Cribb Island Bus Service

While the area is now subsumed by Brisbane Airport, Cribb Island was once a popular seaside resort for the people of Brisbane. The origins of the first motor bus service to Cribb Island can be traced back to at least December 1918 when the Police Department examined the operation of a motor bus plying four miles between Nudgee Railway Station and Cribb Island by Mr. Charles Rudolph Wegener. The service was pioneered by Mr. Wegener in spite of the poor condition of the road to the island which wreaked havoc to his vehicles. Despite these adverse conditions, Mr. Wegener persisted for several years seeing off eight competitors between 1918 and 1920 to become the sole operator of this service by August 1923. By this time, the Brisbane Tramway Trust had issued a licence to another proprietor to ply between Cribb Island and Brisbane, to the frustration of Mr. Wegener.

This timetable featured in The Daily Mail edition of 2 September 1922. Courtesy: National Library of Australia

On 5 November 1924, the Brisbane Tramway Trust approved the issuing of a second motor bus licence, as far as the Trust’s jurisdiction extended, for a service between Cribb Island and the corner of Boundary and Wickham Streets, with a minimum fare of 1/6 and subject to the licensee undertaking not to compete with existing services. By 1 July 1925, two licensees, Mr. John Joseph Slade, and Mr. Claude Brain, were operating between Boundary Street and Cribb Island each with one bus. Their licences were renewed by the Brisbane Tramway Trust for a period of 12 months.

Change of ownership

In July 1925, long standing bus proprietor, Mr. Charles Rudolph Wegener, sold his service between Cribb Island and Nudgee Railway Station to Mr. Alexander Smith Gibson along with a fleet of four Model T Ford buses. The new owner was no stranger to the bus game and had operated the East Brisbane-North Quay service from its inauguration in May 1924. Concurrently, Mr. Gibson also operated a general cargo service from Queen’s Wharf to Redland Bay, Russell Island, Lamb Island, and Pimpama Island in partnership with his younger brother under the name “Gibson Bros Boat Service”.

In July 1925, Alex Gibson transferred this Republic bus known as “Heather” from his East Brisbane-North Quay service to his newly acquired enterprise at Cribb Island. Photo: Gordon Gibson

On 6 August 1925, the Brisbane Tramway Trust approved the licensing of a third bus between Cribb Island and Brisbane in favour of Mr. Slade. The two competing bus services to the City were soon amalgamated under the ownership of Mr. Slade with the transfer of Mr. Brain’s licence approved at the Brisbane Tramway Trust’s meeting of 22 October 1925. A few days earlier, Mr. Slade had purchased a new Thornycroft bus on 18 October 1925 from Queensland distributor Packer Bros for £1,240. This vehicle was fitted with a 35-passenger body by Eldridge Bros of Fortitude Valley and was named the “Joyce”.

Following the formation of Brisbane City Council in November 1925, the responsibility of regulating motor buses in Brisbane was transferred along with the assets of the Brisbane Tramway Trust on 1 December 1925.

In October 1925, John Slade took delivery of this new Thornycroft chassis with 35-passenger body work built by Eldridge Bros of Fortitude Valley seating 35 passengers. To celebrate the delivery of this vehicle named the “Joyce”, he took a group of sick children to Cribb Island from the Children’s Hospital in Brisbane on 24 October 1925. Photo: Fred Port, courtesy Queensland Museum
Article from the Daily Standard newspaper dated 31 October 1925 on the free service for patients and nurses of the Children’s Hospital. Courtesy: National Library of Australia
This timetable for Alex Gibson’s service between Cribb Island and Nudgee Railway Station featured in The Brisbane Courier newspaper on 3 December 1925. Courtesy: National Library of Australia

New competition to the City

At its meeting of 2 February 1926, Council’s Transit Committee recommended to grant Mr. Gibson a 12 month licence to operate one bus through to Eagle Street in the City with a minimum fare of one shilling. This application was approved by Council despite protests from Mr. Slade who had unsuccessfully applied for a third licence to the City. On Saturday, 13 February 1926, Mr. Gibson operated his first service to the City with his Republic motor bus named “Heather” and generously donated the first day’s takings to the Ambulance Brigade funds.

On 28 March 1926, Mr. Slade’s two buses, the Thornycroft “Joyce” and an International, were totally destroyed by fire at his George Street, Cribb Island residence during the early hours of that morning. At this time, average takings on the run were at least £10 a day and net income during the period 18 October 1925 to 28 March 1926 was £1,676. In April 1926, Mr. Slade sought Council’s permission to withhold recommencing his services for approximately six months while he purchased two chassis from England, but was advised to resume the provision of services within a reasonable period of time.

At its meeting of 14 October 1926, Council’s Transit Committee approved the issuing of a second licence to Mr. Gibson to operate between Cribb Island and the City in view of the approaching warm weather. At this stage, the two proprietors, Mr. Slade and Mr. Gibson, held two licences each.

This timetable for Alex Gibson’s service between Cribb Island and Eagle Street featured in The Brisbane Courier newspaper on 14 November 1926. Courtesy: National Library of Australia

Disaster struck again on 9 November 1926 for Mr. Slade when a second fire occurred at his George Street residence around 3.00am, destroying his Stewart bus named the “Olive” which was the joint property of Mr. Slade and the Customs House Motor Company. A change of ownership occurred in December 1926 when Council approved the transfer of the licences held by Mr. John Joseph Slade to Mr. Michael Sade, who also held a licence between Mayne Flats and Eagle Street. When all motor bus licences in Brisbane were renewed by Council from 1 January 1927, Mr. Gibson’s fleet comprised 7 buses while Mr. Sade had 4 buses. These were the largest number of motor buses licensed for a particular service in Brisbane at the time.

