Ann is back! After a week or so in cold and wet Melbourne, Ann is back in Alice Springs. Unfortunately she bought some Melbourne temperatures with her and we have had overnight temperatures in the negatives! The days are cooler as well, but at least we get sunshine and clear skies.
While Ann was away, I did take the opportunity to visit the National Road Transport Hall of Fame and the Ghan Legends Museum.
Rather than pack up Bertha and drive a few kilometres out to the museum complex, I booked a Half Day Tour with the NRTHF. This included bus pick-up and return to Wintersun Caravan Park, entry to both the Truck Museum and the Ghan Museum, access to all other features at the museum complex, a guided tour of the entire complex and a light lunch.
Jeff picked me up in the bus at Wintersun and it turned out that I was his only customer for the day. Jeff does a lot more at the museum that drive the bus and conduct guided tours. It turned out that after the ‘formal’ guided tour and while I had plenty of time to wander around by myself, Jeff replaced a windscreen in one of the trucks currently under restoration, and dug a 20 metre trench so a water line could be extended. He is definitely Mr Versatile.
After checking in at Reception, our first destination was to the Ghan Legends Museum which features the locomotive NSU58 which was one of the first diesels to take over from steam trains. We took a walk through the train and it was interesting to see the dining and bar cars and compare what was considered luxurious then with how we regard luxury today. The galley is so small when you consider the number of meals that it had to prepare on its journeys. There were some very nice stained glass windows, a bit surprising on a train!
Jeff was a fount of information with plenty of interesting facts and stories. He pointed out, for instance, that some of the open carriages at the back of the train were used to convoy troops during the war when they were referred to as ‘cattle class’. Sitting on open wooden benches on a train wouldn’t have been very comfortable, that’s for sure.
We had our own Ghan adventure in November 1993, when we travelled from Adelaide to Alice Springs in a sleeping compartment – it didn’t go as far as Darwin until sometime later. As I recall, the dining car and lounge were a little more modern than NSU58, but perhaps not very much so.
There are also several other locomotives, carriages and other interesting railway themed items.
There is also the actual Ghan museum itself. The building it is housed in has its own interesting story. Apparently plans for a station were drawn up in war time, but the project was cancelled due to lack of funds and changed priorities. The station was then built at the NRTHF some 40 years later, to the original plans. There are some fascinating displays including a tribute to the Afghan cameleers who opened up The Centre, plus a huge collection of photos and memorabilia about railways from days long past, including the construction of the Ghan.
The Ghan museum complex also houses a small gift shop with some very different and interesting items for sale, plus the Old Ghan Tea Rooms and Garden café where I later enjoyed lunch.
The garden area includes some aviaries complete with cockatiels, an oversize chess set, a pavilion where functions and weddings are held, and other play and walking areas. Everything is very tranquil.
After a good look at the Ghan complex it was time to go over to the Truckies’ Hall of Fame. This place was opened on 30th July 1995 so it has been going for quite a while and has itself built up an interesting history. Jeff is an ex-truckie so he was really in his element here. As we walked through the various exhibits his knowledge about nearly each and every truck was astonishing, and I soon got into memory overload.
Displays include world rarities including the 1934 AEC Government Roadtrain, 1957 Rotinoff Viscounts and Kurt Johnannsens’ Diamond T and self-tracking trailers. There is a Stirling prototype truck built in the USA that after testing was not deemed capable of registration.
The actual taxi from the Michael Caton film “Last Taxi to Darwin” is on display and next to it is a donated hire car that clocked up a total of 1,000,000 kms.
There are some beautifully restored trucks, and others where it has been decided that they are more valuable in an unrestored condition. Plus there are plenty of trucks currently under restoration. There is also a ‘grave-yard’ where trucks which cannot be restored are left to die in dignity (or cannibalised for parts for other restorations).
The part of the Truckies’ Museum that I was really looking forward to was next – it is the Kenworth Truck Museum and the Kenworth Dealer Hall of Fame. I have a bit of a ‘thing’ for Kenworth trucks, probably through their association with Bolwell. Many readers of this blog will know of my interest in Bolwell! Click Here to find out more!
Walking into the Kenworth complex is amazing! It has about 30,000 square feet of display space devoted to the history of the Australian designed and built Kenworth truck, and the dealer network that supports the trucks. Jeff told me that there is an American built Kenworth truck in the yard that needs restoration, but Kenworth Australia won’t touch it!
