This website sets out to record, as well as possible, details of private bus routes in the Sydney metropolitan area from 1925 to date and of Government bus routes from 1932 to date. Unfortunately, it is just not possible to be anything like 100% accurate, because of the passage of time and the availability of information. But this is a first attempt at doing so.
The extent of the Sydney metropolitan area has gradually grown over the 85 years between 1925 and 2010. In the 1920s, the area covered by these lists extended to about Palm Beach, Berowra, Blacktown, Liverpool, Sutherland and Cronulla. By 2010, the area covered has expanded to the Hawkesbury River, Camden, Picton, Waterfall and the Blue Mountains as far as Mt Victoria.
Two number series
In respect of private bus routes, there have been two permanent series of route numbers. The first commenced in 1925 and the second (which I refer to as the Sydney Region Route Number System) started in 1981. During the years from 1981 to 2004, there was a gradual renumbering of routes from the 1925 system to the newer system. Click on “The development of Sydney bus route numbers” for more details of the historical side of route numbers.
When Government bus routes started in 1932, they were at first numbered in the same series as private routes. Between 1939 and 1941 some routes were renumbered in a three-digit geographic system, whose numbers ranged from 100 to 999 (referred to as the “original three-digit number system”). In 1943-44 all Government routes were renumbered in a revised three-digit number system, whose numbers ranged from 100 to 499 (referred to as the “standard three-digit (Sydney Region) route number system”).
Termini of routes
In these lists, I have attempted to show major termini of routes, together with significant suburbs through which or roadways along which the route travels, if that seems relevant. Where more than one route has run between two particular suburbs, my aim has been to indicate intermediate suburbs or streets along which each route travelled to distinguish between them. Where a route mainly ran between two suburbs, but was occasionally extended to another suburb, beach or park, etc (eg, at weekends only), I have shown the extension separately in the heading.
Changes to routes
I have endeavoured to show major changes in routes, eg where they have extended from one suburb to another, or been diverted to a different suburb. The heading for any particular route reflects the maximum extent of that route. Where, especially under the 1925 route number regime in the post-war era, there were multiple routes using a single route number, I have aimed to show all relevant routes.
Where a route has been replaced by a different route, either in whole or in part, suitable cross-references are provided. This particularly applies when routes were renumbered from one series to another.
The lists attempt to show the names of the operators of private routes and changes thereto. Where an operator is or was an incorporated body, suffixes such as “Pty” and “Ltd” have been omitted, often due to insufficient information. Commonly used trading names have been used in preference to “official” company nomenclature. Names in brackets after a company name attempt to reflect the principals of the company or the proprietor’s or manager’s name. I apologise in advance if I have incorrectly shown or omitted such owner’s, proprietor’s or manager’s names in particular cases. I have used the word “family” where I do not know which individual/s in a family is/are the relevant owner/s or proprietor/s.
The official names of the entities which operated Government bus routes are shown at the head of each group of routes.
Starting date of 1925
I have taken the Government Gazette (GG) dated 13 November 1925 as the starting point of the current lists of private routes, as it was the commencement date of the original permanent route number system – that lasted until between 1981 and 2004. (Route numbers were first allocated in the Government Gazette dated 19 December 1924, but nearly every such route number changed in 1925.)
Another reason to start the lists in 1925 is that, by then, (nearly?) all routes were operated by motor buses, rather than horse buses.
Routes which were already in operation at the time of the 1925 GG are shown as being “in operation” or “being operated by … ”. It may be possible at a later stage to extend the lists back to the dates when routes first started (some of which were originally horse bus routes), using lists in older GGs.
Where a route is listed as starting “by” the date of one of the 1925-30 GGs, it is shown in that GG, but not in the previous GG. Similarly, where a route is listed as ceasing “by” the date of one of those GGs, it is shown in the previous GG, but not in that GG.
Dates after 1930 are listed as precisely as information is available to me.
Where the word “by” is used in dates after 1930, it is known that the event happened either on or before that date. Typically, I have a timetable effective on the date shown, which indicates or suggests that the event had occurred either on the date of the timetable of before. In most cases I believe that such an event had occurred since the date of the previous entry (if any) for that route.
Where suburb or street names have changed, I have attempted to record the current names. I have also shown locations of, for example, housing estates whose names are no longer used.
Vic Hayes’s lists
The big inspiration to record private bus routes in Sydney came after reading the lists written by Vic Hayes in the February to December 1974 issues of the Bus Club News, published by students at North Sydney Boys’ High School (which coincidentally I had attended between 1956 and 1960, before that club existed). Vic’s lists form the backbone of my lists, with permission.
Government Gazette (GG) lists between 1925 and 1930
For entries between 1925 and 1930, information has been taken from seven Government Gazettes which contain listings of authorised routes. The GG lists contain details of bus routes in the Sydney metropolitan area, but only as far as approximately Berowra, Parramatta, Liverpool and Sutherland. Those lists clearly do not show routes on the outskirts of the current Sydney metropolitan area (eg, in Penrith, Richmond and Campbelltown), as they would have been regarded as being in the “country” in the 1920s.
My collection of periodicals published by the Historical Commercial Vehicle Association and later the Sydney Bus Museum, namely, HCVA Newsheet, Fleetline and Australian Bus, since their inception, has been an important source of both current day and historical data. Thanks to the editors and the many contributors to those journals.
