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Published: August 17th 2013
Saturday 10 August
We decided to dedicate this blog to our Dads, because of their strong connections with the Transport industry throughout their careers so John (Caroline's Dad) and Derek (Andy's Dad, passed away in 1994) this one is for you.
The weekend arrived and nothing was going to happen with the tow bar saga which meant we could still not move the trailer, so we decided to make the most of the weekend and be tourists again, although I am feeling very much like a local right now.
First on the list was the National Road Transport Hall of Fame which was back out of town on the way to the airport. This had been recommended to us by a number of people as worthy of a visit, and let me tell you they were not wrong! This is the most comprehensive land transport museum in the southern hemisphere.
The transport museum is in two sections, one dedicated to to Road Transport and the other side is The Old Ghan Train Railway Museum, as much as we wanted to see the Old Ghan we really wanted to go
and see the trucks!
We pay our $15 each and they guy on the desk tells us he is a volunteer, him and his wife are travelling so for the sake of 12 hours per person for 2 days per week they can park their caravan around the back and spend the rest of their week touring the area. Great idea that suits the museum and the travellers.
This chap is quite interesting and chats quite readily to Andy, but I get restless after a while (I have the attention span of a goldfish usually) and gradually move to the displays.
We start by going through the area identifying some of the big names in transport over here and I am not talking about some of the large companies out here, like Lin Fox or Lindsay Brothers etc. but some of the individual big names that carved their way with their trucks through the tough outback (most likely when there was no bitumen on these main roads) and being able to deliver vital supplies to those remote communities and of course shift the cattle from the remotest stations.
Quite rightly so there is a section dedicated to the ladies of the transport industry in this country, some of them had their own trucks and others were the strong force behind their husbands.
The women travelled these tracks with their trucks, including locations like Cape York one of the most isolated locations in Australia, battling wet weather, crossing crocodile infested swamps in the wet, and the dry weather problems of bull dust and corrugations, nothing fazed these women from doing their job.
I wondered if I would have been able to cope with such a job in a harsh environment, could I have changed tyres, springs and axles up to my knees in mud? Not a job for the faint hearted, I guess I would have done it if I had to.
Walking through each section, surveying old photographs, stories and artefacts through the years was fascinating to say the least, we see truck manufacturers galore including Volvo trucks from Sweden, they were immensely as popular as the American manufactured trucks such as Mack and Kenworth and Western Star.
We finally get to wander around the workshop
where the old vehicles are kept, cars, vans trucks are kept in an orderly fashion, there are lots of them but I could not wait to get outside.
The day was already blisteringly hot, and outside we find some early road trains including a restored Diamond-T called Bertha.
There was even a Poms corner where we find a really old Foden and an assortment of other British vehicles mostly rusting away.
One thing was clear to me and that was how these vehicles would have coped in the extreme environment back then, considering most of the roads were dirt tracks and they will have lacked the technology that our vehicles have now. We were told that some manufacturers were happy to send over demonstration vehicles so that they could test their toughness and ability to survive in these conditions, some made it, others didn't and settled for a position rusting away somewhere in the outback waiting for someone to rescue it from the elements.
I really enjoyed looking around but the icing on the cake was the Kenworth Hall of Fame and there we find an abundance of
Kenworth trucks old and new, just waiting for us to drool over them, there was also a cross section of a sleeper cab for us to look at.
There are a few trucks at the Road Transport Hall of Fame that I think both of our Dads would have driven, but these Kenworth's we are looking at now were not around in England back then, some of sleeper cabs were enormous and looked exceptionally comfortable, they even have automatic transmission in some and I remember when I could not even push down a clutch pedal in one of my Dads trucks, but I think I was only 13 at the time.
It seems that even now some European manufactures have not cracked Australia, the American trucks have been dominant in this market place.
There is even a pink cement mixer, I cannot remember why it was painted pink, Andy thinks it was for breast cancer awareness, but I don't think it was.
Large sheds dominate the outdoors housing trucks and coaches of all shapes and sizes through the ages, including an old tour bus and trailer showing how
they used to take tourists into the outback many years ago, nothing much has changed probably except the types of buses used, tourists will still sleep in tents or swags and have dinners cooked for them whilst sitting by the camp fire.
The Road Transport Hall of Fame came to be when the community of Alice Springs became concerned that trucks of all shapes and sizes were rusting away on cattle stations along with the heritage of this country, so a community based and volunteer led project was started.
This place is huge and we were there for hours trying to take it all in, some of these vehicles are exactly as they were found, including the intricacies of the bush mechanics that had to be done to them in order to keep them running, others have been restored.
Our final piece was to look through the photographs of all of the drivers in the Wall of Fame, there are hundreds of them, these names are not just drivers but people who have significantly contributed to road transport.
I was looking to see if there were any family
connections here, my Mum reminded me that my Great Grandfather and Great Grandmother lived in Alice Springs, many many years ago and my Grandfather was born here before they all returned to England (don't ask me what year that was). Alas I could not see any names connected with my Mum's side of the family, my maiden name or my married name, it was worth a look though.
I must mention that there is a bronze sculpture of Tom Kruse, another iconic Australian who's story we have been following on our outback adventure, he was the Birdsville mailman, so with his contribution to Australia, no wonder Tom had a mention in the hall of fame.
We finished looking around and feeling thirsty we headed off to grab a coffee in the coffee shop next door, we had completely missed lunchtime!
On the way out we noticed a sign pointing us to Uterne Solar Station so we investigated and find a massive bank of solar panels on tracks which are GPS enabled to track with the sun for maximum efficiency. We tried to count the number of panels but gave up after
a while and it was too hot to concentrate anyway.
So from the comfort of my chair later, I looked it up on the internet and find that there are 3,048 panels installed across 254 tracking arrays and covers more than three hectares.
Andy could not resist a little bit more of an explore before finally heading back to camp to collapse in a heap in the shade exhausted from our day of history.
That evening Tom and Rhonda wandered over and suggested we have a drink, so we headed over the road to their cabin and sat while the sun went down, the evening was lovely and balmy and unknowingly at that time the mozzies were out in force!
We all talked for hours, I am not sure that we ever got to finish a single subject as we all talked excitedly bouncing from one story to the next. It was gone 9pm when Andy reminded us that we had not had dinner, fortunately he had cooked a Kangaroo Jack Curry earlier so we retrieved that, Rhonda got the rice on the go with some other accompaniments
The Grey Ghost
The very first Kenworth, built in Australia
and before we knew it we had a feast fit for Kings.
Several wines and a few beers later, it was only 10pm but on a camp site after 10pm is quiet time so it was time to break up the party and head off to bed!
Unfortunately the mosquitos had been having a feast of me that night. Pesky things!
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