Katoomba's pioneer bus service

November 2019 marks 100 years since the first motor bus service began plying between Katoomba Railway Station and Echo Point.

In the early 1900s the urban area of Katoomba was largely limited to a five minute walking distance of the station. For areas further out those without their own means of transport or a desire to walk had to rely on hiring horse cabs, and later the occasional motor car.

There was a push by 1913 to develop a passenger tramway from Katoomba station to Echo Point, a cheap and reliable transport system that could cater to the spread of housing and also increasing visitation.

The state government provided a costing to Katoomba Municipal Council of various options and formed a Tramway Proposals Committee that held a public hearing in 1914. That concluded that a strong enough case was not presented to proceed further with the proposal. Another push in the early 1920s likewise came to nothing.

Poor roads were an early hindrance to motorbus services across NSW, but after World War I these services began appearing in increasing numbers.

In September 1919 Bertha Tweedie put her proposal to council to run a motorbus service between the railway station and Echo Point. Being the first received, her application was the first considered and approved on the timetable, route and fares submitted. She commenced the service on November 17, 1919.

The charge for hiring a public vehicle at the time to Echo Point was 2/- per passenger, while the new bus service charged a full fare of 6d. After a while Bertha had competitors on the route as council could not at the time give exclusive right of road to one operator. These included Mountain Coaching & Motoring Co Ltd (Tabrett), Percy Hammon, and Michael Reilly. In February 1920 she applied for and was granted licenses to also operate Katoomba to Leura township via Bathurst Road, and Katoomba to Gordon Falls.

In 1921 council did not renew her license to operate Katoomba to Gordon Falls. Unperturbed however she continued to run a bus on the route. As a consequence none of her other licenses were renewed by Council in January 1922.

She took council to court over the decision claiming a right to the services, and in March 1922 the judge ruled in favour of council. She then appealed to the Full Court which in September 1922 upheld the earlier decision. So the Tweedie name disappeared from local bus services.

A century and numerous operators later this today is by far the busiest bus route in the Blue Mountains, still catering to locals and tourists.