Tracks in Time
The War Department had “rented” his airstrip and updated it to be able to accommodate bombers if Australia was invaded. Tasmania would then be tasked with re-capturing the mainland for its people. After World War II the airfield was handed back to the Taylor family. It was a tarmacked cross-shaped strip.
In 1946 the airstrip hit the headlines when Launceston had had a particularly wet winter. Western Junction, later to be known as Launceston Airport was still a grassed strip and the Civil Aviation Department deemed it too wet and boggy for passenger DC3s to land, so directed them to fly a further 20 miles to Valleyfield. Taylor didn’t see the humour in this as the Commonwealth had stopped paying rent, so after a few days he left a gate open and his cattle roamed onto the airstrip, forcing flights to be diverted to Hobart. The main commercial company affected was the Launceston-based Australian National Airlines (A.N.A.). Taylor refused to allow the Commonwealth Government to bully him into removing the cattle. He was happy though to allow the “Old Boy” network to work and said he was happy to allow A.N.A. managing director, Capt. Ivan Holyman, permission to land his planes. A few years later Holyman got together with Reg Ansett to form Ansett-A.N.A. In 1949 the papers reported record prices for wool and fat lambs, then in February the Southern Tasmanian Motor Cycle Association announced they were going to run a big meeting at Valleyfield on the March long weekend. It was so big the Tasmanian Motor Cycle Club agreed to cancel events they had scheduled for that weekend so its riders could compete. That would indicate that protracted negotiations had to be made and the STMCA agree to a date acceptable to Mr Taylor. The TMCC were still the ACCA representative for Tasmania at that time and would be in charge of collating the roster, so the TMCC name was attached to the event as the promoter. The TMCC had promoted 2 meetings at the smaller “J” shaped 1 ½ mile Quorn Hall and now had to set up the 2 ½ mile Valleyfield track in a “X” shape. The only mainland visitor was car racer Ken Wylie for the two car events on the program with his home built “racing car” with a supercharged 10 h.p. Austin A 40 motor. He liked the track so much he felt it would be suitable to hold an Australian GP on it. Between 7,000 and 8,000 spectators turned up to see the close racing from 90 bikes entered. Racing started with a 350 handicap won by Launceston rider E J “Jock” Walkem (348 Velo). Hobart riders were to the fore with Charlie Vaughan (498 Triumph) winning two races and Dave Powell using Launceston dealer Trevor Jowett’s 348 7R AJS to good effect. Although the sidecar fields were light the racing was made closer by making them handicap races. Trevor Jowett with a 347 AJS was able to win each one from Graham Clifton (998 Harley) and Hilton Houstein (498 Velo).
At the first national conference of the Auto Cycle Union of Australia held at Launceston in August 1949 it was voted to allocate £300 for a race carnival at Valleyfield in November. The meeting was to be promoted by the conglomerate of motorcycle clubs headed by the TMCC and the Light Car Club of Tasmania. A petrol strike put petrol in short supply and the LCCT believed spectator numbers would be greatly affected. They thought that the 40 percent of the gate they were to be allocated would not be enough to cover the £250 prize money they intended paying to the car races.
LEFT MAIN The Victorian contingent for the 1950 meeting arrived by charted Bristol Freighter. Among the top names (l-r) are Ken Kavanagh (far left in overcoat), Bob Henley (holding 77 plate), George Huse (81), sidecar stars at rear Bernie Mack, George Skinner and Frank Sinclair (in hat), ACU steward Reg Bennett (beside Sinclair in hat), Frank Owen (wheeling Maurie Quincey’s KTT Velocette 8), Charlie Stewart (23), Maurie Tyzer (rear in dark suit), speedway promoter Fred Tracey (in dark hat), and Frank Juniper (48) with his son Graham and his Ariel sporting a reversed cylinder head.BELOW LEFT The Launceston Examiner newspaper carried a preview for the opening 1949 meeting with this track diagram. ABOVE Trevor Jowett (AJS 7R) and Ted Conley (Manx Norton) in 1949.