Australian Screen

Australia’s audiovisual heritage online

Australia’s First Double-decker Bus and Rail Motor (c.1936)

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Buses in the 1930s education content clip 1, 2

This clip chosen to be G

Clip description

A group of men stand in front of the body of a newly constructed single-decker bus. The bus is pulled along the street by a small tractor while two men walk beside it. The next sequence shows another bus (which has an open frame) pull out of the depot onto the street. A double-decker bus then comes out onto the street and drives past the camera. A young boy waves out a side window as it passes by.

Curator’s notes

The footage of the double decker bus seen here in this clip was probably filmed at the Waddington Body Works depot in Camperdown, Sydney. The depot later moved to Granville. Waddington produced Sydney’s first double-decker bus bodies.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip, from a silent black-and-white home movie, shows an industrial landscape in Sydney with vehicles that include a rail bus and a double-decker bus being driven out of a production site and driven or hauled along the street. Workmen pose beside a rail bus before it is towed along the road by a tractor. Two single-decker buses still under construction are driven out into the street. A double-decker bus is guided out into the street and the clip concludes with an excited boy waving to the camera through the bus window.

Educational value points

  • The mid to late 1930s was an important time in the history of public transport in New South Wales, with trains and buses both competing for passengers and a wide range of vehicles being constructed to serve this market. Some, such as the double-decker buses, remained on the scene, transporting passengers for 50 years. Others such as the rail bus were a comprehensive failure and were withdrawn from passenger service after a few years.
  • The double-decker and single-decker buses and the rail bus were all produced by Waddington Body Works, a company that operated from Clyde and Granville in Sydney producing both buses and trains. Waddingtons began in 1921 as Smith and Waddington, a small firm building customised bodies for motor car and small bus chassis. After the Great Depression the firm started up again as Waddington Body Works and diversified into railway rolling stock.
  • The double-decker bus seen here is almost certainly the Albion Venturer Type 80, No 1187, the first double-decker body built by Waddingtons and possibly the first such body built in Australia. No 1187 was of timber-framed construction with seats for 56 and it entered service in 1935. The Albion Venturer was the forerunner of the standard Sydney double-deckers that eventually numbered around 1,000 and were highly popular with passengers.
  • The rail bus in the clip, No FP 2, was one of four built by Waddingtons around 1937 for the NSW Railways as part of a plan to provide service on branch lines with insufficient passengers for a larger rail motor. The four rail buses in this design were 6.91 m long x 2.34 m wide x 2.69 m tall and seated 18. They were powered by Ford V8 petrol engines and had driver controls at both ends. By 1942 they had all been withdrawn from service and converted to railway pay vans.
  • The single-decker buses shown here were the standard 34-seat design, known as half-cabs, developed in the early 1930s by the Department of Road Transport and Tramways for fitting to various chassis imported from the UK. In the mid-1930s the Department bought 20 AEC Regal 0662 single-decker chassis and their bodies were built in 1937 and 1938. Thirteen of the 20 had metal framed bodies built by Waddingtons. Two of the 13 are seen in the clip.
  • As this clip demonstrates, home movies are invaluable as historical documents because they provide a record of particular aspects of the past. In the case of the three sections of this clip, the amateur filmmaker, David Waddington, recorded several technological firsts for the company – the first double-decker bus body built, the first of a new design of FP rail buses and possibly the first metal-framed single-decker bus bodies.

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