A third licence into the City for both proprietors was approved at Council’s Transit Committee meeting on 20 January 1927. Mr. Sade unfortunately lost a Stewart motor bus on 2 August 1927 after it was destroyed by fire at his Cribb Island property, the third fire to affect this service in 18 months. The vehicle was insured with Mercantile Mutual Insurance Company Ltd for £570.

In approximately 1927, Alex Gibson purchased this Republic bus named “Thistle”. Photos: Gordon Gibson
Pictured outside the Gibson’s first home at Cribb Island known as “Ripples” on the corner of David Street and Cribb Parade. The kerbside petrol pump was approved for installation by Brisbane City Council in June 1926. Photo: Gordon Gibson


A service between Nudgee Beach and the City was approved by Council for Mr. Gibson on 13 October 1927 on the condition that it terminate at the corner of Hamilton and Racecourse Roads. At its later meeting of 27 October 1927, Council’s Transit Committee approved the issuing of a fourth licence to Mr. Gibson to operate between Cribb Island and the tramline at Hamilton. In March 1928, the Cribb Island Progress Association successfully lobbied Council to extend this truncated service at Hamilton through to the City due to overloading.

At Council’s Transit Committee meeting of 11 April 1928, Mr. Sade was granted a licence to operate between Nudgee Beach and the tramline at Hamilton. Shortly after this time, a change in ownership occurred with Mr. Sade disposing of his business to Mr. Ernest Adolphus Fuller (then proprietor of the Tarragindi Bus Service) who immediately on-sold it to Mr. Gibson. The licence transfer was approved by Council’s Transit Committee on 30 May 1928 who noted that:

For some time friction has existed between the two proprietors, and it will be more satisfactory to have the business (which is not large) in the hands of one owner.

By May 1928, it was costing Mr. Gibson £612 a year to maintain a 7 day service to the City, largely due to the poor conditions of the roads to Cribb Island and Nudgee Beach. This cost was comprised of £466 for tyres and vulcanising, £83 for springs, and £63 in heavy vehicle tax. In November 1928, Council’s Transit, Electric Light and Power House Committee refused an application by Mr. Slade to commence a service between Cribb Island and the City after careful consideration of the existing services provided by Mr. Gibson.

This 25-passenger G.M.C. operated at Cribb Island for over a decade and was sold during World War II to the IBIS Bus Service at Sandgate. Photo: Gordon Gibson
This 29-passenger Reo was an early member of the Cribb Island bus fleet. Photo: Gordon Gibson
In October 1928, the Gibson’s buses hosted a group of 20 adults and 50 children on a two week holiday at Cribb Island from the Tannymorel and Loch Lomond State Schools near Warwick. Photo: Gordon Gibson

Gibson Bros partnership

By December 1928, Alex Gibson was operating the Cribb Island buses in partnership with his younger brother, Mr. Thomas Johnston Gibson, as Gibson Bros trading as Red and Blue Line Motor Bus Service. Tom had worked with his brother from the age of 14 in Alex’s carrying business at South Brisbane.

After the New South Wales Government introduced new legislation to tax privately operated bus services that competed with State-conducted services, many operators withdrew their services the day before the new legislation took effect on 1 November 1931. This left a number of relatively modern buses available for purchase by Queensland operators. Alex Gibson took advantage of this development to modernise his own fleet by purchasing the first of four White 50B buses with 31-passenger Smith & Waddington bodies that had previously operated in Sydney. Relocating the buses to Brisbane was a marathon effort taking four days with the buses regularly overheating on steep inclines and needing to cool down before continuing further north.

By July 1934, the Gibson Bros fleet comprised of 5 buses which remained the largest fleet of licensed buses in Brisbane. On 21 August 1934, the State Transport Board approved a recommendation from the Commissioner of Police for the Sandgate and Cribb Island buses to be allowed to travel without passengers from their present terminus at the corner of Queen and Eagle Streets, along Queen, Creek and Eagle Streets, to the waiting point on the west side of Eagle Street to avoid congestion which would be caused by turning into the narrow Eagle Lane.

The first of four second hand Smith & Waddington bodied White 50Bs purchased from Sydney which operated in its original condition from approximately 1932 up to 1947 when its body was transferred to a Bedford chassis. Photo: Gordon Gibson
No. 2 Q310-051 White 50B also operated up to 1947 when its body was transferred to a Bedford chassis by the Cribb Island Bus Service workshop. Photo: Gordon Gibson
This 33-passenger Fageol safety coach was acquired from Sydney in December 1936 and was sold to Hornibrook Highway Bus Service in June 1941. Photo: Gordon Gibson

The Gibson family relocated to 101-105 Cribb Parade when two allotments were purchased from Mr. William Frederick Schulz during March 1938. The existing residence here was extended to accommodate the Gibson family, with a shed for their buses built on the spare allotment. In December 1939, the Gibson Bros partnership was dissolved due to the deteriorating health of Tom’s wife necessitating a move to the drier climate of Kingaroy. The licences were transferred solely into the name of Mr. Alexander Smith Gibson. At this time, four buses comprising of three Whites and one G.M.C. were licensed by the State Transport Commission, with buses regularly de-registered during the winter months.