Alice Springs has long been a transport hub for one of the remotest regions in the world and has a special place in the Australian Road Transport Industry as the birthplace of the road-train. Several new Kenworth models have been launched in Alice Springs.
The Kenworth Museum includes the very first Kenworth truck made in1971 in Australia at Kenworth’s Bayswater, Victoria factory. There are also examples of many other Kenworths, plus displays of engines, truck seats, and other truck components.
There are details of all the Kenworth dealers around Australia, and displays celebrating the Dealer of the Year as well as Supplier of the Year (Bolwell has won this award twice).
Jeff told me that many of the trucks in both the Truckies’ Museum and the Kenworth Museum are actually donated by their owners, often after a long life on the road. There are also trucks that have done 4,000,000 kms but looking at them on display they almost look brand new! Some trucks are left there on a loan basis and others are purchased outright. Many of the trucks have a special story and in some cases there are interpretive plaques to tell that story. Many trucks were owned by characters of the outback!
The bulk of the work here is done by volunteers and there is an active volunteer program. Grey Nomads and other travellers passing through Alice Springs are encouraged to volunteer for a few weeks and in return they can park their RV for free and still have plenty of time to see around the area. When I first arrived I met one the volunteers, Bev, who is also a motorhomer, and we had a great chat about the museum complex and volunteering.
Eventually after several hours at the NRTHF complex, after Jeff’s tour and a good walk-around on my own, and lunch, it was time for Jeff to drive me back to Wintersun.
What a fantastic day. I took way too many photos and only a few are included in this blog post.
If you would like to learn more about the National Road Transport Hall of Fame, you can visit in person, or maybe visit their website at www.roadtransporthall.com.
On Friday we took our very big car out for a drive. First stop was the parking area allocated to RVs near to the centre of town and we walked into Todd Mall for coffee and toast in the sun. There was a busker nearby so we bought him a cup of coffee as a thanks for entertaining us. We then walked over to Woolworths to stock up before going back to Bertha to put everything away before heading off.
Our next destination was the Old Telegraph Station. It was very different to when we were here in 1993. We parked Bertha in the large carpark and walked down new paths towards the new café/shop where we met a dingo! This is where you pay your entry fee, and can join a free guided tour if required. One very interesting feature at the café is an original letterbox where each letter posted there receives a special souvenir postmark from the Old Telegraph Station.
Also new is the inclusion of the Telegraph Station into a very active cycling network around Central Australia. Hire bicycles are available and during our walk around we came across many cyclists out enjoying the sunshine. Not all of the cyclists should have been wearing lycra though.
The Old Telegraph Stations is located next to the original ‘Alice Spring’. It was named in March 1871 by the Overland Telegraph Surveyor WW Mills after the wife of Charles Todd, who was the Postmaster General and Telegraph Superintendent. Alice Springs isn’t actually a spring at all but a depression that collects water, and it was certainly bone dry when we visited. This is why the actual town of Alice Springs moved!
We enjoyed a very pleasant walk around the old buildings and then returned to the café/shop for a nice hot toastie and coffee. It had been -1 degrees overnight and the day was taking a while to warm up.
After that we followed a walking track to the old Cemetery. There are two stone enclosures and five graves in the cemetery. The first person buried here was Ernie Flint in 1887, but the largest memorial is for James Bradshaw who was buried in 1901. He was the brother of TA Bradshaw who was the telegraph station master at the time.
Back in Bertha and a much warmer day, we went for a final scenic drive around Alice Springs before returning to Wintersun Caravan Park where we bunkered down for a forecast -2 degrees overnight.
We’ve spent the last couple of days preparing for the next stage of our 2017 Up the Centre Adventure. Maps and tourist guides have been perused and potential routes and destinations considered. Bertha is very clean and so are clothes and shoes. Tanks are full or empty as required.
Downunda and Faye might be interested to see the ‘new look’ camp kitchen here at Wintersun. It’s been out of action most of the time we’ve been here but apart from some minor electrical work, it’s all systems go. I cooked lunch over there today!
We head off from Alice Springs tomorrow.
We did have a question as to the population of Alice Springs. The answer is always vague, as so much of the population is transient and we haven’t come across a realistic number. Jeff, my chauffeur a few days ago did make the point, however, that the town population is limited to 50,000 as the water supply won’t cope with any more people than that.
Final note: we have discovered a new word – “Coddiwomple”. It means “To travel purposefully toward an as yet unknown destination”.
So, from now we will be Coddiwompling!