The Olivewood collection at Renmark, SA, celebrates the irrigation heritage of the Riverland.

Story John Dunn  Photos Italo Vardaro

A gleaming, black-painted, perfectly restored Model T Ford utility was recently moved into the museum at Olivewood in Renmark, SA. With its wooden tray, the 98-year-old vehicle is identical to those used in the orchards and vineyards around the middle of last century to carry fruit from the banks of the Murray River to the packing and processing areas. Now it’s part of the museum’s impressive collection that pays tribute to the state’s irrigation industry.

The previously rusted and dilapidated ute was owned long ago by John Wood of nearby Lyrup, who gave it to the National Trust Museum at Wilabalangaloo, and from there it came to Olivewood. “Over about 8 years, a team of volunteers led by retired mechanic John Pavlenko brought it back to life,” says one of the volunteers, former farmer Ian Newland. “It was a huge job and a long one, but they handled it very well.” 

Olivewood is a 32ha complex centred around the historic homestead built in 1889 for Charles Chaffey and his family, who had come from California to develop irrigation in the Murray area. It has been classified by the National Trust of SA and is on state and federal heritage lists. 

This story excerpt is from Issue #152

Outback Magazine: Dec/Jan 2024