Brilliant journey ends for Treasure transport brothers

By Mal Gill
November 28 2021 - 12:00am
Brothers Glenn (left), 70 and Colin Treasure, 76, have decided Treasures Stock Transport has come to the end of the road after 73 years. They are selling off their fleet of Scania prime movers and stock trailers. The B-train behind them is known as 'old faithful'. "It's the one we go out in when the later, more powerful trucks have a problem," Colin said.

RECENTLY retired stock transport driver Colin Treasure, 76, can remember getting his truck licence "in the main street of Midland" in 1969.

Treasures Stock Transport, started by his father Bob some 21 years earlier, mainly worked out of Midland saleyards, the State's major wholesale cattle and sheep selling centre for 100 years, until it was replaced by the Muchea Livestock Centre in 2010 and demolished.

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Recently returned from two year's national service in the army - he had been a 'tunnel rat' in Vietnam, one of the Australian soldiers armed with a torch, six millimetre calibre pistol and nerves of steel, who crawled on hands and knees through networks of tunnels built by the Viet Cong that served as everything from munitions dump to underground field hospital.

He had just joined the family business.

It made sense he should borrow one of the company's single-axle drive AB International trucks with 9.5 metre single-axle trailer and stock crate on the back, to get his truck licence.

While dwarfed by today's trucks, it was a big unit on the crowded Midland streets in those days - the main street was Great Eastern Highway and all traffic went along a section lined with parked cars, power poles on the kerb and shop verandahs out to the edge of what is now a one-way, dual-lane section where the highway splits in two through central Midland.

A lack of power-assisted steering was compensated for by a big, thin-rimmed steering wheel and lots of wheel twirling.

Sitting in Treasures Stock Transport's Maddington office last week reminiscing with brother Glenn, 70, - the brothers have run the stock transport arm of RE & OM Treasure & Sons, started by their parents Robert and Olive, for some 40 years - Colin recalled his driving test.

"Back in those days you were allowed to cut the corner on a left turn, but you weren't allowed to let your steer tyres hit the kerb on the other side of the road," Colin said.

"You could drag the trailer over the kerb and run over pedestrians on the inside, but you couldn't mount the kerb on the outside."

Two years later it was Glenn's turn when he turned 21 to go for his truck licence in Midland - he started working for the company straight from school in 1966.

He did his test in one of the company's AACO semi trailers with stock crate.

Initially labelled AACO, standing for Australian Army Cab-Over, the forward control International trucks of the 1960s were a civilian derivative of a military 4x4 design conceived and built in Australia by the local division of International Harvester.

From the early 1970s, with a new cab, they became Australian Constructed Cab-Over, or ACCO and were the backbone of medium to heavy trucking in Australia for the next 30 years.

"I'm an Inter man, I got my (truck) licence in an AACO," Glenn said.

"We took one of the old AACOs and went around the block."

Glenn Treasure with a prized photograph of a Treasures Stock Transport Scania, which was loaded with hay at the time, towing the Mt Vernon station Mack and two stock trailers 40 kilometres, which included several dry creek crossings, back to the station after it broke down.

This year the brothers decided September 30 was to be the end of the road for Treasures Stock Transport after 73 years carting cattle and sheep for a variety of clients, from pastoral leases in the Pilbara and Gascoyne and out on the fringe of the Nullarbor Plain, from Midland and Muchea to abattoirs down south and to Fremantle Port.

"We had two drivers leave within a week of each other and it was just too hard to find drivers - the right kind of drivers - so we decided to close the business," Glenn said.

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They had two jobs promised to clients left to do and Colin completed the final run by Treasures Stock Transport on a recent Tuesday, carting 30 ram lambs from Muchea to Wooroloo as he had committed to do.

"We pride ourselves on the fact we've always looked after the little bloke - up until recently we were going to Dardanup Butchers on a Tuesday with a B-train with 10 or 11 different lines of sheep on it," Colin said.

"Now, the big-time operators want one pick up, 700 sheep, one line, one drop off and that's it.

"We've always done the jobs that were too hard for everyone else and we've had a lot of good customers out of it.

"In the late '70s we started working Mininer station at Paraburdoo - they built the mine on the station - and until two months ago there had never been another (stock) truck come off that station.

