Murrumbeena Bus Lines & South Road Bus Lines (Jones)

This is the story two original bus companies owned by Tom Jones, which would later form part of the Southland Bus Lines empire. Information has been sourced from Graeme Cleak’s invaluable Melbourne bus route histories, BCSV fleet records, an article by Peter Hodgson on Freighter Lawton monbuses (ABP 6/3) and extracts from The People Movers by Jack Maddock.

Local Area: Moorabbin & Murrumbeena

A little about the parts of Melbourne where the initial story of both Murrumbeena Bus Lines and South Rd Bus Lines (Tom Jones) takes place – sourced from various local government and history websites.

The word Moorabbin is believed to have come from the Wurundjeri Aboriginal word for resting place. The Post Office opened on 1 September 1857 as South Brighton, was renamed Brighton South around 1886 and Moorabbin in 1909. The Moorabbin East Post Office near Chesterville Road opened in 1960. Most of the eastern side of Moorabbin has been an industrial area since the first development in the mid 1960s. Major industries with a presence in the area included Philip Morris and Coca-Cola. Moorabbin is also well known locally for its residential area built after World War II and for having been the home of the St Kilda Football Club during its period of residence at the Linton Road oval.

Murrumbeena was derived from an Aboriginal word Mirrimbeena meaning many frogs. The original inhabitants were the Bunurong tribe, one of four tribes that made up the Kulin nation that lived in what was to become Melbourne and surrounding areas. In 1853, the Parish of Mulgrave, as the area was first known, was surveyed and the first blocks of land were sold in Oakleigh in the same year. The Shire of Oakleigh was proclaimed in 1871 and in 1879 the Oakleigh to Melbourne rail line was opened. What became known as “railway fever” led to a land boom in the Oakleigh area, including Murrumbeena.

The railway workshops at Oakleigh were the major industry in the area, but dairy farms, orchards and market gardens began to dominate at the turn of the century, particularly south of Clayton, growing everything from flowers to cauliflowers. Brick works, pipe making and sand mining were also important. The electrification of the Oakleigh line in 1922 and the opening of the Darling to Glen Waverley (once known as Black Flat) line in 1930 further opened up housing developments and caused the gradual retreat of the market gardens.

Murrumbeena Bus Lines

Bus route 77A commenced in December 1931 operating between the Darling Road tram terminus, Murrumbeena Station and North Road. For a period from April 1933 it was extended to St Kilda Beach on Sunday mornings.

The North Road section was truncated to Dalny Road, Murrumbeena between June 1941 and January 1951.

In 1952 the operators was Jenner’s Milk Transport who sold out to Murrumbeena Bus Lines in April 1954. During that year an extension was trialled from North Road to East Bentleigh via East Boundary Road but this did not last. In fact things were so bad that the run was closed altogether on 5 August 1955. However a new operator Beauville Bus Service (Messrs Petfield and Stokes) resumed operation the following month. They sold the run to Tom Jones in 1957.

Tom Jones set about improving his route, knowing that the Chadstone Shopping Centre was soon to be constructed nearby. By 1959 the run had been extended from North Road to Stockdale Avenue, serving a new residential area and with the opening of Chadstone. At the other end an extension to Carnegie was trialled and then in October 1960 the route was extended from Murrumbeena Station along Dandenong Road to the new Chadstone Shopping Centre.

This was an immediate success in terms of increased patronage. In the other direction, the route was extended from Stockdale Avenue to South Road via East Boundary Road in 1961 and there was a short-lived extension to Chesterville Road in 1963.

1958, 1960 and 1962 saw Tom purchase three Freighter Lawton monobuses, introducing modern front entrance buses to the run. These three were the mainstay of this run until the early 1970’s and were the buses of which Tom Jones was proudest. Tom made a fine sight at the wheel of one of his beloved Monobuses, dressed in his green suit, bowler hat on his head and pipe wedged firmly between his teeth.

A few words are in order about the Monobus at this point. The Monobus was conceived by Freighter Lawton as a standard bus for Australian operators and as a competitor to Ansair’s Transett. They were built at Freighter’s Moorabbin plant (just down the road from Southland’s Keys Road depot). It was initially offered as a 39/41-seater single door or a 36 perimeter / 37 transverse two door — the Southland units being perimeter-seaters and had the standard Commer TS 3 motor. It was heavier than some contemporary underfloor buses but was nota true heavyweight as it lacked the power and air brake systems of true heavyweights such as the Leyland Worldmaster. At least 36 Monobuses were built of which Tom Jones took three.

South Road Bus Lines

Route 132A Moorabbin to Chesterville Road via South Road was started in July 1954 by Eastern Suburbs Omnibus Services as the market garden areas east of the railway were gradually developed into housing areas. ESOS extended the run to Bignell Road in 1955 and finally to the corner of Warrigal Road by 1961 with a U turn at the end (try that today!). By this time a large industrial area was being developed in the area south of South Road and east of Chesterville Road.

In 1961 Tom Jones entered into an agreement with ESOS to purchase the South Road route which he operated under the title of South Road Bus Lines. This service neatly passed the terminus of his existing north-south from Chadstone and Murrumbeena.

With this came HGM 400, a 1960 Bedford SB3 / CAC with perimeter seats and purchased new for the run was HMA 246, a Bedford SB1/ Comair two-door bus fitted with the small 300 diesel motor.

Operation of the route was very simple – one bus went up and down every 30 minutes during the day and on Saturday mornings being joined during the peak periods on weekdays by the second bus to provide a 10-15 minute frequency. It must have been quite a boring route to drive – just up and down South Road over and over again.

Unlike the Clayton service, which departed right outside the station, the terminus for this run was hidden a short block back at the corner of Tuck and Central Streets. March 1965 saw the arrival of JET 894, another two door Comair – this time a Bedford SB5 with the short lived wrap around rear window. This went onto the South Road run for most of its life as did the next bus JMK 060 a Freighter bodied SB5.

Tom Jones & Southand Bus Service

June 1965 saw Tom Jones purchase neighbouring operator Moorabbin Bus Lines from George Elston, adding to his existing Chadstone – Moorabbin East (Murrumbeena Bus Lines) and Moorabbin – Moorabbin East runs (South Road Bus Lines).

The sale included the Keys Road depot and the Caulfield – Ormond, Moorabbin – Clayton and Cheltenham – Beaumaris runs plus the odd assortment of 10 vehicles accumulated by Elston – four Albions, three Austins, the Morris, the Seddon and the Reo. This gave Tom a total of 17 buses and a depot was established at the corner of Keys and Kilpa Roads, in the East Moorabbin industrial estate. David Brash from Elston’s was employed as the Manager and he and Tom ran the company between them for over 20 years.

Tom Jones soon adopted the trading name of Southland Bus Service, coinciding with the proposed construction of a regional shopping mall by the same name in Cheltenham. This would became the trading name for all the services although both the Murrumbeena Bus Lines and South Road Bus Lines legal entities remained in place.

The next chapter as Southland Bus Service can be found here –