Highway - Regraded to Carnegie from the Wiluna shire sign around 25 kms west of Geraldton bore. The rest of the western section is the same (corrugated), now passing our new plaque around 0.5 kms west of Geraldton Bore, and a new information board at the base of Mt Beadell. A new, taller post is being erected at Jackie Junction, thanks again to David Hewitt. The old Gunbarrel from the Patjarr turnoff to Warakurna is good barring some rocky creek crossings, but has also suffered some fires (our 70 miles west of Giles plaque had the narrowest escape). The whole eastern section is excellent.

       Sandy Blight Junction Rd - Some of the plaques along here have had a narrow escape from the many fires that have inflicted this area; namely the half-way point between Giles and Sandy Blight Junction, Sir Frederick Range post, 140 m blazed tree and the Tropic of Capricorn post.

       Gary Junction Rd - Regraded and relocated in some spots due to flooding. Plans are afoot to place the Ration truck in a cage with an explanation board; great news and thanks to Charles Norman for organising this. Also, we have made a new blaze to explain how to get to Len's original blazed tree 11 miles east of Jupiter Well (the new road now bypasses it). Both blazes are prepared, but I won't be able to attach plaques onto them until next year.

       Gary Highway - Gary Junction to the Kidson track turnoff is quite overgrown; south is much better but we had lots of fallen trees and mulga stakes to clear. South of Windy Corner is roughest, with overgrowth and some bad gutters.

       Windy Corner Rd - Stretches of high spinifex growth easterly, extremely corrugated between Well 24 and the Cotton Creek turnoff to the west, then is newly regraded. Our new drum is now at Talawana at the far western end.

       Parallel Rd 2 - (not Len's road) - Good.

       David Carnegie Rd - (not Len's road) - Some spinifex growth between the wheeltracks down south. Becomes rough with rocks and washouts closer to the Gunbarrel Highway.

       Eagle Highway - (not Len's road) - Northern shot line to the Eagle from the Windy Corner Rd is very overgrown with washouts here and there, but still quite traversable. The Eagle Highway itself is more defined and in better condition, although still has the odd washout.

 Heather Highway - (not Len's road) - extremely corrugated from the Gunbarrel until you hit the 50 km community link to the Great Central Rd.

Ilkurlka roadhouse Talawana drum 2003

Please email me if you have any questions or information : Connie Beadell.


water on Gary Jn road

October 2002

    Hello. I thought it was time to update you on how things are going. Since my last report mid 2001 Mum and I have participated in numerous Beadell tracks tours with Russell Guest; one of which was a "special" trip in May 2002 covering some of Len's roads not incorporated in his regular September trip. This included the northern half of the Emu to Maralinga road (I checked up on Len's plaque at the half way point, and it's still in fine shape), the Vokes Hill Corner road, the Connie Sue Highway, plus the Gunbarrel Highway from Jackie Junction right through to Victory Downs. Permits for the Pitjantjatjara leg was obtained only with the help and company of David and Margaret Hewitt (our invaluable friends!) and we thank them once again. It was a fantastic trip and I'm pleased to say that our new replacement plaques erected in the last few years are still in good shape. So far so good! We increased our total to 20 by replacing Len's plaque on top of Observatory Hill. This was Len's very first aluminium plaque, erected on 3 September 1955, and we didn't want to lose it. On numerous occasions it has disappeared into the scrub, so I made a replica and we have the original safely at home. The state of the roads was very good for the most part, especially the eastern Gunbarrel. The numerous Aboriginal communities along this stretch ensure that it will be well maintained, and it doesn't corrugate like the ironstone gravel west of Jackie Junction. 

east of Kalka      Connie Sue Highway

    Russell has planned to repeat this trip in May 2003, permits pending......We have also had the chance to check up on Len's plaques along the western portion of the Gunbarrel in September 2001. They were all fine, unfortunately though the road was still in it's usual corrugated state. Large areas of water still lay around Lake Cohen (Gary Highway), Mungkilli claypan (Gunbarrel) and the Gary Junction road was closed due to flooding.

    Mum and I have just come back from a trip along the Gary Junction road and it's since been regraded and relocated to avoid the low lying areas and the whole leg from Sandy Blight Junction to Gary Junction is an 80 km/hr highway. The same can't be said for the southern leg of the Gary Highway however (it has not been regraded since its completion in 1963) - we might have to try and get an Aboriginal community to set up there! The Laverton shire has plans to regrade their portion of the Anne Beadell Highway (we found a few water tank and toilet blocks along here which weren't there last year....), so maintenance on the whole is progressing well.