The outbreak of war also placed great demand for the Cribb Island buses with their services traversing major U.S. Army camps at Doomben and Eagle Farm Racecourses. Alex concurrently took on the role of Chief Air Raid Warden for Cribb Island. Officials from the U.S. Army would regularly attend the depot at the Cribb Island to request buses. To avoid them being driven distant places and abandoned, Alex would also supply them with drivers. These requests often left his licensed service short of buses so Alex would regularly dry hire buses from nearby operators including Sandgate Bus Service (owned by Mr. John Truven Ford), and Hornibrook Highway Bus Service. When petrol rationing was introduced to support the war effort, a number of buses were fitted with gas producers which burned coal and were supplied by Buzacotts (Queensland) Ltd. By May 1941, there were 9 weekday return services operating to the City with an extra service operating on Wednesdays only. As a result of the introduction of petrol rationing, the Fageol safety coach with its uneconomical 6 cylinder engine was sold to Hornibrook Highway Bus Service during June 1941.

With new equipment well and truly out of the question, Alex turned once again to the second hand market in Sydney where he purchased a handful of buses during the war years. In January 1945, Alex sought to have his eldest son, Alexander, released from service in the Army as a driver mechanic for the purpose of assisting him in the business. Unfortunately, the Army advised that Private Gibson was not eligible for discharge under the manpower release plan. The war years proved to be very taxing on Alex as he battled to keep his fleet on the road and often worked into the early hours of the morning to repair breakdowns.

No. 3 White 50B was fitted with a gas producer supplied by Buzacotts (Queensland) Ltd during World War II when petrol rationing was in force. Photo: Gordon Gibson
This advertisement appeared in The Telegraph newspaper on Saturday, 31 May 1941. Courtesy: National Library of Australia
Two normal control Reos entered the fleet between 1944 and 1945 becoming No. 4 and No. 5. Photo: Robert Gibson
No. 9 Q395-704 was a Bedford OB purchased second hand from Sydney during 1945. It seated 29 passengers and operated in the fleet until November 1949. Photo: Gordon Gibson

Death of Alex Gibson

In October 1945, Alex Gibson sought permission from the State Transport Commission to employ his 20 year old son, Robert, as a bus driver on the Cribb Island service. At the time, the minimum age to be licensed as a bus driver was 21 years. He further advised the Commission that he was not enjoying the best of health and felt that he could not carry on much longer. Given these extenuating circumstances the request was approved by the Commission at its meeting of 1 November 1945.

Alex Gibson sadly passed away at Virginia Private Hospital aged 61 years on 12 February 1946. He had succumbed to stomach cancer believed to have been caused by siphoning petrol from his buses during the war. He left behind his widow Margaret and their 10 children, four sons and six daughters aged from 13 to 38 years. Alex was a long serving committee member of the Queensland Motor Bus Proprietors’ Association and was also a foundation member of the Rechabite Pioneer Tent No. 1, and prominently connected with the Doric Royal Arch Chapter of Freemasons. Management of Cribb Island Bus Service was transferred to Len Burgess, who had married Olive Gibson and was a long-term employee of the family business.

Portrait photo of Alexander Smith Gibson taken by R.A. Ruddle, Valley Studios.
The first bus of forward-control design was introduced to the fleet in 1946 and became No. 7 Q416-068. Its body was sourced second hand from Sydney and was transferred onto a Bedford chassis by Syd Wood. Photo: Gordon Gibson

As of September 1946, the fleet comprised of 7 buses and the primary route was Eagle Street, City to Cribb Island via Queen Street, Wickham Street, Breakfast Creek Road, Hamilton Road, Eagle Farm Road, Nudgee Road, Green Road, Cribb Island Road, Cribb Parade. A special service to the Clayfield Picture Theatre operated on Saturday nights from Nudgee Beach via Nudgee Road, Queens Road, St Vincents Road, Toombul Road, Melton Road, and Sandgate.

Cribb Island Bus Service timetable that appeared in the nineteenth edition of the Southern Queensland Transport Guide in October 1946.

Passenger transport reform

On 24 December 1946, the State Transport Facilities Act 1946 (Qld) was passed into law to bring about the most substantial reform of the transport industry in Queensland to date. The State Transport Commission would soon be abolished with jurisdiction over the licensing of passenger services conferred on the newly created position of the Commissioner for Transport. The Act provided local authorities, such as Brisbane City Council, with the right to apply to the Commissioner for Transport to be issued a licence to operate passenger services within their area. If granted, Council would displace all existing privately operated services affected by the application.

On 19 June 1947, Brisbane City Council applied to the Commissioner for Transport to acquire 20 private operated services with 67 buses in accordance with the State Transport Facilities Act 1946 (Qld). This application covered all privately operated buses running into the City apart from 6 seaside services operating to Cribb Island, Sandgate, Wynnum, Manly, and Lota. Rather, Council intended to take over these services at a latter stage because of the shear size of their combined fleets which totalled 45 buses. Although this would never eventuate, the spectre of compulsory acquisition by Council weighed heavily on the Cribb Island Bus Service for a number of years.

