Doyle’s Bus Service

Between January 1973 and August 1998, a period of over 25 years, Kevin and Beryl Doyle operated buses plying between Brisbane’s south west suburbs and the greater Ipswich region.

Around 1958, Kev Doyle started as a mechanic and then driver for Miller’s Coaches who operated between Toowoomba-Brisbane-Lismore. Photo: Ken Magor

Highway Coaches

The Doyles were certainly no strangers to buses with Kev starting out in the industry around 1958 as a mechanic and then driver with Miller’s Coaches, who operated a passenger service between Toowoomba, Brisbane and Lismore. It was not long after joining Millers that Kev pioneered a service run of his own linking Brisbane and Kingscliff, just over the New South Wales border. A few Volkswagen Kombi vans were purchased to operate the run which traded under the name of ‘Highway Coaches’ – because of the predominate journey along the Pacific Highway.  Kev retained employment at Millers for approximately two years before he left to foster his own business by 1960. 

By 1960, Kev started ‘Highway Coaches’ running between Brisbane and Kingscliff using Volkswagen Kombi vans. Photo: Kev Doyle

In between time spent operating Highway Coaches, Kev worked for operators including Bill Mitchell’s Tamborine Bus Service before joining the Brisbane City Council as a tram conductor at their Paddington depot on 16 November 1961.  Despite taking on a full time role Kev continued operating Highway Coaches until 1963 when it was given to a long-term friend to run before the business folded altogether. By this stage he had served his apprenticeship as a tram conductor which qualified him to move onto trolley bus and diesel bus driving at the Council’s Milton Road depot which officially materialised on Christmas Day 1962. Kev stayed in this position for just over five years until he transferred to the Council’s finance division, as a parking inspector from 23 February 1968. It was during the beginning of the 1970s that Kev and his wife Beryl looked to buy a bus operation in Queensland and had contemplated a couple of businesses, including the remnants of McCulloch’s in Warwick and a portion of Greenline Transit, south of Brisbane. However, operator and government intervention respectively prevented any sale from occurring. 

Start of Carole Park Bus Service

Late one afternoon during 1972 while Kev was performing his duties as a parking inspector, he came across a Mr George Smith who had unbeknownst to him, parked his bus in a no standing area on the overpass at Turbot Street in Brisbane. After Kev showed him where he could lawfully park his vehicle, Mr Smith mentioned that he was looking to sell part of the business he part-owned near Ipswich. As the Doyles could not afford to completely buy him out at the time, Kev struck an agreement in October 1972 to purchase the Wacol Station to Inala school service which formed part of Licence 101 (Wacol Railway Station-Carole Park-Richlands) held by Jacaranda Bus Company/Goodna Bus Service, owned by proprietors George Smith and Harry Jones.

It was agreed between the parties to allow the existing licensee see out the rest of the year, and handover operation to Kev and Beryl in January 1973.  No vehicles were included in the sale of the run from the Goodna Bus Service, with Kev deciding to separately purchase buses from Pioneer Bus Service of Ipswich, who had only recently taken over the nearby business of Red & White Bus Service. Three Austins buses were purchased from Pioneer Ipswich, the first a 1953 model with Athol Hedges bodywork (new to Red & White), the second a 1960 model with an Athol Hedges kit body (assembled by Red & White) and finally a Syd Wood bodied Austin which was thrown in for parts. 

This 1953 Athol Hedges bodied Austin was one of the first buses owned by Doyles. Photo: Kevin Doyle

From 29 January 1973, the first day of the school year, the Doyles commenced trading as ‘Carole Park Bus Service’ and replaced the single school bus run with a relatively full service which consisted of a trip for workers during peak hours from Wacol Station to Carole Park housing estate and return, before proceeding as a ‘through’ service to the Inala Civic Centre for shoppers during the day. During the first year of business both Kev and Beryl retained their respective jobs by employing two drivers, one full time and the other part time, to operate the services on their behalf.

Income on the run for their first month was considerably lean, with only $586.85 worth of takings recorded for the duration of February. During the first six months of operation, the Doyles stored their buses behind the Shell service station at Wacol, before moving them to their new house on a half-acre block at 66 Cochrane Street in Camira. By the end of 1973 the increased services they had introduced in their service area began paying dividends, with monthly income in November totally $779.64, which allowed Kev and Beryl to upgrade their fleet.

