Australia’s Trolley Buses

Trolley buses looked like ordinary motorbuses on rubber wheels except that, like trams, they operated on electricity and were connected to overhead wires by a pair of trolley poles. Unlike trams they were quiet, not confined to tracks, could move from lane to lane in traffic and pick up passengers from the kerb rather than the middle of the road. Nevertheless, trolley buses were considered to be trams, were worked by tram crews, issued tram tickets and never carried motor vehicle registration. They acquired the nickname ‘whispering death’ because being electrically driven on pneumatic tyres they crept up on unwary passengers and pedestrians alike.

Australia’s first trolley bus service began in east Perth in 1933. Early experiments with trolley buses had begun in Adelaide in the late 1920s and during the early 1930s an extensive system was developed there that survived until the 1960s. Sydney’s first trolley bus service began in 1934, running from the city to Potts Point, and it was anticipated that they would take over from the trams. The service initially suffered from ‘de-wiring’ problems over the hilly terrain, and during road repairs in 1948 they were ‘temporarily replaced by diesel buses, never to be reinstated. In 1937 another trolley bus service from Rockdale station to Kogarah, Sans Souci and Sandringham replaced the last government- operated steam trams in Sydney. The 21 trolley buses for this service, which ceased in 1959, were the largest double-deck vehicles in Australia and seated 63 passengers with front and rear doors and staircases. Trolley buses also operated in Perth, Brisbane and Launceston in Tasmania until the 1960s. They were secondary to trams in Australia and all systems were eventually taken over by diesel buses.

This article is courtesy of the great book ‘On the Move, a history of transport in Australia’, by Margaret Simpson’ and is brought to you by Tram Scrolls Australia, specialists in premium quality replica tram and bus scroll art. Australia’s number one producer of quality, bus and tram destination prints. We offer the best quality prints featuring hundreds of Australia’s and suburbs and other European and US cities. 1300 632 332 or

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