In 1947, the Smith & Waddington body from No. 1 White was transferred onto a Bedford OB chassis by the Cribb Island Bus Service workshop. It seated 32 passengers and was replaced in August 1949. Photo: Gordon Gibson
No. 3 Q441-019 was a Reo Speed Wagon chassis fitted with a new body built by Eddie Hamilton at Cribb Island during 1947. It seated 33 passengers and was replaced in October 1950. Photo: Gordon Gibson
The second forward-control bus at Cribb Island was No. 8 Q383-113 a Reo acquired from Grimley’s Coaches of Stanthorpe in February 1948. Its body frame was constructed out of pine wood by a local builder in Stanthorpe, and was affectionately nicknamed ‘Apples’ at Cribb Island. Photo: Gordon Gibson
The Cribb Island Bus Service fleet pictured at Lower Nudgee in 1948 comprised mostly of Bedfords and Reos of normal control design. Manager Len Burgess is pictured far left, with Gordon Gibson pictured second from the right. Photo: Gordon Gibson

When the first metropolitan passenger service licences under the State Transport Facilities Act 1946 (Qld) came into effect on 1 May 1948, Mrs. Margaret Lucy Gibson was issued with licence 106 (Brisbane-Cribb Island) for a 2 year term. A new model of licence fees came into effect and were now a fixed percentage of gross fare revenue on a “pay as you carry” basis, with the Cribb Island service being assessed at 5%. This was half the rate imposed onto the other operators of seaside services because the Cribb Island bus service did not entirely compete with the State railway.

Prior to this time, licence fees were assessed against specific characteristics of each bus known as the “power-weight-load” scale which were considerably less than the new model. For example, monthly licence fees of £11.4.0 had been payable for the Cribb Island buses under the State Transport Act 1938 (Qld) in the period up to 30 April 1948, whereas the licence fee set at 5% of gross fare revenue under the new State Transport Facilities Act 1946 (Qld) was £78.16.6 for the month of May 1948 alone.

Part of the Cribb Island Bus Service fleet in Cribb Parade in approximately 1948. Photo: Ken Magor Collection

On Friday, 9 July 1948, No. 8 Reo avoided a 5 metre dive into Breakfast Creek on Hamilton Road (now Kingsford Smith Drive) by crashing into an electricity light pole to avoid a Brisbane City Council tram when the steering drag link on the bus suddenly broke on an early morning service to the City. Quick thinking by the driver, Mr. Ronald George Farley, avoided a more serious incident.

Photos taken of the accident involving No. 8 Reo at Breakfast Creek on 9 July 1948. Photos: Gordon Gibson

On 8 April 1949, Brisbane City Council resolved against applying to the Commissioner for Transport to acquire Brisbane’s seaside bus services with the Town Clerk, Mr. J.C. Slaughter, noting in a memorandum of 7 April 1949 that:

After giving the matter very careful consideration, the Manager of the Department has come to the conclusion that, generally speaking, it would be difficult and expensive for the Council to operate these services at the present time. Five of the licensees operate 53 buses (almost 50% of the total vehicles held by the 23 licensees) between Wynnum, Manly, Lota, Sandgate, Cribb Island and the City and their acquisition would necessitate the establishment of three additional bus depots within the next twelve months.

Fleet replacements

The fleet underwent a significant transformation between 1948 and 1952 with a total of 13 buses entering service. As new buses were an expensive and hard to come by proposition, the Gibson fleet continued to be replenished from the second hand market. All but one of these vehicles were fitted with modern bodies of forward-control design and were largely of Ford and Reo manufacture. The majority were sourced from experienced New South Wales bus proprietor, Arthur Marrin, who operated services in Bankstown and Gosford. Prior to his passing, Alex had forged a close relationship with Arthur Marrin which was continued under successor manager, Len Burgess. Two buses were purchased from Brisbane City Council between August and November 1949 with these having been compulsorily acquired from the privately conducted Indooroopilly Bus Service and Tarragindi Bus Service a year earlier.

No. 1 Q476-414 was a 1935 International C40 chassis with Watt Bros bodywork of 1943 that had originated from Indooroopilly Bus Service via Brisbane City Council. It was purchased from Council on 11 August 1949 and is pictured at the corner of Eagle and Queen Streets in the City. Photo: Vic Hayes
One of six Ford V8 buses purchased between 1948 and 1952 was No. 11 Q478-886 a Syd Wood bodied Ford V8 that was purchased from Arthur Marrin’s operation in Gosford. It was approved for use on 15 November 1949. Photo: Gordon Gibson
Another Ford V8 was No. 3 Q513-012 which was fitted with a MBA body seating 36 passengers. It was approved for use on 16 October 1950. Photo: Vic Hayes
In September 1950, this Dodge with Watt Bros 27-passenger body was purchased from T.A. Grano of the Newmarket-Lutwyche Bus Service. It became No. 5 Q392-656 but proved to be too small and was traded within a year to an operator at Uki for No. 7 Reo. Photo: Gordon Gibson

As of March 1951, the Cribb Island bus fleet had grown to 11 vehicles authorised under licence 106. In June 1951, Cribb Island Bus Service introduced the first bus into service in Brisbane with the passenger door located forward of the front axle. This became No. 8 Reo and soon followed by a second similar vehicle in September 1951. The modernisation programme completed in February 1952 with the purchase of the fourth and final Syd Wood bodied Reo 2LM. The entire fleet was then comprised of all forward-control bodies.

No. 8 Reo was the first bus in Brisbane to feature a door forward of the front axle. It was acquired from Arthur Marrin in Sydney and approved for use on 4 June 1951. Photo: Gordon Gibson
A second Syd Wood bodied Reo 2LM was approved for use on 5 September 1951 and became No. 9 Q544-404. It formerly operated for Arthur Marrin in western Sydney on the Lakemba-Belmore route as m/o 149. Photo: Gordon Gibson

Service sold to Bill White

The Cribb Island Bus Service was put up for sale through agent, B.F. Canniffe Pty Ltd. On 23 April 1953, experienced bus proprietor, Mr. William White, paid an initial deposit of £200 on the purchase of the Cribb Island Bus Service. A balance deposit in the amount of £4,800 was then paid into the trust account of King & Gill Solicitors on 29 May 1953. Bill White brought almost 20 years’ experience with buses to Cribb Island having operated:

