Western workhorses

By: Steve Skinner, Video by: Steve Skinner. Music by Dan Skinner


Check out the note on this beautifully restored 1965 B615 Mack with its two-stroke V8 GM 871 "bird scarer" engine.

 

The McCutcheon clan from Narromine and Trangie near Dubbo in western NSW are well-known for their big yellow Macks and Kenworths – which are exactly the same colour as their beloved Cat earthmoving machines.

It all started with a young Sidney Richard McCutcheon and his second-hand "Brockway" truck in Narromine way back in 1928.

Brockway was an American brand later taken over by Mack which hung around until the late 1970s. Back then trucks ran on solid rubber tyres, so you can imagine how bone-shaking it must have been carting drums of diesel, petrol and kerosene from Sydney to western NSW along dirt roads.

Fast forward 90 years and the fourth generation of McCutcheons is still going strong in the trucking, farming, earthmoving and heavy haulage games, with a fifth generation coming through.

Small truck for a big job: A restored and re-painted B615 hauling grain in the 1990s

Owner/Driver recently checked out some great old Macks and some impressive newer Kenworths on the four properties of two sets of McCutcheon cousins – grandsons of patriarch Sid.

"Both Mack and Kenworth have a history of reliability in our part of the world," says Rob McCutcheon, tour guide for the afternoon and the main family historian. "We’re out on the rough roads with hot temperatures so we want something that’s going to mitigate the effects of where we operate."

In a varied career the original Sid McCutcheon was amongst other things a shearer, rabbiter, mine owner, truck operator and dealer, car dealer, earthmover, farmer, fuel distributor and International Harvester farm machinery agent in the days when deals were done on a handshake and no payments were expected until the next crop came in.

His sons Allan and Sid Jnr continued the farming and earthmoving tradition – inevitably involving their own  trucks – as have several of their sons. The result is a lot of big yellow trucks with the name "McCutcheon" on the door, but with a confusing array of initials before the surname.

An early 1960s International R195 hard at work for the McCutcheons in the early 1970s

Magnificent Vintage Mack

First cab off the rank was the undoubted pride of the historic McCutcheon family fleet – a 1965 B615 Mack owned since it was nearly new, and restored to pristine condition more than 20 years ago.

The Mack is now the same yellow colour inspired by the McCutcheon Cousins’ Caterpillar gear in the 1970s and 80s, but as the photo on these pages shows, it was originally a green farm and machinery haulage truck based at the original family property "Anglebone".

The two-stroke V8 GM 871 "bird scarer" engine isn’t original – it was taken from an armoured personnel carrier not long returned from the Vietnam War.

The 71 cubic inches per cylinder (9.3 litres) power plant was cranked up from 318 horsepower to 350hp (260kw) via a change of injectors to achieve road train rating, and the box is a 13 speed Roadranger.

The family spent $100,000 doing up the old B model, which has been driven mainly by the third generation Sid McCutcheon (Sid McCutcheon III if we were using American or British naming tradition) and sits in one of Sid’s sheds at Anglebone.

Sid’s son Lachlan backed it out of the shed for us, and the note is certainly awesome (check out the short video on our website). This truck is still a worker, but with seasonal license plates.

Mark McCutcheon with his faithful T950

Country Kenworths

Next up on our tour was the nearby property of another of Rob’s cousins, Paul. Here we saw the pride and joy of Paul’s son Jack, a 2011 Kenworth T609 with a Cummins ISXe5 hooked up to a set of double road train tippers. Resting inside the nearby shed was a nice old International Transtar – painted yellow of course – with an N14 Cummins under the bonnet.

We met Paul and Jack nearby performing some earthworks on their giant Caterpillar scrapers, and then it was off to check out Paul’s baby – a massive 2009 T908 with a Cummins Signature and six-rod suspension for heavy haulage work. It was mated to a set of Lusty tippers used for carting grain, fertiliser, gravel and dirt. Paul likes the huge bunk but prefers a motel room when he’s away.