    Next year I have plans to replace Len's drum at Talawana; the plaque is still fine, but the drum is quite rusty. I have also made a new replacementplaque for one of Len's trees on the Gunbarrel; one that has not had a plaque on it for over 20 years. I will leave the location of this one a surprise for the time being. All will be revealed in due course!! At some later date I will relocate the 11 miles east of Jupiter Well plaque (Gary Junction Road), as we had to remove it from the original tree for fear of it getting lost. The new relocated road in this region has already rendered the original route past this tree almost invisible; so once we can be sure that the new road is safe from the ravages of the weather I'll put this plaque back on a corresponding spot on the new road, and put a marker pointing to the original tree.

Please email me with any queries or information..........Connie Sue Beadell.


    In April 2001 Connie and Anne Beadell, along with friend Phil Sexton, were escorted into the lands of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara people in the north-west of South Australia by David and Margaret Hewitt, and two of their friends. The task at hand was to replace 3 more of Len's missing aluminium plaques, made once again by Connie with Len's original letter and number punches. Two of the plaques in question were positioned near Mt Lindsay on Len's Mt Davies road, the southerly one marking the site for a mobile Anne and Connie at new sign post on Gunbarrel. meteorological station. This station was used prior to the completion of the Giles weather station around 1956. Len's original Bloodwood tree was still in fine form for the northerly plaque, and the southerly one required a new post which was organised by David and Margaret. We had the help of two local aboriginal people, who kindly came down for the day to escort us through the neighbouring community of Watarru, situated on the eastern side of Mt Lindsay. They were also a great help in digging the hole for the met. station post!!

    Once these two plaques were securely attached, we carried on through the Ngaanyatjarra lands in eastern Western Australia to replace one more of Len's signs on the Gunbarrel Highway. This plaque marked the most easterly point of the road north of Mt Fanny, and also required a new post.

    The Mt Fanny plaque marks our 19th replica sign replaced in the desert, a fact of which we are very proud. Our sincere thanks again go to David and Margaret Hewitt, without whom this leg of our project would not have been possible.


    We've had a busy year 2000, replacing 16 of Len's aluminium plaques. He erected some 45 or so during the course of his desert roadmaking, but over the years many of them have been stolen. Lennie himself replaced many missing signs during his outback trips (some of them have been replaced 4 or 5 times), and we decided they were too important to forget. The plaques are not only a part of history, but are invaluable as a guide to travellers to show them where they are and point out things of interest.

70 miles west of Giles tree close up of 70 mile west of Giles plaque     The plaque replicas were made as closely to Len's originals as possible, with the addition of the "replica June 2000" added to the bottom. Connie made 6 of the new plaques for the Gunbarrel Highway - 3 for the section between Mulga Park and Pipalyatjara, and 3 between Giles and Jackie Junction. They were made using Len's original letter and number punches and all but 2 were erected on Len's original posts and tree blazes (2 new posts were required, one at the 50 miles west of Mulga Park sign, and one at the Kintore Avenue/Gunbarrel Hwy junction). We also replaced all 10 of the signs along the Sandy Blight Junction road as all of these, bar one, were also missing. The one still remaining we removed and replaced with our replica for its preservation, although it in itself was a replacement of Len's in 1989. These 10 Sandy Blight Junction road plaques were punched to our specifications by Roger Henwood, a Maintenance Officer from Woomera, using punches of the same font and size as Len's. Eight of the Sandy Blight Junction road plaques were placed on Len's original trees and posts (the turnoff to the Sir Frederick Range summit, and the Tietkens Tree plaque both required new posts). The plaques were fixed on with Maxbond adhesive (donated by Fullers), and attached with special one way screws. Finally, we touched up what we could with a fresh coat of white paint.

    It was a very rewarding project, and we would like to thank the many people who assisted us (especially David and Margaret Hewitt). But, it doesn't end there. We already have some more replacements in the pipeline for next year, and plan for this to be an ongoing project. Apart from the thefts, eventually the posts are going to need more permanent replacements due to the never ending appetites of white ants, and fire.

We would be very happy for feedback from people travelling on Len's roads, and information on missing or damaged plaques and posts would be much appreciated.

    Please send any comments to Connie Sue Beadell 


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