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2011/73/1 Road maps (5), Shell Road Guides for New South Wales, Newcastle District and Sydney-Brisbane, paper, published by the Shell Touring Service, Shell Oil Company of Australia Ltd, printed by P C Grosser, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1962-1965. Click to enlarge.

Shell Road Guide road maps

These five Shell Road Guides are fold-out road maps for travelling from Sydney to Brisbane, around New South Wales and the Newcastle District in the early 1960s. They were published by the Shell Touring Service of the Shell Oil Company of Australia Ltd.

The Shell oil company began in Australia in 1901. At first fuel was supplied in tins, and then from 1921 Shell began to use motor tankers while bulk delivery to their roadside pumps began in 1926. The firm established an extensive fuel distribution network via inland fuel dumps and service stations or dealerships which enabled Australia to be traversed not only by the car but by plane.

These Shell maps date from the early 1960s when the car was beginning to assume its high importance for independent and flexible travel, anywhere and anytime. It coincided with the post-World War II baby boom, the decreasing costs of cars and increased wages. Family motoring holidays became available to all whereas between the wars rail travel and hotel accommodation were too expensive for the average Australian family. By the 1950s and 1960s those families were on the road and going on holiday to camping grounds and caravan parks.

Shell maps or "road guides" were published to cover areas all over Australia. They advised not only road surfaces (most Australian road surfaces were unsealed then), but distances between towns, camping areas, bowling clubs and the location of Shell service stations. Children were given Shell passports which were stamped at each service station with a different picture, often related to the area. This provided an enjoyable memento from the holiday. In cars of the 1960s fuel economy was poor so frequent stops at service stations had to be made. The marked locations of Shell services stations on the maps of course encouraged families to frequent Shell outlets.

The maps indicate the extensive infrastructure of fuel distribution attainable in only 20 to 30 years to enable motorists to criss-cross the country and travel to the most remote corners of Australia with the knowledge that they had access to fuel. With global warming and the reaching of peak oil a similar type of infrastructure will need to be established to cater for electric or hydrogen-powered vehicles.

Now (in 2011) Global Positioning Systems are installed in many cars and on phones which removes the need to learn to read a map and manually navigate from place-to-place yet alone even have a map or road guide in the car.

Margaret Simpson
Curator, Transport & Toys
July 2011

Barrie, Melinda, "Everybody Loves a Road Trip!" in the "UMA Bulletin News from the University of Melbourne Archives", No. 25, August 2009.

Broomham, Rosemary, "Vital Connections: A History of NSW Roads from 1788", Hale and Iremonger in association with the Roads and Traffic Authority NSW, Alexandria, NSW, 2001.

Simpson, Margaret, "On the move: a history of transport in Australia", Powerhouse Publishing, Sydney, NSW, 2004.

The beginning of Shell in Australia

University of Melbourne Archives 'Everybody Loves a Road Trip: An exhibition of the Shell company' in 2009. http://www.lib.unimelb.edu.au/collections/archives/exhibitions/roadtrip/


Object No.


Object Statement

Road maps (5), Shell Road Guides for New South Wales, Newcastle District and Sydney-Brisbane, paper, published by the Shell Touring Service, Shell Oil Company of Australia Ltd, printed by P C Grosser, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1962-1965

Physical Description

Road maps (5), Shell Road Guides for New South Wales, Newcastle District and Sydney-Brisbane, paper, published by the Shell Touring Service, Shell Oil Company of Australia Ltd, printed by P C Grosser, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 1962-1965

Five fold-out coloured road maps, consisting of two copies of the 'Shell Road Guide: Newcastle District', two copies of the 'Shell Road Guide: Sydney-Brisbane, Pacific Beautizone, Summerland, City of Gold Coast', and the 'Shell Road Guide: New South Wales'.



272 mm


113 mm



The five road maps were published by the Shell Touring Service, part of the Shell Oil Company of Australia Ltd. They were printed by P.C. Grosser, lithographer of Melbourne between 1962-1965. This firm is thought to have originally been called Colour Photographs and later Queen City Printers. They became P.C. Grosser & Co. Pty Ltd, a large printing and packaging company with over 300 employees. In 1954 this firm was located at 239 William Street, Melbourne.