  • Clayfield Tram Terminus-East Nundah-West Nundah from February 1928 to March 1934
  • Hendra-Valley from December 1937 to June 1938
  • IBIS Bus Service (Sandgate-Brisbane) from June 1938 to June 1948
  • Woodford-Dayboro-Brisbane from May 1950 to present

The transfer of licence 106 (Brisbane-Cribb Island) from Mrs. Margaret Lucy Gibson to Mr. William White was approved by the Commissioner for Transport on 11 June 1953 for a total sale price of £18,500 which included a fleet of 11 petrol-engine buses valued at £9,000. The remainder of the purchase price comprised £6,000 for other property, £1,500 for spare parts and accessories, and goodwill in the amount of £2,000. The transaction completed on 1 July 1953 bringing an end to the Gibson family’s 28 year ownership of the Cribb Island buses, as the family moved to a new residence in Auchenflower.

Buses included in the sale of Cribb Island Bus Service
Fleet No.RegistrationChassisQTP No.Price
1Q476-414InternationalP. 833£500
2Q505-947FordP. 838£500
3Q513-012FordP. 699£1,525
4Q531-354FordP. 835£900
6Q449-987FordP. 960£525
7Q556-320ReoP. 834£1,400
8Q536-480Reo P. 840£1,000
9Q544-404ReoP. 837£500
10Q457-794FordP. 839£500
11Q478-886FordP. 836£450
12Q559-770ReoP. 1087£1,800
Bill White operated the Nundah Bus Service in partnership with his father between February 1928 and March 1934. He is pictured here at the Nundah depot with his Model A Ford car. Photo: Phil White
Balance deposit receipt from King & Gill Solicitors for the purchase of Cribb Island Bus Service.

Bill White immediately improved the fleet by transferring his modern, 35-passenger IBIS Garage bodied Leyland Comet from the Dayboro/Woodford run to Cribb Island, in exchange for No. 2 Ford. This became the first diesel-powered bus to operate the Cribb Island service and was repainted from cream and green into the familiar red and white Cribb Island colours. As there was no diesel at Cribb Island at this stage, a 500 gallon overhead tank was installed at the depot.

The Cribb Island Bus Service came under the management of Arthur Zimmermann with staff at 1 July 1953 comprising of: Archie Carey, Dick French, Laurie Kreutzer, John Callaway, Gordon Bone, Tom Paton, Horrie Smoothy, Johnie Jackson, Arthur Burgess (mechanic), Gordon Gibson, Arthur Weldon (cleaner), Phil White (apprentice mechanic), Percy Atthow (office), and Mary White (office). With his focus now turned to Cribb Island, Bill White disposed of the Woodford-Dayboro-Brisbane service to Mr. Charles John Patterson and Mrs. Ivy Maud Patterson during August 1953 with two Ford V8 buses for £3,900. By this stage, the Cribb Island Bus Service was being managed by Gordon Gibson, the second youngest son of Alex and Margaret Gibson, who had worked in the business for over a decade.

Bill White transferred this 1950 Leyland Comet with 35-passenger IBIS Garage body to Cribb Island upon takeover in July 1953. It became No. 2 and was registered Q515-394. The passenger headrests and saloon door were removed upon transfer to Cribb Island. Photo: Phil White

Fleet transitions to diesel powered

Further diesel buses were introduced into service as the petrol engine buses inherited with the business were purged from the fleet. These included two Perkins P6 powered Seddons acquired from Grimley’s Coaches of Warwick between November 1953 and February 1954. These vehicles were fitted with steel-frame Charles Hope bodies in 1950 and had been operating a passenger service between Brisbane and Warwick. They became No. 3 and 6 replacing two Ford V8s that were sold to Rex Mitchell’s Sandgate Lutwyche Bus Service. Concurrently, No. 8 Reo was repowered by a Leyland O.300 motor and gearbox. At this time, the fleet comprised of four Reos, three Fords, two Seddons, and the Leyland Comet.

A new body was outshopped by the IBIS Garage at Sandgate during December 1954 on an overhauled Bedford chassis re-powered with a Leyland Comet motor. The IBIS Garage body building and mechanical business had been retained by Bill White following the sale of his IBIS Bus Service to Leo and Kit McGrath’s Black & White Buses on 1 July 1948. This became No. 1 Leyland and was the equal largest bus at Cribb Island with a seating capacity of 45 passengers. It replaced the International C40 which had been sold to the Belmont Bus Service conducted by Cyril Shooter.

Nine of the ten buses in the Cribb Island Bus Service fleet under Bill White in 1954. Personnel pictured in the photo from left to right are: Arthur Burgess, Bill White, Phil White, Percy Atthow, Archie Carey, Dick French, Gordon Gibson, Laurie Kreutzer, John Callaway, Gordon Bone, and Arthur Weldon. Photo: Phil White
No. 1 Q668-366 was an overhauled Bedford chassis fitted with a Leyland Comet motor with bodywork by Bill White’s IBIS Garage at Sandgate. It was approved for use on 29 December 1954 and is pictured at the Eagle Street terminus in 1962. Photo: Peter Andersen

Further changes to the fleet occurred during March 1955 with No. 4 Ford being sold to George Asher for use on his Brisbane-Redland Bay service. It was replaced by a White WA18 which had originally been built new by Enoggera Body Works for the Wilston Bus Service in 1946. This was followed by the sale of No. 7 Reo to Ivan Franklin’s Nundah Bus Service in May 1955. Licence 106 (Brisbane-Cribb Island) was renewed by the Commissioner for Transport for an unprecedented 5 year term from 1 May 1955, with the Commissioner stating in his annual report for the year ending 30 June 1955 that:

“The previous period of renewal for this class of licence was 3 years and it is felt that the additional 2 years granted upon this occasion will give operators an opportunity where necessary to invest additional capital in adding to and modernising their existing fleets”.

