Burns Bus Service

Nestled in the heart of the Lockyer Valley and south of Wivenhoe Dam is the town of Coominya, a place where the Burns family has called home for over 60 years. While they currently operate two kilometre-based school runs under contract to the Queensland Government, their involvement with buses may have never happened if it wasn’t for an eleventh hour opportunity to operate Coominya’s first school bus run.

When the Education Department decided to close Atkinson’s Lagoon State School due to the inevitable opening of Atkinson Dam during December 1968, a bus run was needed to transfer students from the area to Coominya State School. The run itself was initially destined to be operated by a local resident until he reneged a week before school started, which provided Les and Mavis Burns the opportunity to operate the run themselves in January 1969. To facilitate this, Les swiftly bought a 22-seat Toyota Coaster which was used for less than a month when it was replaced by a new Superior bodied Austin 2.45F in February 1969, to accommodate the influx of students from workers at the Atkinson Dam construction site.

In February 1969, Les and Mavis Burns purchased this Austin 2.45F with Superior body work, seating 50 students. Photo: Burns Family Collection

The Austin 2.45F was delivered in a cyan and white livery with the name ‘Blue Line’ and perimeter seating for 50 students. Les continued to drive the run for a number of years until his sudden passing in October 1976, which saw brothers Brian and Dudley join their mother Mavis in the business as the trading name changed to M. Burns & Sons.

After the untimely passing of Les Burns (pictured) in October 1976, the business was carried on by his widow Mavis and sons, Brian and Dudley Burns. Photo: Burns Family Collection

In March 1977, the school run was extended to the area behind Atkinson Dam known as Lockyer Waters, before it was split into two separate services on 26 April 1983, with the new service terminating at Kentville State School.  To accommodate this extra service, a CAC bodied Bedford SB3, originally new to the Richmond Air Force Base in New South Wales, joined the fleet. The Austin and Bedford continued to remain in service until the former was replaced with a 49-seat Pressed Metal bodied Isuzu ECR570 from Lloyd of Jugiong in New South Wales during 1988. The red-and-blue band livery of Lloyd was so well received by the Burns’ that it was eventually adopted onto their other buses.  The fleet remained steady for a couple of years later until a PMCSA bodied Bedford BLP2 was purchased from Alan Condon of Albury in New South Wales to replace the SB Bedford, which at this stage was carrying a staggering 103 students with perimeter seating.  

In 1988, the Austin 2.45F was replaced by this then four-year old Pressed Metal bodied Isuzu ECR570 purchased second hand from New South Wales. Photo: Burns Family Collection
In 1994, the SB Bedford was replaced by this 1979 PMCSA bodied Bedford BLP2 acquired from Alan Condon of Albury in New South Wales. Photo: Burns Family Collection

To supplement their bus operation, the family started to pump and distribute high quality groundwater from their Atkinson Dam Road property in 1997. This was another opportunistic venture which began by shear chance following some inquiries as to the supply of water to Coominya Trucking, who had regularly pumped from Burns’ property until this time. The water business operates a fleet of four trucks that regularly service approximately 5500 customers throughout the neighbouring area. This includes business as far north as Harlin, as far east as Goodna and as far west as Clifton.

Since 1997, the Burns family have operated a successfully groundwater pumping and carrying business. Photo: Nick Wilson

A generational change took place across during 2001 with Dudley and his wife Sharyn purchasing the bus and water businesses in their own right from Mavis and Brian. The bus business has particularly flourished under the guidance of Dudley who began actively pursuing charter work for the first time during 2002, following the employment of Geoff Zischke who had been the charter manager under Tom Wooffindin at Minden Bus Service.  To operate this forthcoming work, Dudley purchased a 1990 Motorcoach bodied Hino RG197K from nearby operator Greg Zischke, which was followed by the purchase of another identical bus from Greg Zischke during 2007.

645-AWB was one of two virtually identical Motorcoach bodied Hino RG197Ks purchased from nearby operator, Greg Zischke. Both vehicles were new to Albert Wharton’s Logan Coach & Bus Service during 1990. Photo: Nick Wilson

Further change to the fleet has seen the replacement of both the Isuzu and Bedford BLP2 from service, with the latter directly replaced by a 1998 Austral Pacific bodied Hino RG230 on the Atkinson Dam to Coominya run.  During September 2010, Dudley negotiated to extend their business to Esk with the purchase of the Cedar Grove Estate school run from Alan and Michelle Ruthenberg, along with their 1987 Austral bodied Mercedes Benz OH1316. This vehicle was replaced a year later by a brand new Mills-Tui bodied Hino RK8J which is significant for two reasons. Firstly, the RK8J is Australia’s first Euro 5 Hino chassis, and secondly, it is also the last passenger vehicle built by Mills-Tui.

In June 2011, Dudley and Sharon Burns took delivery of this new Mills-Tui bodied Hino RK8J for their Esk school run. Photo: Nick Wilson

In May 2014, a new Custom Coaches bodied Hino RN8J entered the fleet as a government-funded school bus replacement for the eldest Motorcoach bodied Hino RG197K on the Kentville run. In December 2015, the Burns family operated their last Atkinson Dam to Coominya State School run after it was amalgamated by the Department of Transport.

In May 2014, this new Hino RN8J with Custom Coaches “SB50” bodywork was purchased to operate the Kentville school run. Photo: Nick Wilson

Congratulations to the Burns family for over 50 years service to the Lockyer Valley community.