Today (2011) having easy access to detailed and accurate road maps is taken for granted, albeit no longer free or on fold-out sheets. However, well before the arrival of the motor car, road maps and touring guides were developed to inform cyclists of road conditions, directions, distances and accommodation facilities. Weekend tours for both men and women on bicycles involved pedalling 80 to 120 km over the countryside.

These motoring maps were produced by the Shell Touring Service, part of the Shell oil company which began in Australia in 1901 by importing bulk kerosene by ship. Shell began the kerbside distribution of petrol from pumps in Australia in 1926. The following year the Fiat car club of Western Australia organised a tour from Perth to Melbourne and were accompanied by a Shell officer who made detailed maps of the route along the way. He recruited Shell dealers to establish fuel distribution dumps at telegraph stations, and sheep and cattle stations and other remote areas which opened up the country for motoring and aviation. The petrol was stored in fuel tins, ironically carried on wagons drawn by camels and donkeys and later 6-wheel motor trucks, to the isolated centres. This all helped to open up Australia not only for inland motoring but aviation.

In 1930 Shell established its Overland Department and went on to produce Australian road maps and information on water supplies, shelter and road obstacles to businessmen, tourists, prospectors and even aviators. Then in 1947 the Shell Touring Service was established which apparently became one of the most comprehensive mapping groups in Australia at the time. Before the common use of aerial photography, staff from the Shell Around Australian Mapping Unit would drive through the country in panel vans hauling a trailer recording the conditions of outback roads.

The 1950s saw the use of private cars soar. Post-World War Two petrol rationing finished in 1950, and the production of Holden cars, which began in 1948, reached 20,000 only two years later. It was during the 1950s that the price of cars reduced and wages increased escalating suburban car ownership. Cars were increasingly used to commute from home to work, and to travel to tourist destinations on weekends and holidays. Trams were removed from Sydney in 1961 and rail was losing its hold enabling the expansion of the interstate road transport industry.

According to Rosemary Broomham in "Vital Connections: A History of NSW Roads from 1788", at this time expressways were regarded as urgent necessities as traffic became more congested and delays increased. In 1960 the redesigned four-lane section of the Pacific highway near Mt White, north of Sydney, became the first motorway proclaimed in New South Wales. Nevertheless, in the country two-third's of the state's main roads were yet to receive bitumen surfaces. The only fully-sealed major roads were the Pacific and Hume Highways and the Federal and Barton Highways. From the 1950s roads were gradually upgraded and local councils built caravan parts at beach resorts and tourist towns and the family caravan holiday became popular.

The Shell Touring Service was an important aspect of the firm's customer relations and provided a personalised map and road advisory service for motorists going on holidays. The customer would enquire about the required maps for a trip at the local Shell service station. The dealer would then post the customer's request to the state's Touring Service office who would post back the maps and other local information. The dealer would then telephone the customer advising of the arrival of the maps and ask if they required a "pre-trip" lubrication. On return from the holiday the dealers were encouraged to make a follow up call to see if the customer required a "post-trip" service. It should be remembered that unlike 2011, during the 1950s and 1960s cars needed much more regular maintenance to ensure reliability. This included topping up or replacing the oil and water in the service station "lubratorium", unlike now, engines burnt oil.

As well as providing maps, the latest road conditions were recorded and collated by local Shell employees who undertook reconnaissance of their local areas reporting on the road conditions, bridges, car ferries (punts) across rivers and even accommodation. Floods were common, roads easily washed away and ferries could be closed for maintenance. These details were updated on a card index at the state's Touring Service office to give the most up-to-date conditions for tourists and truck drivers either via a phone call or personal visit.



These maps were found in a house purchased by a member of the donor's family. Nothing more is known of their provenance.


Credit Line

Gift of W and A Rees, 2011

Acquisition Date

26 August 2011

Cite this Object


Shell Road Guide road maps 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 5 March 2021, <https://ma.as/399975>


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