Esmond Gerald "Tom" Kruse MBE (28 August 1914 – 30 June 2011) was a mail carrier on the Birdsville Track in the border area between South Australia and Queensland. He became known nationally as the result of John Heyer's 1954 film The Back of Beyond . He was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 1955 New Year Honours, "for services to the community in the outback".
Kruse was born at Waterloo in South Australia to Harry (Heinrich) and Ida Kruse.He was the tenth of their twelve children. He left school when he was 14 years old, and worked as a casual labourer on local farms. However, due to the Depression, he "went 'bush'" around 1934 to work in John Penna's haulage business which ran out of Yunta in the mid-north of South Australia.
Kruse married Audrey Valma Fuller (known as Val) on 24 January 1942 in Adelaide, South Australia. They had four children: Pauline, Helen, Phillip and Jeffery.
In 1936 Henry Edgar (Harry) Ding (1907–1976) bought the mail contract from John Penna, and Kruse began his first run on 1 January of that year.Kruse bought the mail contract in 1947. He sold the contract in 1963.
Kruse worked the Birdsville Track mail run from 1936 to 1957, driving his Leyland Badger truck. 325 miles (523 kilometres) away. Each trip would take two weeks and Tom regularly had to manage break-downs, flooding creeks and rivers, and getting bogged in desert dunes.He delivered mail and other supplies including general stores, fuel and medicine to remote stations from Marree in north-west South Australia to Birdsville in far western Queensland, some
Tom Kruse came to fame with the release of John Heyer's documentary The Back of Beyond in 1954. While the film follows a "typical" journey made by Kruse, showing the various people he met along the Track and the sorts of obstacles he faced, this particular journey was closely scripted and includes a number of re-enactments and a 'lost children' story. John Heyer had undertaken a research trip with Kruse earlier. Shooting on the film began in late 1952. He was appointed MBE in 1955.
Kruse abandoned the truck on Pandie Pandie Station near Birdsville in 1957.It was located in the desert in 1986 during the Jubilee Mail Run re-enactment, and retrieved in 1993. A group of enthusiasts led by Neil Weidenbach, with the help of Tom, fully restored the Badger between 1996 and 1999. The truck was gifted by Tom and Valma to the people of Australia and is now on display in the National Motor Museum, at Birdwood in the Adelaide Hills. It is one of the featured vehicles in the National Motor Museum's installation Sunburnt Country, Icons of Australian Motoring.
Kruse retired in 1984, and moved to Cumberland Park in Adelaide. In May 1986, South Australia's 150th Jubilee, Tom re-enacted his run, with 80 vehicles joining in the northbound convoy. There was a second re-enactment in 1999, and in October of that year the Leyland was trucked to a few kilometres out of Birdsville so Tom could drive it into the township for celebrations. The next morning it was loaded with mail for "The Mail Truck's Last Run" to Marree. A major reason for the event was to raise funds for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.This run resulted in another documentary, Last Mail from Birdsville – the Story of Tom Kruse. As well as a book about Tom's life written by Kristin Weidenbach entitled Mailman of the Birdville Track.
In 2000 Tom was inducted into the National Transport Hall of Fame in Alice Springs, and in 2003 he was officially recognised as an Outback Legend by Australian Geographic magazine. Also in 2003, Tom and his truck, the Badger, were nominated South Australian icons by the National Trust of Australia.
In 2008, bronze busts of Tom were placed in the National Transport Hall of Fame in Alice Springs, National Motor Museum at Birdwood, at Waterloo (his birthplace), and at Birdsville and Marree.
Publicans Phil and Marilyn (Maz) Turner of the iconic Marree Hotel commissioned Ian Doyle, Executive Producer of 'The Tom Kruse Collection'to curate and with Mark Metzger to build the Tom Kruse Museum in the renamed Tom Kruse Room in the Marree Hotel. The collection includes hundreds of photographs, documents and memorabilia from Tom's Marree to Birdsville mail run, including a floor board and the original grille from the 1936 'Back of Beyond' Leyland Badger and a signed and framed mailbag used in the production of 'The Last Mail from Birdsville - the Story of Tom Kruse' in 1999.
Kruse died in Adelaide, aged 96, on 30 June 2011.
The Birdsville Track is a notable outback road in Australia. The 517-kilometre (321 mi) track runs between Birdsville in south-western Queensland and Marree, a small town in the north-eastern part of South Australia. It traverses three deserts along the route, the Strzelecki Desert, Sturt Stony Desert and Tirari Desert.