A short drive on some bitumen and we meet Paul’s younger brother Mark doing some grader work on his gravel driveway. As for most farmers in this part of NSW, Mark was catching up on the sort of jobs which are usually a lower priority. The area is suffering the driest three years in a row for 120 years, and it’s the second year of a zero irrigation water allocation, so there’s no cotton or grain to cart.

Mark kindly parked his 1997 Kenworth T950 – which certainly doesn’t look  two decades old – next to an ’89 Mack SuperLiner with identical colouring and signage for some photos. The T950 was the first truck the McCutcheons bought new, attracted largely by its Cat 3406 engine, the 14.6 litres producing up to 550hp (400kW).

"Diesel" was still something of a novelty back in 1965

Trangie Tradition

Last port of call as the sun was setting was Rob’s family farm "Mullah Station" on the banks of the Macquarie River near Trangie. The Macquarie here is really just a creek at present, and it’s hard to imagine there was a raging flood as recently as 2016.

Mullah is the final resting place for the nearly 100 year old Brockway which started the McCutcheon businesses so long ago. The timber cab and boards have disappeared but a lot of the hard rubber remains on the wheels.

"We certainly need the drought to break before we would consider a restoration," says Rob. "It would be a pretty special family memento if we could."

Meanwhile strapped down on top of a trailer was a 1949 International KB7 prime mover which Rob remembers fondly from his childhood. Its six cylinder petrol engine left a fair bit to be desired in the torque stakes.

Rob’s mother Elaine was pregnant with him in 1951 when she accompanied husband Allan and brother- in-law Sid on a trip to Sydney to trade in an International TD 18 dozer for a newer TD 18.

Patriarch Sidney Richard had always used trains to transport machinery between the big smoke and the bush, and told his sons they wouldn’t make it up Mt Victoria on the western side of the Blue Mountains.

Rob says the brothers argued they would make it, but sure enough the KB7 "ran out of go-forward" on the second pinch and they had to unload the dozer and drive it to the top – but never told their father.

Apparently trucks running out of puff was a relatively common occurrence on this very steep part of the Great Western Highway in those days, and an enterprising chap with a WW2 Chevvy Blitz used to charge 20 quid to give laggards a leg-up.

Canary-coloured, bird-scaring B615

Truck and Tractor Heaven

The KB7 and Brockway were just two McCutcheon entrants in the recent inaugural Trangie Truck and Tractor Show, which the family helped organise. The Show was rated a huge success and gave local spirits a much-needed lift during the drought.

Nearly 200 trucks and 130 tractors were on show – including 17 tractors entered by Rob’s son Jason. Rob and his wife Linda have six sons, three of whom have trucks – Jason, Joe and Roma-based livestock carter Simon. (Charlie and Ned are cotton farmers and Bert has the machinery repair workshop in Trangie.)

There were also engines, cars and motorbikes of all shapes and sizes at the Trangie show, and perhaps the ongoing highlight of the day was the tractor pull with more than 100 entrants, won by a Bowers Heavy Haulage Mack Titan – which was disqualified because it’s not a tractor.

And you don’t see these sorts of competitions much at city shows – tyre changing, tyre rolling and tarp rolling.

A crowd of more than 2,500 turned out from as far afield as Tasmania and Far North Queensland, and nearly $40,000 was raised for local good causes such as the public and Catholic schools, tennis club and pony club. It was a pretty amazing effort for a town of just 800 people, which in return had more than $100,000 injected into its local economy.

"It certainly exceeded all our expectations and was a reflection of the work done by the committee and the support of our sponsors and the community," says Rob.

"The  Show in a sense highlighted the changes in the trucking industry over a long period, such as cab comfort and ride, brakes, tyres, roads and horsepower," he adds. "They’ve all changed but the people involved haven’t changed."

Rob says some entrants camped at the Showground for days, yarning around campfires. The Trangie show is set to become a biennial event, with the next TTT on 21-8-21. The nearby Dubbo Golden Oldies Truck and Tractor Show is set down for the second weekend in August next year.

SuperLiner and T950 colleagues

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