Many Australians and overseas visitors are familiar with some of this country's famous giant roadside icons such as the Big Banana at Coff's Harbour, the Big Pineapple on Queensland's Sunshine Coast and the giant merino ram at Goulburn. Few realize, however, that the first of these landmarks to be constructed was 'Ploddy'. In 1963 the Australian Reptile Park's founder, Eric Worrell, decided to put the Park on the map by commissioning the design and construction of one of his most ambitious projects, a 30 metre concrete replica of a giant dinosaur. Weighing in at almost 100 tonnes, the design was based on a dinosaur called a Diplodicus, hence the name Ploddy was coined.
A team of talented people were employed to create the icon including designer Ken Mayfield and construction engineer Jim Sullivan. In all it took two months to build and an investment of over 1100 man-hours. At its completion, Ploddy stood as a proud guardian at the front of the Australian Reptile Park in Gosford overlooking the busy Pacific Highway from Sydney.
The Diplodicus on which Ploddy is modelled was one of the largest dinosaurs that ever lived, despite having the brain the smaller than a humans. It was so heavy that it spent much of its life during the Jurassic Period partially submerged in water to assist with supporting its huge bulk. It was a placid vegetarian that probably lived in large herds, each individual consuming several tonnes of food each day.
During his thirty three years in this position Ploddy had several colour changes but is most remembered as a bright and cheerful golden yellow. He soon became a favourite of locals and visitors alike, loved by children and a magic photo opportunity for anyone visiting the Park. Needless to say, when Park owners John and Robyn Weigel decided in 1994 that the Park would have to be relocated there was never any doubt that Ploddy would be coming to. Trouble is how do you transport a 30 metre concrete monster? The initial step sounds rather drastic; her feet had to be cut off! Unfortunately, Ploddy's design required her feet and tail to be incorporated into the concrete pad on which she stood leaving no alternative but to remove them and then rebuild these features at the new site. On a wet winters day in 1996 a team of concrete cutters arrived with specialized equipment to cut through a 15cm ring of reinforced concrete just above each foot. Once completed Gosford's largest crane was required to lift the slightly lighter dinosaur onto her semi-trailer transport for the ten kilometre trip to the new Park at Somersby.
To celebrate the opening of the new Australian Reptile Park, Ploddy was to be guest of honour in a street parade through the main streets of Gosford on the way to her new home. The community was abuzz with excitement over this event and local school children even painted huge life-size Ploddy footprints along the route. The morning dawned with torrential rain but miraculously stopped to be replaced by blue skies for the parade. Over 10,000 people lined the streets to watch the parade of local clubs, businesses and organizations all present to wish Ploddy good luck on her journey and for her new home.
Ploddy was Australia's first giant roadside icon and she now has an even more prominent vantage point. She sits atop a hill adjacent to the Sydney-Newcastle freeway seen every year by over 40 million passing vehicles. So next time you see this proud mascot give her a wave and come on into the Australian Reptile Park where you will enjoy the best family funday out.