The Ghan is an experiential tourism oriented passenger train service that operates between the northern and southern coasts of Australia, through the cities of Adelaide, Alice Springs and Darwin on the Adelaide–Darwin rail corridor. Operated by Journey Beyond Rail Expeditions, its scheduled travelling time, including extended stops for passengers to do off-train tours, is 53 hours 15 minutes to travel the 2,979 kilometres (1,851 mi). The Ghan has been described as one of the world's great passenger trains.
Birdsville is a rural town and locality in the Shire of Diamantina, Queensland, Australia. In the 2016 census the locality of Birdsville had a population of 140 people. It is a popular tourist destination with many people using it as a starting point across the Simpson Desert.
Marree is a small town located in the north of South Australia. It lies 589 kilometres (366 mi) North of Adelaide at the junction of the Oodnadatta Track and the Birdsville Track, 49 metres (161 ft) above sea level. Marree is an important service centre for the large sheep and cattle stations in northeast South Australia as well as a stopover destination for tourists traveling along the Birdsville or Oodnadatta Tracks.
Farina, formerly Farina Town, is a town and locality in the Australian state of South Australia. At the 2006 census, Farina had a population of 55.
The Channel Country is a region of outback Australia mostly in the state of Queensland but also in parts of South Australia, Northern Territory and New South Wales. The name comes from the numerous intertwined rivulets that cross the region, which cover 150,000 km². The Channel Country is over the Cooper and Eromanga geological basins and the Lake Eyre Basin drainage basin. Further to the east is the less arid Maranoa district.
The former Central Australia Railway, which was built between 1878 and 1929 and closed in 1980, was a 1,241 km (771 mi) 1067 mm narrow gauge railway between Port Augusta and Alice Springs. A standard gauge line duplicated the southern section from Port Augusta to Maree in 1957 on a new nearby alignment. The entire Central Australia Railway was superseded in 1980 after the standard gauge Tarcoola–Alice Springs Railway was opened, using a new route up to 200 km to the west. A small southern section of the original line between Port Augusta and Quorn has been preserved as the Pichi Richi Tourist Railway.
The Back of Beyond (1954) is a feature-length award-winning Australian documentary film produced and directed by John Heyer for the Shell Film Unit. In terms of breadth of distribution, awards garnered, and critical response, it is Heyer's most successful film. It is also, arguably, Australia's most successful documentary: in 2006 it was included in a book titled 100 Greatest Films of Australian Cinema, with Bill Caske writing that it is "perhaps our [Australia's] national cinema's most well known best kept secret".
The Coober Pedy Oodnadatta One Day Mail Run is a 4WD mail service in the outback of South Australia.
The Tirari Desert is a 15,250 square kilometres (5,888 sq mi) desert in the eastern part of the Far North region of South Australia. It stretches 212 km from north to south and 153 km from east to west.
Waterloo is a settlement in South Australia, located just off the Barrier Highway between Manoora and Black Springs, approximately 121 kilometres (75 mi) north-east of the state capital of Adelaide.
Cordillo Downs or Cordillo Downs Station is both a pastoral lease currently operating as a cattle station and a formal bounded locality in South Australia. It is located about 116 kilometres (72 mi) north of Innamincka and 155 kilometres (96 mi) south east of Birdsville. The name and boundaries of the locality were created on 26 April 2013 for the long established local name.
Alton Downs Station, most commonly known simply as Alton Downs, is a pastoral lease that operates as a cattle station in north east South Australia.
Mundowdna Station most commonly known as Mundowdna is a pastoral lease that operates as a cattle station in north east South Australia.
Pandie Pandie Station, most commonly known as Pandie Pandie, also often spelled as Pandi Pandi or Pandy Pandy, is a pastoral lease that operates as a cattle station in north east South Australia. It lies on the eastern edge of Karanguru territory.
The National Motor Museum, Australia, is an automobile museum in the Adelaide Hills in the township of Birdwood, South Australia. Established in 1964 and opened to the public soon afterwards, it is Australia's largest motor museum, with close to 400 vehicles on display.
Mulka Station is a pastoral lease that operates as a cattle station in the far north of South Australia. The land occupying the extent of the Mulka Station pastoral lease was gazetted as a locality by the Government of South Australia on 26 April 2013 under the name "Mulka".
Clifton Hills Station is a pastoral lease that operates as a cattle station in the far north of South Australia.
Dulkaninna Station is a pastoral lease that once operated as a sheep station but now operates as a cattle station in outback South Australia.
Tom Brennan was a barge built in the Australian state of South Australia in 1949 for use as a ferry at the crossing of the Birdsville Track over Cooper Creek when the creek was in flood in what is now the state’s Far North region. It was withdrawn from service in either 1960 or 1963 and since 1986, it has served as a monument. One of its operators was the mail contractor, Tom Kruse.