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My Great Uncle had a lifelong interest in photography as a hobby. These are scans of colour photos he took at the Toowoomba Show, Queensland, in 1963.

 

It's interesting to see the photo of the three Western Transport rig trucks in the parade. This is Australia's oil industry in the making. The Moonie oil field west of Toowoomba was Australia's first commercial oil field, discovered two years earlier in 1961. At the time the photos were taken, the Moonie to Brisbane pipeline was still under construction. I don't know the exact model of the Kenworth in the lead, but going by the wheel rims, it's late 40's and not a 1950's model. The two trucks behind it appear to be Internationals.

 

These are imported American left hand drive trucks. I would guess the trailers were imported as well as I doubt much oilfield equipment was locally made in those early days. It was all American and Canadian expertise back then with a lot of expats working here. Locals were in the early stages of gaining the skills and knowledge, all of which was learnt from the North American oilmen. Even years after we stood on our own two feet in the oil industry, the American oil culture and terminology was still prevalent, probably right up until the early 2000's. If you fast forward from there and mention Cat Skinners and Doodle Bugs to the kids in the industry today, they look at you like you've got three heads.

 

I wouldn't mind having that Kenworth sitting in the shed today. It would be a real collectors item.

 

 

Toowoomba show-1963(2).jpg

Toowoomba show-1963.jpg

Show, toowoomba-1963.jpg

Edited by willedoo
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Willedo, the Andersons and Western Transport are legends in the Australian trucking scene. I must say it's surprising to see the KW in their fleet, WT were largely Mack operators in that era.

 

The Kenworth in the lead is a late 1950's 900 series. This model was built between 1956 and 1961. KW ran single headlights on a post mount, from the 1930's up until 1961.

1961 saw the revamped W900 with a new front end, with dual headlights incorporated into the 'guards.

 

Note that the KW in your photo is 100% pure American - disc wheels (their standard was disc wheels, the spoked hubs were designated for rough roads, and America had smooth highways everywhere by the early 1950's, with their massive Interstate Highways construction programme. The Interstates are not only super-smooth highways, they have a grade no greater than 3%, even through the mountains, and this involved massive earthworks on a scale rarely seen in the world) - 22 inch wheels (we used the British standard of 20" wheels) - and quite possibly overwidth, as the U.S. Interstates allow 8' 6" as a maximum standard width - while Australia in that era, demanded 8' 0" (exactly!) as the maximum standard width.

 

The maximum standard width arrangements got shot to pieces when European trucks rolled up here in the early 1960's - and they were 2.5M wide (the EU standard maximum width) - which is 8' 2-1/2"! 

This sent road registration authorities into a tizz, and for many years, if you had a European truck, you have to have a special road registration, and carry an "Overwidth" sign at all times!

This stupidity was abandoned when we started going over to the metric system in the early 1970's, and the maximum standard width in Australia was amended to 2.5M!


Some interesting links for you, below.

 

Oil patch reunion - https://www.qt.com.au/news/gallery-oil-patch-reunion-an-unqualified-success/3389253/#/0

 

Western Transport photo gallery - http://westerntransportmuseum.com/gallery.php?gallery=1

 

Unfortunately, many of the B&W photos above, have been poorly scanned, and are too small and too dark. There's also a lot of repeat photos. Some good ones amongst them, though.

 

Here's a good KW history video on YouTube.  American-based, of course.

 

 

 

 

Re the American input into our oil industry here - I can recall reading a story about the first attempts to find oil in Australia, it was 1953 and at Rough Range in the NW of W.A., near Exmouth/Learmonth.

A bunch of American oil drillers rolled up with all their gear and taught the Australians how to drill for oil.

Unfortunately, no oil discoveries of any major reserve importance were found in the Rough Range drilling efforts, even though oil was discovered there, with great expectations it would lead to a commercial oilfield.

 

I can recall reading about how the Americans loved living and working at Rough Range. Not only some scenic surroundings - but as cattle were plentiful in the region, prime steak was on the menu every day!

The Americans had been used to eating mainly chicken at home, as beef had got very expensive in America, and they thought they were in food heaven at Rough Range!

 

https://www.watoday.com.au/national/western-australia/from-the-archives-1953-australia-s-first-commercial-oil-field-20201118-p56fsz.html

 

 

Edited by onetrack
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Thanks onetrack, the Kenworth dated late 50's makes more sense. I got the late 40's figure from Googling photos, so it was probably misnamed. The photo is 1963 and the rig work started in 1961, so it stands to reason that Westerns would have bought new or near new trucks for the rig and pipeline contracts. Just one question - did Kenworth use Cummings engines back then or would it have a bird scarer.

