Complied by Graeme Cleak
Updated by Craig Halsall
This page summarises the bus route histories of services operated by the Victorian Railways up until the end of 1993.
From 1 July 1983 these routes fell under the umbrella of The Met, the trading name of the newly formed Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), which six years later became part of the Public Transport Corporation (PTC), however operation of these services continued to be managed by the rail divisions.
With the Kennett Liberal State Government’s privatisation of government bus services on 28 December 1993, services operated from the North Fitzroy an
d Doncaster depots were taken over by Bonsjak family’s National Bus Company.
On the same date the Elwood depot was closed; The Met’s Sandringham bus depot was moved within the PTC from the train division to the bus division; and services from the inner west were through-routed Gardenvale and Brighton (over former Melbourne-Brighton Bus Lines routes) creating new cross-city services provided by Footscray depot.
A new entity, Met Bus, was established for the remaining nine routes at Footscray Depot and the sub-depot at Sandringham.
The below summary reflects the various Victorian Railways routes around the state up until the end of 1993.
Over time the society intends to present more detailed route summaries for each route from 1971 onwards in a dedicated section of our virtual museum, continuing the story with the countless changes over the following two decades post privatisation. Unlike the abridged versions below, we plan to explore the evolution of service levels where such information is available.
We have already begun this enormous task, initially publishing route histories for 25 routes across Melbourne.
You should find the Melbourne Metropolitan Public Transport Maps from our archives are a great resource to help work out the paths taken by the routes below.
ROUTE 901 SANDRINGHAM – BLACK ROCK – BEAUMARIS – SOUTHLAND
Route 901 began on 28/5/1938 operating as Sandringham to Beaumaris, travelling via Beach Rd to Black Rock. The route replaced the outer portion of the VR tram from Sandringham, which was closed due to high maintenance costs along the sandy unmade roads in the area and insufficient patronage.
Services ceased on 2/1/1942 due to the war effort before recommencing after the war on 13/5/1946.
The route was alerted to travel along Royal Ave and Bluff Rd from 5/11/1956 following the closure of the Sandringham – Black Rock VR Tram.
With the opening of Southland Shopping Centre the route was extended via Cheltenham to serve the new complex from 3/9/1968, however operated express from Tramway Pde & Cromer Rd to avoid competing with the private bus routes in the area. It was allocated Route 901 with the 1971 renumbering.
A major rationalisation of services across South-East Melbourne took place on 30 September 1991, with Route 901s long-standing stopping restrictions along Balcombe Rd and Charman Rd removed. With much of Beaumaris within walking distance of the zig-zagging “Railway Bus” or services along Bluff Rd, the former Southland B.S. Route 652 (Southland – Beaumaris), operated by Moorabbin Transit (Grenda) since 1988, suffered significant cuts.
Route 652 was replaced by Route 823 (North Brighton – Southland – Beaumaris). Buses continued to operate the loop along Weatherall Rd, Reserve Rd, Beach Rd and Charman Rd in alternate directions, but now on a skeleton two-hourly weekday-only headway – a far cry from the 1980s when buses on each direction of the Beaumaris loop came roughly every 20 mins in the peak and 40 mins interpeak (as well as Friday evenings and Saturday mornings). Buses departed twice as often than this from Southland and Cheltenham.
With the closure of the bus depot at Elwood on 28/12/1993, Route 901 was incorporated into an extended Route 600 operating between St Kilda, Sandringham & Southland operated by Met Bus. The bus division of The Met took assumed control of the route through Black Rock and Beaumaris, along with Sandringham Depot, which continued to operate but effectively became a sub-depot of Footscray Depot.
ROUTE 902 EAST CAMBERWELL – EAST KEW (Belmore Rd & Burke Rd) via Deepdene
With the closure of the rail line between East Camberwell & East Kew (a remnant of the Outer Circle Line), VR introduced a replacement bus service on 10/10/1927, which was soon extended to East Kew from 19/3/1929.
Evening services were withdrawn on 18/3/1957 before Saturday afternoon and Sunday services were scrapped on 7 December of the same year. The timetable was further reduced to just Monday – Friday peak hour & Saturday morning peak hour from 14/11/1960.
Route 902 was allocated in the 1971 renumbering with the final closure of the route occurring on 22/12/1989. Since the closure of this route, affected passengers have largely made use of the Route 72 tram along Burke Rd or Route 42/109 trams along Cotham Rd.
