Mailman of the Birdsville Track: the story of Tom Kruse

Kristin Weidenbach’s account of this famous enterprise balances its hardships with humour and a great sense of camaraderieWeekend Australian


a tribute to the man who earned the love of a whole generations of AusraliansAge



About the Book

Mailman of the Birdsville Track is the story of a remarkable Australian—Tom Kruse—driver of the Marree-to-Birdsville mail and star of the 1954 documentary The Back of Beyond. Once a fortnight for twenty years, the carrier called Kruse loaded up his battered Leyland Badger and drove the 1000km from Marree to Birdsville and back, delivering mail and supplies to the isolated residents of the famous inland stock route.

This was the Birdsville Track of the 1930s, ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s; when the Track was nothing more than two wheel ruts through stony desert, over sandhills and across flooded plains; before the advent of four-wheel drive, roadside assistance service, satellite phones and the Global Positioning System; before the Birdsville Track grew into the wide, graded, gravel roadway it is today.

Tom’s life story reflects the character of outback Australia in the mid 1900s—it was not a place for the timid or weak, but it was a place where this charming and humble man thrived and conquered. Tom epitomised the hard-working men of the bush—dogged, loyal and resourceful. When celebrated film director, John Heyer, was charged with producing a documentary that would reflect the spirit of outback Australia, he chose Tom Kruse as his leading man, and together they made an internationally award-winning movie that captured the hearts and imaginations of a generation of Australians. The film, The Back of Beyond, was eventually translated into 15 languages and has been seen by 25 million people worldwide.

Readers of Mailman of the Birdsville Track will learn of the early days of long-distance livestock haulage and the nature of outback mail services before aviation shouldered the load. They will learn of Tom’s New Year’s Honour from the Queen and his role in the first crossing of the Simpson Desert, and they will find out about outback characters of the Track, family life in the country towns “back of beyond”, and the remarkable flooding of the Cooper Creek.

As much as this is Tom’s story, it is also the story of the rescue and restoration of the Badger and the subsequent reunion of two historical figures. The book tells the story of Tom and his favourite truck—from 1936 when the Badger rolled off the production line and Tom first drove the mail run for transport pioneer Harry Ding, through Tom’s years as the Birdsville mailman, his subsequent career as an outback road-builder and dam scraper, the making of the film, the abandonment and eventual rescue of the Badger, its painstaking restoration by Tom and a small band of volunteers, and the final re-enactment run from Birdsville to Marree in 1999 with 85-year-old Tom once again behind the wheel.

Many Australians have some inkling of Tom Kruse and the Birdsville mail service; in Mailman of the Birdsville Track, the complete story of Australia’s flagship postman has now been told.

Kristin Weidenbach is the daughter of chief Badger restorer, Neil Weidenbach. She became acquainted with Tom Kruse during the four-year restoration of his Leyland Badger mail truck and the subsequent re-enactment of the Marree-to-Birdsville mail run in 1999.

Published by Hachette Australia

Also available as a e-book, as a talking book for the vision impaired, and as an abridged audio book.

Buy here or ebook