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Main Roads Heritage Centre

Home > Toowoomba > Family | Museums
by Rachel Timmins (subscribe)
I am a senior writer for Weekend Notes, a copywriter, editor, published poet and former editor of poetry magazine Fruit Salad. I have also authored children's fiction and inspirational pieces.
Published December 13th 2015
Dirt, dust & the occasional big bang
Only the Main Roads Heritage Centre gives visitors an understanding of how roads are constructed.

The 1800s roads were left to the community to manage while the government concentrated on railways. The year 1826 saw the first road built by convicts from the Brisbane River Wharf to North Quay. The first major road was a link to the penal settlement in Cleveland.

Animal labour was still much used in the 1920s and 1930s. Construction gangs lived in bush camps for months.

Youths as young as 13 worked with the road gangs, rising at 3am to prepare sixty horses for the day's work. Then they made a fire and 'billy' tea for the adult workers to begin their day.
Road Gang Camp Historic
Since replaced by motels, road gangs lived in camps like this for months.

Cars rapidly replaced bicycles and horse drawn transport from 1914 to 1918.

The number of roads grew astoundingly from the 1920s when state-wide road network building began.

Some of the first-declared roads included the Killarney to New South Wales border road as well as highways between Brisbane, Toowoomba and Warwick.

During WWII Main Roads was the chief agency for carrying out Australia's defence works, maintaining a high standard despite difficult conditions and wartime shortages. Also built were inland defence roads, airfields, hangers, oil storage facilities and munitions factories.

Highly sophisticated road systems have evolved from roads which began from following paths used by Aboriginals.

From 1925 to 1970 approximately 1300 timber bridges were constructed.

Explosives are used in quarries to break rock which is then crushed. In times past, workers sustained cuts to their legs, losing a lot of blood in the process.

Moving forward, the Heritage Centre intends a more interactive display using models and effects to create mock explosions at the press of a button.

Main Roads historic explosives
Explosives of the 1950s and 1940s.

Mack Truck & Ford Tip Truck heritage
A Mack truck & Ford tip truck are displayed in working order.

The 1966 B61 Mack truck pictured was restored in 1993. Once a hauler of road trains, now displayed in working condition.

In 1963 a road plan for Queensland was launched with main roads and developmental roads. Post 1974 Brisbane flood, saw the freeway construction over the Brisbane River. A Toowoomba bypass is planned for those travelling east to west.

There are 34,000 kilometres of roads in Queensland. $427 million is being spent to upgrade the Pacific Motorway connecting Brisbane with coastal areas.

road tractor & roller heritage
Left: Champion Cub Armstrong Holland road roller. Right: this McCormack Deering Tractor was used on defence projects.

Pre-building Procedures

Before construction of a road, a scale model is developed. Historical landmarks are taken into account, such as Aboriginal Scar Trees or Cobb & Co 1890s bollards.

Soil and rock composition is tested. Surveyors and engineers determine location options for new roads by considering terrain and plotting specific 'ground control points'. Satellite provides exact coordinates.

Visitor Reactions

Women report receiving fresh appreciation of how far technology has come and why road construction takes time. For the men it's more about mechanical workings, horsepower and the age of vehicles.

Farmers who visit use farm machinery similar to that in the display. Farmers once helped the war effort. Their descendants have stories of the war recounted to them of 'married camps' where women and children lived while their husbands were away.

Volunteers in the Heritage Centre restore, maintain and operate heritage machinery and vehicles. An arcade game is available for kids to test their brake reaction skills. There is also a colouring table.

On exiting pick up a Free Phone App: Wheels, Wings and Water, a journey into the history of transport in the Toowoomba region.

What a great way to teach local history to another generation. Help keep memories alive by giving a donation before you leave.

Main Roads Heritage Centre entry
Left: Brisbane's Victoria Bridge 1940. Right: Main Roads Heritage Centre, 22 Mutze St, adjacent to the Toowoomba Airport.
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Why? A great way to teach local history to another generation.
When: M-F 10-4 weekends by appointment
Phone: 07 4633 2506
Where: 2-22 Mutze Street opposite the Toowoomba airport
Cost: $2 Entry fee
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