This Athol Hedges bodied Bedford SB was one of two second hand buses acquired from Casino, New South Wales. Photo: Kevin Doyle

Fleet replacements

As a result of New South Wales introducing an average fleet age requirement, operators were required to regularly turnover their vehicles. This meant that a lot of relatively new vehicles were put up for sale, including two Bedfords for sale in Casino – which the Doyles subsequently purchased in December 1973. While one of the Bedfords was disposed of within days of purchase, the other took the place of the older Austin in the fleet. The introduction of free passes for school children and increased charter work now provided an adequate income for Kev and Beryl to leave their respective jobs during January 1974 and join the business full time. By the middle of that year their monthly takings for July had grown to $1,010.57 – almost double what they took in their first month.  

Acquired second hand from the Brisbane City Council was this 1963 Athol Hedges bodied AEC Regal VI, which was a demonstrator vehicle fitted with a torque-convertor transmission. Photo: Ian Lynas

Purchase of Jacaranda Bus Service

The name ‘Doyle’s Charter Buses’ was registered on 24 December 1974 and was first introduced onto an Athol Hedges bodied Bedford VAM 3 which had been procured from Snell’s Bus Service in Biloela. This was also the year that Beryl obtained her bus license which enabled her to work the runs whenever Kev was called away on charter. As regular charter work was undertaken, the Doyles committed to the purchase of their first new bus from Motor Body Specialists for a cost of $24,890 during March 1976. By December 1977, the Doyles successfully negotiated to take over George Smith’s remaining operation, which by this stage was trading as ‘Jacaranda Bus Service’ after his partnership with Harry Jones dissolved in the Goodna Bus Service. 

The takeover of Jacaranda saw the acquisition of their Camira to Gailes Station school run, a Thursday-only shopper’s service from Camira to Indooroopilly Shopping Centre, plus a 1969 Athol Hedges bodied Albion Viking VK41L bus. The only route not incorporated with the purchase of Jacaranda was a twice-daily workers service operating from Camira and Gailes to Wacol Station, which the Doyles had in fact operated on Jacaranda’s behalf under a letter of authority arrangement from 1975 until the service was given away altogether in December 1977. Mirroring their first purchase, the Camira to Gailes Station school run was converted into individual services for school children, shoppers and workers from the first day of operation in January 1978. As an alternative to purchasing the remainder of Jacaranda’s operational fleet, Kev and Beryl decided to take on three AEC Regal city buses from the Brisbane City Council, which commenced operation on their new services. 

The sole bus acquired from Jacaranda Bus Service in December 1977 was this 1969 Athol Hedges bodied Albion Viking VK41L. It is pictured here in Jacaranda’s Goodna depot in October 1971. Photo: Vic Hayes
Another two former Brisbane City Council buses, as well as a Denning coach, are pictured here at the depot during the mid-1980s. Photo: Ian Lynas

Name change to Doyle’s Bus Lines

With their buses now regularly travelling through the neighbouring suburbs of Camira and Gailes, the trading name officially changed to ‘Doyle’s Bus Lines’ from 15 March 1978. In 1979, the Ipswich Boys and Girls Grammar Schools approached Kev and Beryl to commence school services to the new Centenary Estates and Kenmore, which were operated by a large bus and mini bus respectively. With the opening of the Centenary Shopping Centre came a new passenger service operating between the complex and Camira from 4 February 1980. This new service was significant in that it was operated exclusively by mini buses – the first time such vehicles had been allowed to do so anywhere in Queensland. After the Department of Transport allowed operators to use mini buses where patronage was at its lowest, the Doyles regularly used mini buses between 9:00am and 2:30pm on all their services. 

