Australian Pioneers and Explorers
'I made my own tracks.'
1911 - 1976
Len Tuit was the genuine outback 'man of few words'. Even his name appears abbreviated. His eyes, however, always seemed to be gazing down a long, long road.
Tuit was just 21 when he drove his Diamond T overland from Adelaide to Alice Springs. It took eleven bone-rattling, truck-breaking days and somewhere near the Pichi Richi Pass all the money he had got shaken loose. There was nothing for it but to get a job.
For four years he drove the rough road between Alice Springs and Tennant Creek, carting perishables one way and metals from the mines the other. In 1936 he bought a new Ford and carted supplies to the Granites and Tanami goldfields.
When Darwin was bombed in 1942 evacuees could take the train only as far south as Birdum Creek. They were then happy to ride on the back of Len's truck to the railhead at Alice Springs.
That great thousand kilometre gap in the Australian rail system became Len's window of opportunity. Through the war years his trusty truck was a vital freight link to the north. After the war he bought a prime mover from the army, fitted its trailer with bench seats and a canvas canopy, and carried passengers as well. The locals dubbed it 'the butterbox'.
The train between Birdum Creek and Darwin took 48 hours to cover the 500 kilometres. Len reckoned he could do better with the butterbox. When he showed the government he could cover the whole 1500 kilometres from Alice Springs in just three days they gave him the mail contract.
The future had just caught up with the Birdum Creek rail line - Len was soon running a fleet of coaches up and down the long dusty road to Darwin.
But the road he was now really interested in did not yet exist. In 1950 he led a Sydney school group on the first tour of Ayers Rock. They took three days to get there, bouncing across the desert from the highway.
He tried to get the government to put in a road, but met with years of resistance. 'A grader could get lost for several days in that country,' was the official position.
Len saw it differently. He put bus bodies on the back of army surplus four-wheel-drives and started regular runs to the Rock. When they saw he didn't get lost after all, the government relented and sent in the graders. They even granted him a lease at the Rock for a campsite ... provided he could find water. The bore he sank became the artery that pumped life into remote Ayers Rock.
Len went on to open up Palm Valley and Serpentine Gorge before selling most of his business to Ansett. He retained just a local bus service in Alice Springs.
He was happy being the school bus driver. And most happy come school holidays.
Len would drive to Borroloola, scattering kids at various stations along the way. He would then go fishing before collecting them all on his way back, and delivering them to school for the new term.
It was a round trip of nearly 3000 kilometres.
To Len it was just another long, long road.