Truck tribute a labour of love
Former Port Hedland residents Trish Parker and Terry Joyce ran into each other at a funeral in late 2017.
Mr Joyce, of Boyup Brook, told Dongara-based Ms Parker he would love to record something on the Rhodes Ridley truck, which was so much a part of life for countless people, especially in the north of the State.
It got Ms Parker, a journalist and lover of history and heritage, thinking. More importantly, it got her helping Mr Joyce write.
What started as a research program on Australia Day, 2018, has ended in a book titled Let’s Build Our Own, published by DFD Rhodes, the company which constructed the Rhodes Ridley.
They have also produced a CD called Voices of the Rhodes Ridley, Stories by people who built, drove and loved the truck.
“I was only going to do a few interviews, but then became very involved and the project became a labour of love,” Ms Parker, who is a heritage consultant with the Geraldton library, said.
“There was such interest and affection in the project.
“The truck was the symbol for the early days of the manganese industry in the Pilbara.”
Built six decades ago, the Rhodes Ridley was the largest truck in the Southern Hemisphere — conceived to haul massive loads in the fledgling manganese industry.
During her life, she was abandoned, retrieved and eventually restored.
The book weaves narrative with excerpts of interviews and modern and historic photos.
“The Rhodes Ridley is a symbol of persistence and creativity and she is also the story of the people who love the truck, for what she is and what she represents,” Mr Joyce said.
The Rhodes Ridley was built in response to the need for a hauling capacity greater than the predominantly English trucks used.
Parts were used from General Grant tanks, which were surplus from World War II, and it was the first truck to have twin motors side by side.
In a tragedy of bureaucracy, the rules governing roads in the outback were changed as the truck neared completion, and she was never used as a haulage vehicle, instead serving as a base for the gen set at the Woodie Woodie mine.
Geraldton residents Bob Andrews and Bill Temperton had close connections to the Rhodes Ridley and the early manganese industry, the former being a grader driver in the early 1960s on the notorious road out of Woodie Woodie.
Mr Andrews later drove Leylands and Scammels, carting ore, along with Bill’s father, at a time when manganese was one of the mainstays of the Pilbara. When the mine closed in the early 1970s, the truck was abandoned until Mr Joyce and fellow truck enthusiast Bob Devlin went to the mine site in August 1989 and spent two days jacking her out of the sand onto their low loader and taking her to Port Hedland.
After it was there for a decade, the Rhodes family approached Mr Joyce and requested she be returned to them for restoration.
The truck sits on a property in the South West and is occasion-ally driven or transported to local shows and events.
The book and CD are sold at the Museum of Geraldton, Read A Lot Books and online at www.rhodesridley.com.au.
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