Mirroring the preceding decade, the 1980s saw the fleet frequently turned over as a number of second hand buses and coaches from New South Wales were purchased, operated and then disposed of at various stages. Three buses were also purchased new during 1980 and 1981, consisting of a Domino bodied IBC, a Pressed Metal bodied Denning Denflex, and a Domino integral with CAT engine. The trading name ‘Westside Bus Company’ was registered on 17 August 1984, but was only applied to the vehicles later on. In September 1985, Redbank Plaza Shopping Centre opened to cater for residents in newly developed housing estates in the vicinity. Before too long locals had begun complaining about the lengthy trip Sundowner Scenic Tours operated from Goodna Shops to Redbank Plaza, which was resolved by extending the Doyle’s service from Camira to Goodna Shops and then onto Redbank Plaza under another letter of authority arrangement. 

In 1980, this IBC chassis with CAT 3208 rear engine was bodied by Domino and purchased brand new. Photo: Ian Lynas
This 1974 Domino-Hedges bodied Bedford YRT was acquired from Liverpool Transport Co of Hillview, NSW during 1981. Photo: Vic Hayes
In 1981, this Denning Denflex with PMC Sydney body was added to the Doyle’s charter fleet. Photo: Ian Lynas
(209) 179-OKW was a 1981 Domino purchased for route and school services. Photo: Ian Lynas

Expansion of services

By the end of 1985, the Doyle’s had purchased three former STA Adelaide AEC Swift 691s due to their suitability for route work. Further development in Redbank Plains saw a new school run commence operation from Camira to Gailes then express to the newly opened Redbank Plains High School in January 1987. It was around this period that there had been corresponding growth on the Ipswich Grammar school services with Doyles now operating four buses to Chapel Hill/Kenmore, Darra, Browns Plains/Forest Lake and Camira/Gailes – with the Centenary Heights run previously relinquished to Geoff Philp’s Centenary Bus Service during 1981. As their fleet continued to expand year on year, Kev and Beryl looked to relocate from their current home and depot at Cochrane Street which had reached maximum capacity. A four-acre property at Tile Street in the Wacol industrial estate was soon purchased and was subsequently refurbished before re-zoning by the council forced the Doyles to sell and contemplate what they would do next.  

(202) 826-AKY was an ex-Adelaide AEC Swift 760 built by PMCSA that was acquired in November 1987. Photo: Ian Lynas
The second ex-Adelaide AEC Swift 706/PMCSA operated by Doyle’s was (211) 089-ALU. Photo: Ian Lynas
Acquired second hand from Coleman of Red Hill, NSW was this 1980 Nambucca bodied IBC Mk III chassis with CAT 3208 rear-engine. Photo: Doyle Family Collection

Tours and charter

Complementing their mainstay school and urban services plus general charter, Kev and Beryl would also conduct their own specialised tours for seniors travel groups – which regularly saw Kev behind the wheel as Beryl performed hostess duties. In 1991, the Doyles had resolved their depot capacity problems after successfully negotiating with Tasmanian company APM, to purchase a 1.5ha block of forestry land at the end of Old Logan Road, Camira. The neighbouring land to their newly purchased property was identified by Kev and Beryl to be ideal for future expansion – given it was anticipated to house over 40,000 residents in the future years to come. By this time Kev and Beryl’s two sons had joined the family business in full time capacities, with eldest son John assisting Beryl in operations and youngest son Alan helping Kev with fleet management. An agreement struck with the Brisbane City Council saw Leyland Panthers No. 675 and 721, plus Volvo B59 No. 802, operating for Doyles under a lease agreement.

Pictured away on tour in Tasmania is (203) 203-AQC a 1989 Motorcoach integral with Cummins L10 engine. Photo: Doyle Family Collection
This 1987 Austral Tourmaster was acquired at auction following the collapse of Deluxe Coachlines in 1990. Photo: Ian Lynas

New Springfield depot

The operation completely shifted to Old Logan Road on 14 April 1993 after it was officially opened by Minister for Transport, David Hamill, in front of family, friends and industry colleagues.  Having taken under two years to develop at a cost of $600,000 the Doyles were lauded for heavily investing in their business during an era where many others in the industry were facing challenging times. When the new depot opened the Doyle’s operated a total of 16 vehicles, consisting of 13 school and route service buses and three coaches. Their fleet was also one of the newest throughout the state at the time – with an average fleet age of only eight years. By September that year, the Doyles had purchased the three vehicles that had been loaned to them by the Brisbane City Council, plus Panther No. 564 for parts.

