Ampol Roadhouse/For Sale – Narrandera, NSW

The southern NSW town of Narrandera doesn’t get much attention these days. Sitting as it does just beyond the intersection of the Newell and Sturt highways, most motorists opt to drive on and avoid the town, just as the architects of the highways intended. If they stop at all, it’ll be for fuel at the giant roadhouses that dominate the intersection.

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Just not at this one.

Down a little way from the truck-heavy bustle of the operating roadhouses sits today’s subject. Rotting, neglected, but still damn impressive, the former service station awaits its fate armed with infinite patience and signage of yesteryear.

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In its prime, this was more than just a place to refuel. With so many services on offer, it was a destination. Looking for fresh fruit for the long journey ahead? They’ve got it covered! Feeling dirty after a long haul? The shower facilities are clean and ready for action! Sick of your rude passengers? Step inside for some friendly, courteous service! Want breakfast at 10pm?

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Breakfast is served all day. The signage pretty much betrays any secret the station might have, from the nature of the meals on offer to the condition of the air in the restaurant. I do find myself wondering which major credit cards weren’t accepted, though. What a bullet to the head that would have been: you’re six hours out of Sydney on your way to Adelaide (and beyond…), and you pull up at this, the last bastion of fuel before the intimidating Hay Plains begin. The bill is hefty, but so’s your credit rating, you think, as you reach for your wallet. You nonchalantly flip your card onto the counter as in so many Amex commercials, only to hear those dreaded words: “Sorry, we don’t accept BarterCard.”

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Alongside the shop section is what appears to be the former restaurant. In the day this would have served ‘home style cooked meals’ to hundreds of passers-by each day. You can’t help but wonder how the domination of NSW’s highways by McDonald’s and their fast food brethren have impacted the traditional roadhouse’s dining trade.

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Narranderans looking to party could score ice here (heh), as could any motorist with the ability to keep that ice cold until they reached the party zone. And boy, don’t Milk Drinks sound delicious?

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Based on the signage, and this sign in particular, we can start to get a feel for the age and identity of the station. It’s a safe bet that the redacted term on this sign is LEADED PETROL, which was phased out of use by the late 1990s. The shop pimps 90s Coke, and promises to accept Starcards, which are a Caltex initiative. I’d say we’re looking at a former Ampol.

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Australian Motorists Petrol Company Limited was a NSW-based chain of service stations founded in 1936, allegedly to counter concerns about inequitable petrol pricing (as if that has ever happened). In 1995, Ampol was absorbed by Caltex and the brand was quietly retired. It’s not uncommon to see Ampols still in place in remote country NSW, but whether they’re in operation is another story.

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As you read this, Narrandera’s Ampol sits in limbo awaiting its second life. Australia’s highways are littered with the forgotten corpses of service stations, the glory days of providing much needed fuel and friendly, courteous party ice long forgotten. For every one that falls, another two pop up in their place, superseding their predecessor in every possible way…except perhaps one.

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Ladies, your convenience is no longer the object of these service stations’ affections as it once was. If we remember nothing else about this Ampol, treasure it as one of the last bastions of clean public showering for the women of NSW.

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9 responses

  1. I was working for Caltex when the merger happened. The initial plan (we were told) was to rebrand all service stations as Ampol, playing up the Australianness, but that proved to be too expensive and was dropped, with Caltex becoming the dominant brand. As a staff member I was given two Starcards with a 25% discount (I gave one to my parents).

  2. ” Get your motor running, head out on the highway . . . ! ”

  3. It appears to have sold in March for $302,500 (Street View suggests that it took a long time to sell) and there is a DA for a renovation/replacement service station http://www.narrandera.nsw.gov.au/cp_content/resources/PLANS%20-%20RE%20027-20142015%20-%2016305%20Newell%20Highway%20Gillenbah%20-%20Proposed%20Service%20Station%20and%20Truck%20Stop.PDF

  4. Truck stops had the best food,Things like home made rissoles with mash potatoes and gravy 🍴🍛

  5. As a former Narrandera person, in the early 80s and on my p plates this all night servo was our local hangout, meeting place, and for many young people place of employment. In winter they had a gorgeous open fireplace in the restaurant, and the food was awesome. Many happy memories. If I remember correctly we called it the total.

  6. Does anyone remember the old Esso service station in Narrandera? I left in 1978 and drove though in 2001. The roadhouse was still there but a different brand, Mobil from memory. The competitor was a BP. That’s about all I recall, can anyone tell me the address of the old Esso and what it is now? I can’t find it on street view.

  7. As a female truck driver I certainly remember the Ampol Narrandera and the clean showers. Showers for women and particularly women truck drivers were, and still are rare on Australian highways.

  8. Please let me know your asking price and if you have any permits for the old site. Thanks Chris

  9. Very sad to see this once great roadhouse in disrepair. I used to stop here for a truckies breakfast on my way back to Adelaide from Wagga in the 90’s. Darn good meals in those days!

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