Inducted into the Shell Rimula Wall of Fame at ReUnion 2003.Katherine (NT) farmer Ewen Clough helped the British Army carry out tests on, and then went to drive, Australia's first purpose-built roadtrain, which had been brought to the Northern Territory in 1934 for desert trials. Ewen drove it for the first two years of its operation.
The British, convinced there was going to be another world war, wanted the roadtrain concept tested for desert warfare and commissioned the Associated Equipment Company of London to develop the roadtrain.
Of the four known that were built, only one came to Australia. The 130 hp diesel engined AEC did a top speed of 28 mph. It had 24 single wheels and torsion bar steering which meant all wheels tracked, a feature which was handy for negotiating sharp bends and rough terrain. Ewen was paid the princely sum of 14 pounds per week to drive the road train. The 'road' from Alice Springs north was little more than a snaking track that wound in and out of the overland telegraph line poles. Some of the country was so bad that Ewen had to carry dynamite to blast a road through in some bad spots. The lack of rural roads in the NT at the time meant Ewen would plan his trip by looking at his map and drawing a straight line between his point of origin and his destination; and then he'd trail-blaze his own route! An army jeep used to go ahead to check out the terrain.
The cameleers called it 'the train that didn't need a track' and doubting cattleman called it a "stupid pommy invention;" but with Ewen in control, it soon proved its worth despite some initial design and mechanical failings which were adeptly dealt with by Ewen. There is no doubt that Ewen's work with the AEC was crucial to the eventual success of the overall development of the roadtrain. Thanks to his dedication the "roadtrain concept" became a working reality.