The following books have been valuable sources of information:
From City to Suburb … a
fifty year journey, by Greg
Travers [NSW Government bus routes 1932-1982]
Saints of Peakhurst, by John Birchmeier
Terminus Please, by Leon Manny [Lane Cove district bus routes]
The Blue Buses of Forest Road, by John Birchmeier
The Book of Sydney Suburbs, by Frances Pollon
Transport in the Hills District 1805-1990, by Harry Carr, Noelene Pullen & Lorna McCluskey, published by the Hills District Historical Society Inc
Between 1933 and 1938 the Commissioner for Road Transport and Tramways listed changes to both Government and private bus routes in his annual report. In some cases, changes to fare structures listed in these annual reports give some clues about routes operating at the time.
I have referred to the 1925 Doran Report for names of operators at that time.
A lot of information comes from timetables and route maps in my collection (which occupy several drawers of my filing cabinets). I have collected many of my timetables either personally or by writing to the operators. There were also times in the 1960s when I wrote timetables out by hand, while standing at bus stops! Now, however, collecting timetables has been greatly facilitated by the operation of the Australian Timetable Association “distribution” system (thanks to Len Regan and his predecessors for this great service). It is also easier to obtain timetables now that the number of operators has been greatly reduced and the fact that most timetable changes occur on a region-wide basis, following reviews by the Ministry of Transport, now renamed Transport for New South Wales.
Like many aspects of life today, the internet (especially the Australian Transport Discussion Board and bus operators’ websites) has meant that information about bus routes and services can be obtained much more quickly and from the comfort of home. Since about 2016 most bus timetables appear on the internet and few are now actually published in printed form.
NOTES on SOURCES and FORMAT of STREETS
These lists represent “snapshots” of routes at different dates, but do not claim to show all routes or all changes to bus routes.
Private routes in the 1925 route number system: The source of information about streets for these routes is annotated for each route.
Private routes in the Sydney Region Route Number System: The source of information about streets for these routes is almost invariably the relevant timetable. By the later 1980s, most timetables included maps of the route. Maps of routes in timetables became compulsory when revisions to the Passenger Transport Act came into effect in 2004.
Government routes: The source of information about streets for these routes is mainly timetables.
Government Gazettes (GG)
The GG’s between 1925 and 1930 (and earlier) listed the streets along which bus routes ran (from December 1926, showing only where alterations to routes were made). These routes have been reproduced herein. They purport to list the routes in both directions.
Gregory’s street directories of circa 1946 and 1948
These two street directories list the streets along which both private and Government bus routes ran. Those of private buses routes have been reproduced herein. In almost all cases, the streets are shown for only one direction. Thus, turning movements and possibly differences in routes in opposing directions are not shown. Where there is only an entry for 1946, the route had not changed between 1946 and 1948.
This refers to the maps which I (Robert G Henderson) traced from street directories after riding on private bus routes during the 1960s, 70s and early 80s. At that period, few private bus timetables contained maps or even a textual description of the route.
Prior to the 1980s, in the few cases where private bus timetables had maps or route descriptions, that information has been used herein. For routes in the Sydney Region Route Number System, timetables almost invariably contained maps and information from those maps has been used herein. Most Government bus timetables have included route details since inception – either in written or map form.
Alterations to routes
Where a route is shown as “altered”, only that part of the route which has altered is shown. The listing of an alteration mostly starts with the direction of the route (“ex ….”) and then shows a street already listed for the route (“from ….”) and continues until the altered part of the route regains a street previously listed.
A diversion is normally a section of route that leaves and later returns to the main route and which runs or ran at a lesser frequency than the main route.
An extension is normally where a route has been extended from one end (or near it).
Current street or suburb names
I have tried to show the current names of streets and suburbs (“now ….”), where they have changed since the time of the original source, to help the reader identify locations in terms of current terminology.
These are almost invariably located adjacent to railway stations, providing facilities for passengers to transfer easily between bus and train.
The timetable summaries are intended only to be a general overview of the bus services on a route. Because of the wide variance in how timetables are compiled for the varying circumstances of each route, the summaries cannot give more than an indication of the service time span and frequency.
The summaries have been selected to show typical situations over a period of time, depending on what timetables are available.
The Destinations column shows the furthest extent of the route, but not necessarily where the most frequent services is.
The Trip time column gives the weekday off-peak time in minutes. Peak hour trip times in more recent times are often greater, while those at night and on weekends are often less.
The First trip and Last trip columns show the times for such trips over the whole length of the route between the two From points. Short-workings before and after those times are indicated with a note.
The Average frequency column shows the frequency for off-peak periods on Mondays to Fridays and for throughout the day on weekends. For many routes the weekday peak frequency is greater, which is indicated with a note. Where a number of trips is shown, these trips were rather randomly spread throughout the period concerned.
Picture buses typically arrived at the cinema by about 7.30pm and left again “after termination of the picture programme”, as was often noted in timetables. Such trips ceased soon after the introductions of television in 1956 and the greater use of private cars about the same time.
Many thanks to Leon Batman, John Birchmeier, Ian Brady, Andy Chechlacz, Ron Drummond, the late Frank Goldthorpe, the late Vic Hayes, the late Eddie Hayman, Glen Hunter, Lindsay Addison Jones, Walter Knight, Duncan Macauslan, the late Leon Manny, Ted McDonald, Bill Niven, Allan Ofak, the late Jim O’Neil and Trevor Woolley, who have all helped provide information and timetables and contributed in various ways. And anyone else whom I have inadvertently omitted.
I am grateful to John Clifton of The Little Website Company for setting up the original website, and to Matthew Murray of Forest Webs for the current site.