Rock solid: Queens­land’s Red Rock Trans­port

Based on Queens­land’s Dar­ling Downs, Red Rock Trans­port has evolved from a Volvo N7 one-truck op­er­a­tion to a small fleet of Ken­worths and a cou­ple of re­stored re­minders of its ori­gins. War­ren Aitken writes

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“So, I started out in 1989 with a sin­gle-drive Volvo, a 40-foot stock crate, and now we’ve got 22 trail­ers, four road-train dol­lies, six Ken­worth prime movers, the old S-line and some of my old trucks I’ve re­stored.”

It’s a rather hum­ble and un­der­stated sum­mary from a man who’s spent nearly six decades en­trenched in the diesel-fu­elled arena of trans­porta­tion. It also down­plays the life that Lyn­d­say ‘Red’ John­stone has forged out – not just for him but for his wife, his son and his fam­ily, as well as his em­ploy­ees. Or as Red em­pha­sised sev­eral times, “our great­est as­sets”.

Wel­come to Red Rock Trans­port, In­gle­wood, Queens­land. I’m pre­sum­ing there are very few fol­low­ers of early English botanists that read this pub­li­ca­tion, so fa­mil­iar­ity with In­gle­wood the town that was first dis­cov­ered by the fa­mous English botanist Al­lan Cun­ning­ham (like we didn’t al­ready know) may be a lit­tle lack­ing. It is a place fa­mil­iar to many in­ter­staters, par­tic­u­larly those Mel­bourne-bound who have stopped for a Chiko Roll at one of the cafés in the small town’s short main road.

Though small in stature, In­gle­wood is as iconic and as Aussie as you can get. The town’s slo­gan

I was driv­ing an old Ley­land Oc­to­pus 8-wheeler … im­ported from Eng­land.

is ac­tu­ally ‘Catch The Coun­try Spirit’ and if you don’t pick up on that by the fact ev­ery­body waves when driv­ing around, then I sug­gest you just sit down and chat to a lo­cal.

Lucky for me, the lo­cal I got to sit down and chat to was in­grained In­gle­wood iden­tity Lyn­d­say John­stone (from here on known as Red). Red is born and bred In­gle­wood and his truck­ing story goes all the way back to the early 1960s when he would hear the big lor­ries haul­ing through town, run­ning be­tween Mel­bourne and Bris­bane. Like a lot of us at that age, school hol­i­days were spent in the pas­sen­ger seat of a truck.

Red’s rel­a­tives owned a gravel screen­ing busi­ness that stretched from north­ern New

South Wales all the way through to south­ern Queens­land, so he was kept very en­ter­tained muck­ing around on load­ers, trucks and gen­er­ally any­thing that could make noise.

It would come as no sur­prise that when Red grad­u­ated from high school in Toowoomba, he got a ride home on the Thurs­day night and come Mon­day morn­ing he had his first full-time job with Ron John­stone, a quarry ma­te­rial trans­port com­pany that gave many young­sters a start in the In­gle­wood area.

“That was the start of my driv­ing ca­reer,” Red re­calls. “All we did then was cart gravel out of creek beds up to screen­ing plants.”

His first rig at Ron John­stone’s was an AB In­ter­na­tional with a 282 petrol mo­tor. “We grad­u­ated to 6354 Perkins,” Red tells me. “Then I was driv­ing an old Ley­land Oc­to­pus eightwheeler. It was im­ported from Eng­land.”

The cur­rent fleet stands at six prime movers, all of them sport­ing the fa­mous KW badge. One of Red’s orig­i­nal S-Lines still graces the yard with its pres­ence and his ad­mi­ra­tion for In­ter­na­tional is also now dis­played with a cou­ple of beau­ti­fully re­stored trucks and an­other cou­ple in vary­ing states of restora­tion.

FAM­ILY OP­ER­A­TION

While Red’s name has been bandied about the most dur­ing this read, he is the first per­son to point out the team in­volved in the com­pany’s suc­cess.

Red’s son Shane has been in­stru­men­tal in the busi­ness as has his wife Rose­mary whom man­ages the of­fice along­side Shane’s wife Re­becca.

Shane started at Red Rock at a very young age. He also spent time get­ting his ap­pren­tice­ship and even went up to check out the crocs and de­liver chem­i­cals through­out the North­ern Ter­ri­tory be­fore even­tu­ally re­turn­ing to the fold with his fam­ily to part­ner up at Red Rock.

Shane’s in­flu­ence is never more ev­i­dent than in the eye-catch­ing ap­peal of the trucks. The set-up and ap­pear­ance has been driven by

Shane, but the up-keep has been car­ried for­ward by the com­pany’s driv­ers. Their pride in their trucks is ad­mirable and feed­back from the pub­lic re­in­forces that.

The other vi­tal as­pect of the Red Rock driv­ers is the abil­ity to multi-skill, es­pe­cially with small town busi­nesses be­ing very much at the in­flu­ence of the greater com­mu­nity.

In­gle­wood was once a thriv­ing to­bacco-grow­ing re­gion. For a long time, it was also a ma­jor pro­ducer of rail­way sleep­ers.

Farm­ing has al­ways been preva­lent yet ruled by Mother Na­ture in much the same way grain has. Chicken farms and tim­ber yards have flour­ished and strug­gled in the area. Through­out all th­ese dips and waves, Red and his driv­ers have had to adapt and learn in or­der to sur­vive and re­main com­pet­i­tive.

Red read­ily ad­mits his driv­ers are the com­pany’s great­est asset. Their ‘jack of all trades’ abil­i­ties are vi­tal in small-town trans­port.

Through­out the course of a work­ing week the truck can be do­ing cat­tle one day, tim­ber or card­board the next, hook up for a load of chick­peas or grain and fin­ish with cot­ton bales.

And we haven’t even dis­cussed the switch from sin­gle to B-dou­bles and road trains.

So while Rose­mary has the car­a­van hooked up ready to drag him into re­tire­ment, Red keeps find­ing more nos­tal­gic old trucks in need of restora­tion.

“I still love it,” Red adamantly an­nounces.

“Your cus­tomer wants to see you out there do­ing it ev­ery day, they want to see you out there load­ing cat­tle and stuff and I still love do­ing what I’m do­ing.”

I still love do­ing what I’m do­ing.

Above: Red and wife Rose­mary with a cou­ple of beau­ti­fully re­stored In­ter­na­tion­als

Above: Fa­ther and son trucks: Shane John­stone’s im­mac­u­late T909 with Red’s stun­ning SAR parked up in the yard

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