Purchased in March 1955 from Gosford in New South Wales was No. 4 Q679-097 a 1946 Enoggera Body Works build on White WA18 chassis. It was sold to the Belmont Bus Service during August 1956. Photo: Bob Nean
No. 7 Q556-320 a Reo 2LM with Syd Wood body was sold to Ivan Franklin’s Nundah Bus Service during May 1955. Photo: Vic Hayes

On 2 September 1956, Phil White completed his 5 year apprenticeship as a motor mechanic. In December 1956, No. 4 White was replaced by one of the first bodies built by Athol Hedges at Sandgate on a Bedford WTH chassis, which had operated on Walter Watson’s Maleny-Landsborough service. It was concurrently joined by another stylish product of the IBIS Garage on a second hand Commer chassis re-powered by a Leyland O.300 motor which came from the Western Toowoomba Bus Service. This became No. 5 and had a carrying capacity of 45 passengers. Gross revenue for the Cribb Island Bus Service between 1 April 1957 and 31 March 1958 totalled £38,709.

An amendment to Licence 106 was approved by the Commissioner for Transport in December 1957 to discontinue the service between Nudgee Beach and Nudgee Railway Station between Monday and Saturday, as it was operating at a monthly loss of £200. Instead, Nudgee Beach would be serviced on these days by through trips to the City along with buses connecting with the Cribb Island-City service at the Nudgee Beach turnoff.

Phil White completed his 5 year apprenticeship as a motor mechanic at his father’s IBIS Garage at Sandgate on 2 September 1956.
Approved for use on 19 December 1956 was No. 5 NCZ-403. It was a second hand Commer chassis overhauled and fitted with a Leyland O.300 motor by Basil Keong before having a body built by Reg Scriven of the IBIS Garage at Sandgate. Photo: W. John Webster

Building buses at Cribb Island

Body building restarted at Cribb Island when a new shed was built behind the house at the depot. The workshop team led by Brian Eden completed their first new body in 1959 on a second hand Ford truck chassis which was overhauled by Phil White and fitted with a new Fordson motor. This became the first steel-frame body built at Cribb Island. Meanwhile, Bill White’s youngest son, Ray, was serving a 5 year body building apprenticeship at the IBIS Garage at Sandgate under Reg Scriven. In 1959, Gordon Gibson left the business and handed over management of the service to 22-year old Phil White.

No. 7 NHF-651 was the first steel-frame body built at Cribb Island Bus Service. Its body was built at the depot by Brian Eden on a 1950 Ford truck chassis with a new Fordson motor. Photos: Phil White

Further fleet changes

New licences were issued to operators after the State Transport Act 1960 (Qld) came into effect on 27 February 1961. Demonstrating the consolidation of operators that had occurred in the previous 15 years, the Brisbane-Cribb Island licence number changed from 106 to 18. The Cribb Island fleet remained at 10 buses by the early 1960s but was now completely diesel-powered. The last of the Gibson Fords, No. 10 and 11, had been sold to Mary Kathleen Mine at Cloncurry, and were replaced by two Brisbane City Council Albion Valkyries in 1960. The sole surviving Gibson bus, No. 9 Reo, was re-bodied by Reg Scriven and Ray White at the IBIS Garage. After No. 3 Seddon was destroyed by fire at the IBIS Garage in approximately 1961, it was replaced by a 39-passenger Mack from Redcliffe Brisbane Motor Service which had been partially rebuilt by Phil and Ray White. A Syd Wood bodied Albion Valiant was added to the fleet during 1963 from Redtop Bus Service at Lakemba in western Sydney.

The Cribb Island Bus Service fleet pictured at the Cribb Island flats in approximately 1963. Personnel pictured in the photo from left to right are: Gordon Betts, Arthur Burgess, Dick French, Huey Donaldson, Tom Paton, Archie Kerry, Gordon Bone, Graham Robinson, Roy Campbell, Ron Whitby, Walter Costelloe, John Olesen, Ray White, Phil White, and Bill White. Photo: Peter Andersen
No. 3 NNV-139 was a second hand Mack purchased from Redcliffe Brisbane Motor Service during 1962. Its chassis and body was partially overhauled by Phil and Ray White from the saloon door forward. Photo: Bob Nean
Purchased second hand from Redtop Bus Service of Lakemba was No. 4 NOB-228 a 1947 Syd Wood bodied Albion Valiant CX39LW. Photo: Selwyn Dornan
Part of the fleet pictured prior to the depot fire in January 1964 consisting of No. 11 Albion, No. 1 Leyland, No. 3 Albion, and No. 6 Seddon. Photo: Phil White

Devastating depot fire

On 5 January 1964, a fire broke out at the Cribb Island depot destroying six buses comprised of No. 1 Leyland, No. 2 Leyland, No. 6 Seddon, No. 9 Reo, No. 10 Albion and No. 11 Albion. Three second hand buses were swiftly sourced from western Sydney bus operators comprising of two CCMC bodied Leyland Comets from Parramatta-Villawood Bus Service, and another Syd Wood bodied Albion Valiant from Redtop Bus Service. Another Albion Valkyrie was also purchased from Brisbane City Council on 10 January 1964, to become No. 11 Albion.