"We've worked over the years for Anchorage Butchers (an export meatworks at Robbs Jetty, Coogee), W Pope who started a mutton business at Robbs Jetty - we carted all the sheep for them - and Goodchilds (a Perth wholesale butcher which ran the Australind abattoir).

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"In 1971 we started working for V&V Walsh at Busselton - 80 lambs a week from Midland at the start - and we've worked for the Walsh family ever since.

"Metro Meats - they had Katanning and Linley Valley abattoirs - we did a lot of work for them over the years and Tip Top Meats for Ray Williams, next to Linley Valley.

"In the late 1960s Emanuel (Exports) did a shipment every five weeks and had a feedlot where the suburb Bletchley Park is now."

"It was a Sunday morning job," Glenn recalled, "All double-deck bobtails (trucks) to get the sheep to Fremantle."

"We've worked for the biggest and the best - we were working for Richard Goyder (Australian Football League, Woodside Petroleum and Qantas chairman, former Wesfarmers chief executive officer and Toodyay farmer) up until a few weeks ago, (Pilbara mining magnate) Lang Hancock and his family and (Lang Hancock's business partner) Peter Wright's family.

"We've rubbed shoulders with the rich and famous and never got anything out of it," Colin joked.

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Their grandfather Charles Treasure came to Australia in 1908 as custodian of five Scottish Shorthorn bulls which he delivered to Anna Plains station on the Pilbara coast, 230 kilometres south of Broome.

He eventually settled on 48 hectares in Cannington and started a dairy farm where the Carousel shopping centre now stands.

Treasure Road, Cannington, is named after him.

Colin and Glenn, along with siblings, Bob Jnr, Alex, Malcolm and Beverley, grew up on the dairy farm, going to Cannington primary school before Colin went on to Armadale High School and Glenn to Bentley High School.

After World War II, Bob Snr and his brother-in-law started a blacksmith business on Albany Highway, Cannington, but dissolved the partnership 12-18 months later.

A 1965 aerial view of Anchorage Butchers' export meatworks on the foreshore at Robbs Jetty, Coogee. Cattle from the Kimberley were swum ashore from steamers anchored off the beach in the 1880s until the State Government extended the private jetty in 1894. By 1900 Kimberley 'cattle barons' had started their own meat processing works near the end of the jetty. Various companies operated meatworks at North Coogee beach until 1992, with livestock originally railed through central Perth from the Midland saleyards until Bob Treasure Snr pioneered trucking cattle and sheep from Midland. Picture courtesy Azelia Ley Homestead Museum.

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"(Uncle) Dick took over the blacksmith's shop and dad bought himself a little truck, a Chev with about a 12 or 14 foot (3.6-4.2 metres) tray on it," Colin said.

"He had an acquaintance somewhere in the industry and he got the job of carting cows - all of the little farms (across what are now Perth's eastern suburbs) each had half a dozen cows.

"He also had a job with the Department of Agriculture carting TB (bovine tuberculosis) reactive cows to an abattoir.

"Then he got into the saleyards at Midland and started to expand from there.

"He bought a little International truck in about 1950 and had two little bobtails running around."

"Nobody had a (loading) ramp in those days, you had to have a ramp on the back of your truck - barn doors that dropped down," Glenn pointed out.

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The business got a lucky break when Anchorage Butchers, which received livestock by rail from Midland sale yards, agreed to Bob Snr seeing if it was feasible for him and his trucks to beat the train.

It was both feasible and economic.

"That Anchorage contract was the making of Treasures Stock Transport," Glenn said.

Bob Snr's reputation for stock handling was further enhanced in 1956 when he took on the then mammoth task of removing about 3000 young steers off Anna Plains station on a contract with Elders.

The previous year - "in a rush of blood" according to the Treasure brothers - he had formed a partnership with the Napier family from Armadale and taken over Balfour Downs station 125 kilometres north-east of Newman in the Pilbara.

When Anna Plains station was sold on the proviso the young steers on the property were removed, Bob Snr, his Balfour Downs partner Norman Napier and Bernie Panizza, of Mt Vernon station, 194km south-west of Newman, reputedly paid 12 pounds 10 shillings a head for the steers.

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Indigenous stockmen from Anna Plains and Balfour Downs overlanded the steers in mobs of 500 the first 130km south to an Agricultural Department cattle tick dip on Wallal Downs.

