Digger Man

Digger Man Blog

by Nick Drew  |  Mon 19 Apr 2021

The Bob Marshall Story: A Life in Heavy Equipment (Part Two)

Continuing our new mini series chronicling the life and times of Australian heavy equipment legend and entrepreneur Bob Marshall.

The Bob Marshall Story: A Life in Heavy Equipment (Part Two)

Now that Bob had wheels, in the form of his recently purchased new motorcycle, he was able to move around more easily for work. He found himself in Kingaroy loading peanuts, then sewing wheat bags and cutting logs.

As time progressed the Marshall sawmill which had done well was no longer able to compete against the large mills which had opened, so the decision was made to sell off the mill.

By the time Bob was 18 he had already purchased a small truck and a bulldozer. Using the bulldozer, he “snigged” timber and pulled logs from land clearing ready to dispatch to local sawmills.

Bob also operated tractors for other people up in the Tablelands area in Far North of Queensland, mainly on Allis Chalmers HD10’s and HD7’s.

He worked for Elimbah Timbers up in Maleny snigging timber. It was during this time that Bob heard about a property that was supposed to have gold and silver on it.

Bob made his first foray into property ownership buying the land for £2000. Not bad at all for a young fella. Ever the entrepreneur, Bob cleared the land of timber and promptly sold it back to his former employer Elimbah Timbers with some going to Rainbird Timbers.

Bob then purchased another dozer and began clearing cane fields around Nambour as well as clearing farming land along the Maroochydore River, and as the work came rolling in Bob invested in even more dozers to join his expanding fleet.

The Queensland government at the time, led by Joe Bjelke-Peterson, had started to buy up all the properties that were appropriate for farming and had planted trees on the land. Bob found himself working for the forestry department and by then was running 12 bulldozers. Bob and his machines were heavily involved in clearing land for re-forestation, especially around Nambour and Maleny under the company name of M. R Marshall Earthmoving, a name that he registered in the early 1950s.

The 1950s and 1960s saw a great deal of development starting on the Sunshine Coast. The Gold Coast had set the bar and the Sunshine Coast was rapidly following suit. To attract surfers and tourists to this beautiful area, a lot of work was done on the local infrastructure to accommodate these tourists.

The company continued to grow, with more bulldozers added and more operators, Bob was able to clear more timber all over the Sunshine Coast. Much of the cleared land was to be used for sugar cane.

M.R. Marshall Earthmoving was a major player during this boom period, being heavily involved in road construction in the Maroochy and Landsborough and Noosa Shires council zones with the company being the biggest employer in the area during the 1960s and 70s.

Bob decided to diversifying in 1963 he purchased Parklands Metal Quarry in Nambour. Bob would own this quarry until the late 1990s. He learnt to handle dynamite from his father when he was a boy.

M.R. Marshall was involved in the installation of the large drain system from Coolum right through to Maroochydore that famous contractor Theiss was handling. It was whilst working on this job that Bob used a dragline for the first time. He was quite impressed with this piece of machinery and once the job was finished, he purchased it so that the drainage canals and dams that he frequently put in for farmers could be cleared more easily.

It was the time of great development on the Sunshine Coast and over the years it has been transformed from a sleepy backwater to a popular and well-known tourist destination.

The story continues in Part Three coming soon to the Digger Man Blog.





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