Australian Outback road trains can reach lengths of up to 175 feet (53.5 meters) -- or even longer, if they're driven on private roads.

(Creative Commons/Flickr/Werner Bayer)

If you think kangaroos are too common, and koalas are too cute (or, in truth, too cranky), have we got an Australian phenomenon for you: road trains! These are the true bad boys of the Outback, not some shirtless, croc-wrestling guy in a vest and ridiculous hat. These trucks are so bad, they're banned in most of Australia. Drivers of mere passenger cars have to know how to navigate the barren roads when they approach a road train (aka truck train) in the wild. When these oversize truck trains get going, they are almost literally impossible to stop.

Australia hasn't always had massive, smoke-belching demons barreling along its desolate highways. Most of the country's cities are located along the coasts of the continent, where things are pleasant and lovely. But things like livestock, grains, fuel, ore and construction materials still have to be shipped from one region to another. Going the long way around is probably more pleasant, but that would be a terrible waste of time (and fuel) for the sake of some lovely scenery. There's no real choice but to barrel through the empty middle part of the country.

At first, this was accomplished with camels, which trained across the continent up until the 1930s, when people started using motorized caravans. Then a man named Kurt Johannson of Alice Springs -- located smack in the center of Australia -- put together the first modern truck train. He used a tank retrieval tractor that the American Army had left behind during World War II. He then built some trailers to haul cattle, named the entire rig "Bertha," and unleashed the first road train on the unsuspecting Outback.