Mobs of about 250 were then walked a further 150 kilometres down the coast to Ridley yards on De Grey station.

From there, a shuttle service of four Leyland Tiger trucks, each towing two bogie trailers as road trains, carted 200 head at a time over 800km of bush tracks - with a rest break at Roy Hill station for the cattle to be offloaded and watered - to the railhead at Meekatharra.

A special train took them to Midland saleyards with the loss of only 14 steers during the whole exercise.

"From about 1955 to 1957 he basically left mum to run the whole show (the Cannington dairy farm and trucking business) while he was away with his truck carting horses and stockman across from Balfour Downs to De Grey as far as he could because there were no roads in those days," Colin said.

"In the 1960s he used to go up to the Gascoyne and cart cattle out of Dairy Creek.

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"In the old Inters he'd go up and cart sheep out of Murgoo station back to Keysbrook for Charlie Atkins.

"Murgoo is north of Mullewa - in today's driving you could probably do it (Mullewa to Murgoo) in three quarters of an hour, but in those days it took about three and a half hours.

"The old man used to run a truck up to Ethel Creek (about 70km east of Newman) for Bernie (Panizza).

"He'd take railway line up and bring cattle back - the yards at Ethel Creek are built out of old rail line.

"He had a 34 foot (10.3m) single-axle trailer and a single-axle ACCO prime mover.

"Towards the end of 1979 we bought our first bogie-drive prime mover and three-deck sheep crate.

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"We bought another in 1980 and one in 1981."

Colin Treasure with a photograph of the company's Scania road-train followed by its Mack road-train.

But things did not always go so well, the brothers recalled.

"The old man had a contract with Charlie Carter before there was bitumen to Norseman, carting cattle off Madura station (roughly halfway between Norseman and the South Australian border)," Colin said.

"He would go out there in one of the two 34ft (10.3m) semis and bring back a load of cattle each week.

"He had two drivers working for him and one got stuck out there (on the Nullarbor) with a cracked head on the truck.

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"Dad and I went out there with another head to bring it home and going out on the rough old road before they built the Eyre Highway, he hit a rock in the middle of the road and it bent the (steering) trackrod.

"In the middle of the night the old man gets out with his spanners, takes the trackrod off, heats it up, puts it over the combing rail on the trailer and pulls down on it until he got it straight enough and off we go to Madura.

"There, he pulled the head off the other truck and put the other head on and got it all going, then we loaded two trucks with cattle and headed home.

"Nothing stopped the old man - I was flabbergasted."

Another time on the Madura run with Colin and Glenn accompanying their father, the rough road cracked a seam on the truck's radiator header tank.

Pulling over to investigate rising engine temperature, Bob Snr discovered the problem, pulled the radiator out and sat with it on the edge of the road until a big Chevrolet car came along and stopped.

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He hitched a lift back to a rudimentary repair garage at a set of concrete tanks built to provide water for travellers.

There the radiator header tank was soldered up while the car driver waited and returned Bob Snr and radiator back to the truck.

"Glenn and I had to sit with the truck all day out on the Nullabor," Colin recalled.

"I think we eventually sold the truck with the repaired radiator still in it, but the old man went out and bought soldering irons and solder and carried them with him after that.

"He was very, very clever in his younger days in getting himself out of trouble."

In 1974 Treasure Stock Transport switched brand allegiance from International to Scania, a then little-known Swedish brand but with a powerful turbocharged V8 diesel engine that had proved itself in Europe and South America.

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"They had much better fuel economy than some of the other trucks and they (what became Scania Australia) looked after us," said Glenn.

"The old man bought a second-hand one in 1974, in 1976 he bought a new one, in 1977 bought another new one."

The company's red, orange and black colour scheme appeared only on Scanias from then on, apart from one year when they had a warranty dispute and bought a Mack.

"I had a bee in my bonnet about this warranty issue with Scania, so I came back to the office and said to Glenn 'today we are buying a truck and it's going to be a Mack'," Colin said.

"It turned out to be as good as the Scanias."

While RE & OM Treasure & Sons has other business interests, including a farm at Wandering run by Bob Jnr and Malcolm, Colin and Glenn were adamant Treasures Stock Transport was the vital component of the family's business that provided the funding base to build the rest of the operation.

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"Trucks bought the farm," Colin said.

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