No. 6 Seddon was decimated by the fire at the depot on 5 January 1964. Photo: Phil White
One of six buses completely destroyed by the fire was No. 2 Leyland Comet which had operated for Bill White for 14 years. It was the last normal-control bus operated by Cribb Island Bus Service. Alongside it is one of two Albion Valkyries ex-Brisbane City Council. Photo: Phil White
No. 11 NSK-041 was originally No. 46 in the Brisbane City Council fleet and was an Albion Valkyrie chassis with an Athol Hedges body. It was partially re-built at Cribb Island. Photo: Selwyn Dornan

Red and White Coaches

A new business name of ‘Red and White Coaches’ was registered on 24 February 1964 as the Whites sought to expand their charter and touring operations throughout Australia. The choice of name was a logical one and signified that their activities were no longer domiciled to Cribb Island. An overhauled 1940 Albion Valkyrie chassis fitted with a new body at Cribb Island was the first bus to be signwritten for Red and White Coaches in 1964 and became No. 8 in the fleet.

On 1 May 1965, licence 18 (Brisbane-Cribb Island) was renewed by the Commissioner for Transport for a 7 year term. This was the first time motor omnibus licences were issued for the maximum term permitted under the State Transport Act 1960 (Qld) and followed representations from the Queensland Motor Bus Proprietors’ Association.

No. 8 NSU-250 was bodied at Cribb Island during 1964 using framing and headers supplied by Athol Hedges. Its chassis was built from a 5-cylinder Albion Valkyrie CX11 chassis from Redtop Bus Service at Lakemba and another chassis bought from Kogarah Bus Service. Photo: Selwyn Dornan
No. 1 NUE-176 was one of two CCMC bodied Leyland Comets purchased from Parramatta-Villawood Bus Service in western Sydney. Photo: Selwyn Dornan
No. 7 NUW-770 pictured at the depot with the new shed built after the fire in January 1964. Photo: Peter Andersen

Engineering services

As an extra source of income in addition to their body building activities, the Cribb Island Bus Service workshop also performed rear-engine chassis conversions and other modifications for operators including Rex Law’s Redline Coaches and Bill Mitchell’s Charter Coaches. At this stage, rear-engine chassis were not readily available in Australia with the majority of vehicles still being of conventional front-engine design.

One of many rear-engine conversions performed at Cribb Island was an overhauled International KB5 chassis for Bill Mitchell’s Charter Coaches. It was fitted with a Leyland 400 engine and gearbox and a second hand TK Bedford front axle. Photo: Phil White
Pictured with the chassis from left to right is Fred Vulker, Ray White, and Ronnie Whitby. Photo: Phil White
No. 3 NXO-425 was the first rear engined coach at Cribb Island. It was a new Redman, Mitchell & Co body on a second hand Albion Valkyrie chassis from Brisbane City Council that had been overhauled and re-powered with an AEC AH470 motor. Photo: Bob Nean

Toombul Shoppingtown bus

The business became a three-way partnership in February 1967 when Licence 18 (Brisbane-Cribb Island) was transferred into the names of William White, Philip Campion White and Raymund William White. A new free shopper’s bus service commenced operation on 11 October 1967 concurrent with the opening of the Toombul Shoppingtown, servicing the suburbs of Hendra, Northgate and Wavell Heights. The service was predominately driven by Tom Collins a former employee of Redline Coaches.

The Toombul Shoppingtown service was later operated by No. 9 Daimler CVD6sd that was acquired from Brisbane City Council in 1972. Photo: Ian Lynas

Continental Coachlines

On 15 July 1968, a joint venture between the White family’s Red and White Coaches and the McGrath family’s Black & White Buses (Sandgate) was formalised upon the incorporation of ‘Continental Coachlines Pty Ltd’. This entity purchased Bill Mitchell’s booming Charter Coaches business under a vendor finance arrangement with a fleet of nine coaches comprising three Bedfords, two Albions, two Ansair Flxible Clippers, a White and a Toyota Coaster. These vehicles were combined with the McGrath’s and White’s respective charter fleets, as well as additional second hand coaches, to comprise a fleet of 44 vehicles.

This new enterprise immediately began operating educational trips all over Australia during the August school holidays that year. After this time, the fleet was relocated to a new depot site at 74 Montpelier Road, Bowen Hills which had belonged to Shell. With Phil and Ray focused on the new Continental venture, Bill oversaw the Cribb Island operation alongside manager Roy Campbell.

One of nine coaches purchased with Charter Coaches was NBJ-107 a 1943 White WA20 chassis with Bedford running gear fitted with a new body by Athol Hedges Pty Ltd during 1956. Photo: Vic Hayes
A coach integrated from the Red & White fleet into Continental Coachlines Pty Ltd was No. 3 NXO-425 which became No.63 at Continental. Photo: John Masterton 

Collapse of Continental

While the business was prosperous during school times, it was quiet during the remaining months of the year. That combined with vehicle repayments on the ten new Hino coaches meant the two families were unable to keep the business afloat any longer. Accordingly, the company ceased trading in early 1971. Some of the coaches were retained by the White and McGrath’s respective operations, while the Charter Coaches fleet returned to Bill Mitchell, and the remainder sold at auction.

