SHOPKEEPERS LEFT THEIR COUNTERS AND CUSTOMERS THEIR PURCHASES to flock to the doorways to see the first motor ‘bus they had ever cast eyes upon. The crowd in Hopkins-street gazed open-mouthed, as with the eight mile gear running we wended our way along.
One way of getting away is bus. It transformed travel and then leisure for many early and mid twentieth century Australians.
The first buses were adapted from stage coaches; hence the use of the word ‘coach’. They were constructed in 1903 by Geelong engineering works, Humble and Son. William Humble had been an inventor and innovator in the field of transport; his story can be found in the Australian Dictionary of Biography. At a very similar time, in Tasmania a 17 passenger vehicle was being delivered by Albion Magnet Company. We quote at length from a very evocative story about this ‘bus. From the Launceston examiner, 29 December 1903:
FIRST MOTOR ‘BUS IN TASMANIA. ARRIVAL AT BURNIE. A MOST SERVICEABLE VEHICLE.The arrival at Burnie of the motor ‘bus built by the Albion-Magnet Motor Company, Melbourne, to the order of Mr. T. Wiseman created considerable interest. The vehicle was brought over from Victoria by Mr. H. F. Moloney, the representative of the makers, and its landing at the wharf was witnessed by a large crowd. On Friday afternoon the horseless coach made its initial run in Tasmania along the main road, with the members of the Emu Brass Band on board, and the manner in which it behaved fully justified all that its makers claimed it would do.The motor, which is to be used in place of the coach that has been running be tween Burnie and Stanley, is 18ft. in length, 9ft. 6in. high, and 7ft. wide, and carries 17 passengers. It is set on artillery wheels, with steel rims, and Kelly Dunlop 3in. solid tyres. The spokes are made of English oak, and the wheels run on ¾in. steel ball bearings.The engine, which is of 14-h.p., has twin cylinders, and gives a speed up to 14 miles per hour. The engine is under the complete control of the driver. In front of him on the dashboard are two levers, one advancing or retarding the ignition, and the other controlling the throttle. Brake levers are conveniently placed, and the gear lever operates speeds of two, eight,and 14 miles an hour. Reversing gear is also fitted.Petrol is the driving spirit, a large tank of which is situated over the driver’s head, connected to the engine with the requisite pipe. Transmission is by a chain on either side of the vehicle, engaging with sprockets on the axles of the back wheels. The body of the ‘bus is after the pattern of an old-time vehicle of that ilk, but of course on a larger scale. It has open sides, but rain-proof curtains can be lowered when the exigencies of theweather demand. The seats and backs are upholstered in carpet, and are extremely comfortable. The top of the ‘bus is slightly arched, and is, provided withan iron railing. Luggage up to half a ton in weight can be stored there, and a skeleton iron ladder allows the same to be easily accessible. The springs, while being strong and serviceable, absorb all road shocks.Before being shipped the motor had a trial run from Geelong to Melbourne, along a fairly rough road. Describing the arrival of the ‘bus at Footscray, the ‘Australian Cyclist” says:–“The progress of the car through the streets was little short of triumphal. Shopkeepers left their counters and customers their purchases to flock to the doorways to see the first motor ‘bus they had ever cast eyes upon.The crowd in Hopkins-street gazed open-mouthed, as with the eight mile gear running we wended our way along. Proceeding via the Dock road, we mounted the steep hill at the foot of Dudley-street with perfect ease. The driver threw in two the miles gear, which when set, Mr. Moloney explained, the ‘bus would mount any hill. The steep rise in Victoria-street, between Madeline and Lygon streets, was surmounted without a hitch, and eventually was brought up at the Albion-Magnet Works, at the top of Bourke-street.The journey from Geelong had been performed in a little under six hours, an average of eight miles an hour-a most creditable performance, considering that a stop of nearly an hour at Werribee for lunch and sundry other pauses for photographic purposes, and as have already been related, were made. The engine ran consistently, and gave no trouble whatever, and the trial trip can only be termed an unqualified success, which augurs well for the rough wear to which the motor ‘bus will be subjected when it reaches its final destination, viz., Tasmania.” The car has been named the “Pioneer,” and a second one is being built by the Albion Magnet Company, which is to supersede the Burnie-Wynyard coach. The expedition with which the motor was constructed astounded Victorian importing firms, who considered that such a vehicle could not be built in that state. It is estimated that the saving on the cost of the vehicle as compared with that of an imported motor of equal capacity is over £150.