 

I've always had a soft spot for Western Transport. When I was growing up I didn't know there were any other companies; that's how dominant they were in our area. I'll never forget the sight of their B models stacked to the hilt with wool bales coming in from out west. On the subject of Kenworths, you may have already done so, but if in Alice Springs the National Transport Museum is a must and particularly the Kenworth showroom.

Edited by willedoo
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On the subject of Kenworths, I worked with a company for quite a few years that had a lot of W series trucks. I'd always known the boss in previous companies as being all Mack and Caterpillar, but they'd changed over to Kenworth and Komatsu. The conversion to Komatsu was sparked by a period when Hastings Deering lost the plot and their after sales service turned to shite. Then the Komatsus made more money once the numbers were crunched, so he stuck with them. He worked out that with taking resale value into account and the demand for low hours tractors, turning them over at 5000 hours was the most profitable.

 

When I asked him why he had gone to Kenworths and not Macks, he told me that the W series cabs stood up to the rough roads better than the Mack cabs. Our trucks rarely ever saw bitumen and spent most of their life on badly corrugated roads. Another plus was that really good W series Kenworths could be picked up quite cheap. Some were ex company trucks and some ex owner driver's pride and joy. They outlived their economic viability for highway use but still had years of desert work left in them. We used them to shift camps and machinery only, so they wouldn't move for a month at a time, sometimes longer. They had to be road train capable; most had 450 Cummings motors.

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Willedoo, the KW's of the 1950's were available with Cummins, GM, or Caterpillar diesels. The GM's (later re-named "Detroit Diesels") were the most popular engine, followed by Cummins, then Cat.

 

Other engines available in the U.S. were Hall Scott, Continental and Buda (in both petrol and diesel). Buda was bought up by Allis-Chalmers in 1955 and then A-C produced an A-C truck engine that only enjoyed low sales, and a short career.

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10 hours ago, onetrack said:

Re the American input into our oil industry here - I can recall reading a story about the first attempts to find oil in Australia, it was 1953 and at Rough Range in the NW of W.A., near Exmouth/Learmonth.

A bunch of American oil drillers rolled up with all their gear and taught the Australians how to drill for oil.

Unfortunately, no oil discoveries of any major reserve importance were found in the Rough Range drilling efforts, even though oil was discovered there, with great expectations it would lead to a commercial oilfield.

I remember back in the late 80's a mate and I were coming back from the West in a 206. We refueled at Tennant Creek and our flight path to Kalamurina in S.A. took us from N.W. to S.E. across the Simpson. It was one of those beautiful flying days you remember all your life, not a cloud in the sky. Such a pleasure to have just two people and bugger all weight instead of the usual lumbering along with maximum payload. In the northern section of the Simpson we got a good look at the old French exploration lines that were done in the early 60's. They were still easily visible. I think the French had a bit of a look around and went home.

 

There's a bit of old oil history at the Moomba airport. They have an old WW2 tracked vehicle on display; I think it was originally for towing artillery. Very primitive bit of gear. I'm not sure if it was used in seismic exploration or for towing rig equipment over the dunes. It would date right back to Santos' first forays into that area. Another bit of history I came across was in the Simpson. By a pure fluke I came across the remains of Reg Sprigg's Geosurveys Base Camp number 1. This was from 1962 when Reg and his wife and kids were the first people to cross the Simpson in a vehicle. There was a bit of stuff lying around. The old baked beans cans rattled with solid 45 year old dried beans inside. I don't know why full cans were left there. Perhaps buried as insurance for a return trip and were never used, then dug up by varmints and scattered around. The reason I knew what it was is that there was a tagged star picket marker in the ground and it was stamped with the date and 'Geosurveys Base Camp 1'.

Edited by willedoo
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11 hours ago, pmccarthy said:

Griselda Sprigg's book “Dune is a four letter word” is a good history of those days.

Thanks pm, I'll have a look for a copy. I've read the biography of Reg Sprigg written by his daughter in law. I think it was called Rock Star; it's a good read. One of the interesting parts was about Reg pioneering underwater seismic testing in the waters off Adelaide. From memory, they brought in a professional to teach them all how to hookah dive. One thing about his Beach Petroleum, they might not have been the biggest company around but they treated their contractors well.  They were always good to work for.

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