Building the roads to the future

With the discovery of gold at Gympie in 1867, the new state government needed to build a road between Brisbane and Gympie.

Whenever the government wants to put in a new road, everyone has an opinion and so it was in 1868.

There were vested interests where the road should go; there were concerns about the condition and upkeep through scrubland, forest and bogs, and over ridges, gullies and creeks.

At meetings in both Brisbane and Gympie, parliamentarians and business leaders unanimously agreed that the road should be built on the eastern side of the Blackall Range. People from all walks of life debated the route at meetings and through letters to the newspapers. 

Politician Wm Henry Walsh had a political motive. He wanted to hold Maryborough votes by keeping the main route to Gympie via Maryborough.

He condemned the condition of the so-called road, the track from Brisbane to Gympie, and said he had travelled by horseback over it for three days “climbing, plunging and sliding along and in parts, it is the worst line of road I ever saw and is my belief that no sum of money which this colony can afford, even if will spent, could make it available for drays and coaches”.

He claimed he had passed 100 teams and did not see one road-working party.

By July 1868, Road Surveyor A. Jardine wrote to the newspaper that the road would be finished by the end of August.

He was in charge of four parties each of 40 men working on the road, “the bogs and creeks have now been bridged, logged and otherwise made passable; politician Henry Walsh had travelled the road after wet weather and seen it at its worst”.

However, he admitted the Bottle & Glass and Tuchekoi pinches required the yoking of extra bullocks.

Reuben Schofield said that he had brought five bullock teams drawn by 50 bullocks, a cargo of almost two tons on each dray from the head of navigation on the Maroochy River at Native Dog Flat (Yandina) to Gympie in four days (39 miles) excluding delays for timber across the road at Tuchekoi.

The drivers saw no difference to any other bush road. He believed that this road had advantages over the Maryborough – Gympie Road and that Henry Walsh was only pandering to the Maryborough voters! A wide difference of opinion existed. Letters to the newspaper in September and October of 1868 showed a Mr H.W. Durietz praising and a Mr Spry complaining. 

At that same time, Hiram Barnes, manager for Cobb & Co and driver of the first coach to travel the road, completed the journey on horseback and said that the first 55 miles from Brisbane was excellent although the 15 miles south of Gympie needed improvement.

Mr Jardine offered to improve any bad spot pointed out to him.

Cobb & Co traveller Anthony Trollope, in 1871, said that there was often no road and the coach was taken at random through the forest.  However, he was especially impressed by the great beauty of the scrubs and found some breaks in the mountains very grand.

In 2018, the Brisbane to Gympie Road presents a great achievement of modern road building with multi-lanes, bypasses, overpasses, tunnels and bridges.

Those pioneer road builders would never have believed it.

 Audienne Blyth is a member of the Nambour Historical Museum, open afternoons, Wednesday to Saturday 1pm-4pm . All welcome.

Image:  Courtesy Picture Sunshine Coast