Two of the three Freighter bodied Hino RC320P coaches that came into the Red and White fleet after the liquidation of Continental Coachlines Pty Ltd in 1971. Photo: Ken Magor
Purchased second hand from Skennar’s Coaches was this 1960 Freighter bodied Bedford SB3 pictured on an outback safari tour. Photo: Phil White

Commonwealth resumption

The fate of Cribb Island was sealed on 16 December 1971 when the Commonwealth Government released a master plan to redevelop Brisbane Airport which included the land adjacent to the north-eastern boundary of the existing airport. In anticipation of lodging a claim for compensation with the Commonwealth, a registered valuer examined the business in January 1974 and identified that charter and touring activities were a profitable adjunct to the regular suburban bus service of 28 runs each day. The report further noted that:

The business is sound and profitable but in the face of spiralling costs and heavy commitments needs careful management.

On 20 August 1974, approximately 1750 hectares of land in Cribb Island, Lower Nudgee and Myrtletown were compulsorily acquired by the Commonwealth Government, including the properties belonging to Bill and Mary White at 101-105 Cribb Parade, Cribb Island. In September 1974, the total overhead cost of running the Cribb Island buses was 47.5 cents per mile with a fleet of 14 buses operating 460,000 miles each year. With the writing on the wall, the majority of residents on Cribb Island vacated their properties by 1975.

One of three Athol Hedges bodied Daimler CVD6sd buses acquired from Brisbane City Council during 1972 was (10) OFB-963. Photo: Ian Lynas

Death of Bill White

Long standing proprietor Bill White passed away on 30 September 1975 aged 72 years. At this time, the fleet comprised 15 buses with 5 second hand AEC Reliance 470 buses from Melbourne being the last additions prior to Bill’s passing. The business continued to be carried on by Phil and Ray under a new entity “R & W. White Nominees Pty Ltd” from December 1975.

The last route buses purchased for Cribb Island were 5 second hand AEC Reliance 470 buses with Symons & Fowler 36-passenger bodies. They were purchased from Melbourne Brighton Bus Lines during 1975. Photo: Ian Lynas
No. 17 NQH-803 was one of two Denning bodied Leyland Lions that came into the fleet after the end of Continental Coachlines. They were part of four identical units purchased new by McGrath’s Black & White Buses in 1963. Photo: Geoff Foster
Letter to the Department of Transport on 3 February 1976 advising of their intention to close their Red and White Coaches/Cribb Island Bus Service business.

Last privately operated bus to Cribb Island

In light of dwindling patronage on account of the resumption of Cribb Island, brothers Phil and Ray made the difficult decision to surrender their passenger licence and permits with effect from 24 December 1976. In a letter to the Department of Transport on 3 February 1976, it was noted that the business was simply no longer viable and was only just covering the cost of wages on account of the fare subsidy received under the Urban Passenger Service Proprietors Assistance Act 1975 (Qld). Indeed, it was virtually impossible to obtain finance to establish a new depot at Nudgee given the elderly fleet composition and declining revenue.

In order to maintain a service to the remaining residents of Cribb Island, Brisbane City Council agreed to extend its existing service between Nudgee Orphanage and the City, to Cribb Island and Nudgee Beach for the first time. The last privately operated bus service to Cribb Island ran on 24 December 1976, ending the White family’s 23 year involvement with the operation.

The last timetable of the Cribb Island Bus Service dated 4 October 1976.

Brisbane City Council commenced operating services to Cribb Island and Nudgee Beach for the first time on Wednesday, 29 December 1976 with the following services:

  • Route 65 – Cribb Island-North Quay
  • Route 65A – Cribb Island-North Quay via Nudgee Beach
  • Route 65B – Cribb Island-North Quay direct via Nudgee Road, omitting Toombul Shoppingtown and Nudgee Beach

Relocation to Sandgate

The business relocated to Sandgate during January 1977 and retained its school services to the private colleges at Clayfield, as well as continuing its charter and touring activities. On 18 February 1977, R. & W. White Nominees Pty Ltd, a company owned by Phil and Ray White, purchased the former Hornibrook Highway Bus Service depot at Rainbow Street, Sandgate. Along with the property came a service station and spare parts business which was renamed “R & W Service Station” and “R & W Spares” respectively. This transaction involved the exchange of two 1969 Freighter bodied Hino RC320P coaches from the Red and White fleet to Hornibrook.

The Sandgate premises were sold on 18 February 1977 to R. & W. White Nominees Pty Ltd, a company owned by Red and White Coaches proprietors Phil and Ray White. The spare parts business later became Leyspares. Photo: Phil White
Article in The Echo newspaper on Wednesday, 26 January 1977 announcing the return of the White family to Sandgate.
Article in The Echo newspaper on Wednesday, 11 May 1977 celebrating the new-look Sandgate premises.

Sale of Red and White Coaches

With a view to downsizing their business, part of the fleet was sold and leased to five Red and White drivers. Roger Freeman bought No. 19 AEC and began trading as Freeman’s Coaches, while John Grattan bought No. 24 AEC and started trading as Peninsula Coachlines.

Meanwhile, three drivers entered into separate hire purchase agreements with R. & W. White Nominees Pty Ltd between January and February 1977, to operate charter and tours under the Red and White identity. Bevan and Fran Larsen received No. 15 Hino, while Kevin and Doris White received No. 17 Leyland, and Neville White received the newest coach in the fleet, No. 25 Hino.

No. 15 PES-063 was a Freighter bodied Hino RC100P and was operated by Bevan and Fran Larsen under a hire purchase arrangement from January 1977. Photo: Ian Lynas

This arrangement lasted until 1 February 1979 when Phil and Ray White sold their Red and White Coaches business to Bevan and Fran Larsen and Kevin and Doris White, with four vehicles comprising No. 15 Hino, No. 17 Leyland, No. 22 AEC, and No. 23 AEC.

Today, Red and White Coaches continues to operate at Sandgate and is proudly a family business owned and operated by Phil O’Riordan.