The Doyle’s new Springfield depot was officially opened on 14 April 1993. Photo: Australian Bus & Coach Magazine
Beryl and Kev Doyle pictured on the official open day of their new Springfield depot on 14 April 1993. Photo: Australian Bus & Coach Magazine

The next year saw a number of changes to the Doyle’s route network, beginning with the extension of the Camira service to Springfield from 7 March 1994. Springfield was the newly formed suburb to the south of Camira which had been nothing but former forestry land three years earlier, was now being developed into new housing estates. The urban services were then overhauled from 31 October 1994, which saw the introduction of route numbers to aid the identification of numerous service variations which had been newly split from the services the Doyles originally purchased. Included in the sweeping changes was a completely a new crosstown service between Wacol Station and Browns Plains, which was primarily operated by minibuses before being cancelled due to low patronage. 

(202) 336-CMG was a PMC bodied Mercedes Benz O305 purchased from the State Transit Authority in Sydney. Photo: Ian Lynas

First low floor route bus in Queensland

In 1996, the Doyles invested in another round of new vehicles for their fleet as a luxurious three-axle touring coach was delivered in June before the first of two MAN 10.155 wheelchair accessible low floors soon after in September.  The Motorcoach Australia built high-deck coach was fitted with a range of features including: 48 seat belted coach seats, a toilet, driver’s bunk, wardrobe and fridge. The delivery of these new route buses was not only a significant milestone for the greater Brisbane and Ipswich region but is also believed to have been the first wheelchair accessible vehicles to operate route services anywhere in Queensland. The project was certainly no easy feat, which not only took significant lobbying by Beryl on behalf of elderly residents to Queensland Transport, but took almost six months to complete by south-Brisbane based manufacturer Autobus. The MAN 10.155 chassis was chosen because of its manoeuvrability in the new Forest Lake and Springfield estates, which had particularly narrow streets and bountiful chicanes. By December 1996, the second low floor had been delivered which saw the retirement of elderly vehicles from the urban services.

This luxurious three-axle touring coach was manufactured by Motorcoach Australia during June 1996. Photo: Doyle Family Collection
One of three vehicles purchased second hand from Picton Buslines in NSW was (215) 442-DID a 1982 Custom Coaches bodied International ACCO1830T. Photo: Ian Lynas
(211) 503-DPM is believed to have been the first wheelchair accessible vehicle introduced to route service in Queensland. Photo: Ian Lynas

Sale of Westside Bus Company

The only significant change to the fleet across the next year and a half was the acquisition of two Internationals and a Bedford from New South Wales, a regular source of replacement school buses for the Doyle’s fleet during the previous two decades. By mid-1998, Kev and Beryl decided to retire from the industry altogether and consequently split the business in two with the Pulitano family of Victoria purchasing the Westside Bus Company business with all their school and urban services plus 18 vehicles on Saturday, 22 August 1998. The second part of the sale saw the ‘Doyle’s Bus Lines’ trading name and all charter work sold to Wally Horwood’s Southern Cross Transit on the same day. The weekend before the sale saw the donation of Leyland Panther No. 721 to the Queensland Bus & Coach Society (later renamed Queensland Omnibus & Coach Society) on Sunday 16 August 1998 – which kicked off the preservation of vehicles by the club.

On Sunday 16 August 1998, Doyles donated ex-Brisbane City Council Bus No. 721, the last Leyland Panther built by A.B. Denning & Co during 1970, to the Queensland Omnibus & Coach Society. Photo: Doyle Family Collection

All remaining vehicles were transferred to the new owners of Westside Bus Company, apart from the Motorcoach which was bought by Scania, who in turn on-sold it to McCafferty’s Coaches.  The Pulitanos continued to operate out of the Doyle’s Springfield depot for two years until they relocated to new premises at Redbank. The Doyle’s name continues to live on in Ipswich today with John Doyle operating services under contract to Ipswich Grammar School since 2003.

The Doyle’s staff pictured in front of their last brand new coach prior to takeover by the Pulitano family on 22 August 1998. Photo: Doyle Family Collection