Truck Features

The Truckie who loved Trains – Book Review


This excellent biography of TNT founder, Ken Thomas, was released before we started the historic Vehicles website, but it’s still in print and audio formats. As well as being a well researched and well written bio, it’s a potted history of Australia’s post WWII road and rail transport scene.



David Wilcox did a great job in writing up the life and times of this pivotal person in the Australian transport world. The era embraced resolution of different rail gauge issues; diesel-isation of the railways; the famous Hughes and Vale road tax court case; containerisation of sea, rail and road transport and roll-off and roll-on shipping.

Ken Thomas was instrumental in all those issues and was pressured to write up his achievements. That task eventually fell to David Wilcox, who felt that Ken would have been too modest to write any self-praise.

After Ken’s infamous and shameful 1972 dismissal from TNT – the company he’d founded –

Historic Vehicles’ Allan Whiting had a discussion with Ken Thomas about resolving the wasteful six-countries-in-one structure of Australia that still hampers more than just transport.

Ken’s idea was to throw out the state and territory governments and replace them with regional governments with more local inputs, reporting to the federal government. His concept was modelled on the Swiss ‘Canton’ system, he told AW, that would see two representatives elected in each of these many local regions. 

One elected representative would serve six months in the federal parliament, looking after local interests, as well as contributing to national ones, while the other rep stayed the regional office. Every six months the two reps would change locations, meaning the the returned Canberra rep would have to face public ire, if performance was judged unsatisfactory.

It was an idea outside the Aussie square and typical of this brilliant man. The country is poorer for not listening more intently to Ken Thomas. 

The fallout from his 1972 statements that declared religion was superstition meant that he became something of an untouchable, before a slightly more enlightened view of his position was taken in the 21st Century. Incredibly, it took until 2012 before Ken Thomas was inducted into the National Road Transport Museum’s Hall of Fame.

This book is a must-have for anyone interested in Australia’s post-WWII development.


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