“I’ve got that in my room” Mr S calls out excitedly as he points to a large poster featuring row of busses. His two-year-old brother, Mr R, looks around in amazement at the different buses parked in front of him. He’s never seen so many in one place.
We’ve brought our grandsons to The Sydney Bus Museum for Mr R’s birthday treat.
The Sydney Bus Museum
In 2016 the Sydney Bus Museum moved from its original home in Tempe to the restored Old Tram Shed alongside the Leichhardt Bus Depot.
Run entirely by volunteers the not-for-profit organization owns over 70 buses which carried passengers from the 1920s through to the 1980s. A visit to the museum includes time to explore the collection before getting aboard a double decker bus for a half hour return trip.
Squeals of excitement fill the air as family groups disperse through the museum. Children run from one bus to the next exploring the space.
Exploring the Buses
Mr S shouts out “there’s a double decker” and eagerly runs off to climb aboard. Bus enthusiasts of all ages can climb into the driver’s seat of many of the buses on display and imagine themselves driving through Sydney’s busy streets.
We follow Mr S aboard the double decker, commenting on the old leather seats and the panels of vintage advertising above the windows. We explain to the boys how “when Granny and Grandad were younger, we pulled a cord to tell the driver we wanted the next stop”.
Holding onto me with one hand and the handrail with the other, Mr R climbs the steep set of steps up to the top deck. He’s a little unsure. Gradually gaining confidence, he peers through the windows and names the colours of the buses parked in the shed. Red, Blue, Green.
In the Driver’s Seat
Mr S climbs onto a passenger seat of a model of today’s buses and stretches to press the red ‘stop’ button. Then he waits patiently for his turn to ‘drive’ a model bus. He beeps the horn, operates the indicator lever and echoes my singing of “the wheels of the bus”.
During wartime, buses were painted black and their windows blackened to avoid detection from the air. Neither boy wants to enter the darkened interior of the wartime bus. It scares them.
An organization promoting Hong Kong as Asia’s World City sponsored today’s open day and three Hong Kong double decker buses wait in the museum forecourt for the bus ride to Huntley’s Point.
Riding a Kowloon Motor Bus
We step aboard one of two red and cream Kowloon Motor Busses (KMB) and make for the upper deck. Families who hail from Hong Kong congregate around the third bus, a blue and white Hong Kong MCW ML1. They are keen to relive their trips on this bus when they lived in Hong Kong.
Seated in the front row with Mr R on my lap and Mr S leaning forward, supporting himself on the window ledge I look around. Written in red Chinese Characters and in English notices warn passengers not to stand and to refrain from eating and drinking.
The window provides a perfect view across the rooftops to the Harbour Bridge. Boats bob at their moorings in little coves across from the Gladesville Bridge.
All too soon, the bus pulls up at Huntley’s Point and we disembark to take a better look at the buses from the outside.
Edison Haviland is a volunteer driver and owner of one of the buses. He tells me that he used to own all three of the buses and has a fourth one in the Southern Highlands. When space opens up in the museum, he’ll bring it up to Sydney to restore it here.
Reminiscing on a Hong Kong Bus
People crowd around the blue and white bus for the return journey. Someone comments how “It was never on time. It was always late”. We climb back on board the KMB, sitting a bit further back this time.
The man behind me reminisces with another passenger telling him how he caught these buses daily “back in Hong Kong”.
His companion points to the exit window, observing that “it’s quite a drop to the ground”. This prompts a story about how the buses weren’t suitable for the twists and turns required for some routes in Hong Kong and how one “flipped on its side” when the driver drove too fast.
Pedestrians going for a morning walk look up and stare. A man runs ahead of the bus trying desperately to get into position for a photograph of our bus. A double decker is an uncommon sight in Sydney, especially a Hong Kong bus.
It’s time for lunch
Exploring the Sydney Bus Museum with young children is fun, but even without children, the museum is a pleasant trip down memory lane. To complete the morning, we walk to Bar Italia in Norton Street for pizza and gelato. A fitting end to a birthday celebration.
The Sydney Bus Museum opens on the first and third Sundays of every month. In keeping with COVID requirements, bookings are required.
Keep a look out for Special Days like the Hong Kong outing or the London Transport Day.
The museum is located at 25 Derbyshire Road, Leichhardt. It is best to park in surrounding streets as parking in Derbyshire Road is limited.
Here is more information on The Sydney Bus Museum
Pioneers Memorial Park and Bar Italia are both close by for a picnic lunch (the park) or pizza and gelato (Bar Italia) after the Bus Museum Visit.