ROUTE 903 BROADMEADOWS – COOLAROO
Of all over Melbourne’s government bus routes, this is the only one never to have been operated directly by MMTB, VR or The Met! Commenced on 17/12/1973, with services sub-contracted to Northern Bus Lines (Pullitano) as a co-ordinated service for Victorian Railways, foreshadowing a planned extension of electric trains to the then new suburb of Coolaroo. The route was split at the northern end on 19/5/1980 to operate to either Taggerty Cres or Longford Cres.
Withdrawn on 12/10/1987, and replaced by Route 541.
HAWTHORN – KEW
This service commenced 5/6/1939 replacing the tram service off-peak, nights and Sundays. A Saturday service was added on 7/4/1946 before becoming a full time route on 18/8/1952.
On 25/7/1953 the timetable was reduced to operate weekdays during daylight hours only, before becoming a peak-only route on 15/3/1954. The service closed altogether on 2/11/1956.
MELBOURNE – GEELONG
Operated from 30/11/1925 until 30/6/1928. When this service began one 28-seater vehicle was in service, departing Melbourne in Flinders St, near the famous dome. In Geelong the stop was at the Savoia Café in Moorabool St.
The Monday to Saturday timetable featured departures ex Melbourne at 09:05 & 13:45, returning from Geelong at 11:30 & 16:00. On Sundays the service left Melbourne at 10:40 & 15:30 and Geelong at 13:00 & 19:00.
A second vehicle was added on 31/5/1926 enabling four trips each way with a running time of 1 hour & 50 mins. A third run commenced on 12/7/1926 and on 8/2/1927 the maximum service was reached with the following departures ex Melbourne:
Monday to Saturday: 08:00, 09:00,10:00, 11:15. 12:30, 13:45. 16:00, 17:15 & 18:15
Sunday: 10:15. 10:30, 11:00, 14:00, 15:30, 16:30, 18:15, 21:00, 21:30, 21:45 & 22:30
The numerous Sunday night trips balanced two Monday morning only trips ex Geelong at 06:45 & 07:00, but would have also catered for the lack of Sunday evening trains to Geelong as well.
GEELONG – QUEENSCLIFF
Operated from 21/1/1927 until June 1931 with a running time of 65 mins.
The 1927 timetable shows the following departures ex Geelong:
Monday to Friday: 10:25 & 16:00
Saturday: 10:25, 13:15 & 16:00
Sunday: 10:30 & 20:30
MELBOURNE – MONBULK
Commenced 13/10/1926 and altered to start from Upper Ferntree Gully from 30/6/1928. It closed on 7/7/1930 but the reopened on 2/5/1932 before closing due to wartime restrictions on 19/5/1941.
The 1927 timetable shows departures from Melbourne to Belgrave, with a running time of 75 minutes, as follows:
Monday to Saturday: 09:10, 11:00, 12:30, 14:30, 16:00, 17:30, 18:30 & 23:15
Sunday: 10:45, 10:50. 14:20, 14:45. 17:40, 18:30, 21:15 & 22:15
A later October 1934 timetable shows the following departures from Upper Fentree Gully
Monday to Friday: 07:40, 10:14, 14:19 & 18:23
Saturday: 07:40, 10:14, 14:41 & 16:43
Sunday: 11:40. 15:12 & 17:20
MELBOURNE – PORTSEA
Operated from 12/11/1926 to 25/5/1928 with a running time of three hours.
The timetable of 16/5/1927 lists departures ex Melbourne (Flinders Street) as follows:
Monday to Friday: 09:15 & 16:45
Saturday: 09:15 & 13:45
MELBOURNE – WARBURTON
Began on 18/7/1927, but altered to start from Lilydale from 30/6/1928. It closed 19/5/1941.
A 1927 timetable shows a single departure from Lilydale at 14:09 with a journey time of 90 minutes.
UPPER FERNTREE GULLY – GEMBROOK
Started on 7/7/1930, but was cut back to Cockatoo from 1931 and ultimately closed on 14/2/1941.
At the time of closure the fleet consisted of seven Whites dating from 1925, two Thorneycofts dating from 1929 and two Maple Leafs built in 1939.
A timetable as of October 1934 shows the following departures from Upper Ferntree Gully to Belgrave (and Cockatoo where marked):
Monday to Friday: 06:33, 08:16, 09:07, 10:14 Cockatoo (Tues/Wed/Fri only), 12:18, 16:18, 17:15, 19:22 Cockatoo, 20:12, 22:22 & 00:12 (Wed only)
Saturday: 06:35, 08:16, 09:07, 12:12, 13:47, 15:05, 19:00, 20:12 Cockatoo, 00:34
Sunday: 10:17 & 22:50