Using the collection for photographic investigations by Steven Haby

Using the collection for photographic investigations by Steven Haby


A recent visitor to the PMI to discuss an upcoming publication on the history of Melbourne’s horse buses and trams shared with me a scanned slide of a Melbourne & Metropolitan Tramways Board bus taken sometime in the late 1950s or early 1960s.

By way of background the slide was one of several thousand taken by legendary tram and bus enthusiast Keith Kings who donated his collection recently to the State Library of Victoria. The slide has been scanned by the State Library as part of making Keith’s works available to the enthusiast and general public alike.

As some of you may be aware your Secretary Librarian is a keen railway, bus and tramway enthusiast and I showed this image to fellow enthusiast and Footscray Mechanics Institute Library Manager Luke Mitchell and both of us settled down to identify the location of and approximate date the photograph was taken. This was in response to the fact that the State Library of Victoria had not yet completed the indexing of Keith’s collection (Keith took meticulous notes).

So firstly Luke and I looked for clues contained in the slide which include:

  • The bus is parked on a road with tram tracks.
  • Preston OK Motors car yard
  • The phone number of the mechanics (J. McIntyre) XA1906
  • The cars in the yard and the yellow panel van on the right
  • The unusual shape of the building with the Penfolds Sherry sign

A search was then undertaken on the National Library of Australia’s Trove digitised newspaper collection for any reference to either “J. McIntyre” or “Preston Motors” which hopefully an address. Not surprisingly there were numerous references to both in the classified sections of The Age, The Argus and other newspapers but no specific addresses. Furthermore Preston Motors had more than one location across Melbourne (most of which were on tram routes).

Next we got down to specifics and turned to the Sands & McDougall directory of Melbourne and Victoria of which PMI has editions in book, electronic and microfiche formats. The ‘Sands’ is an excellent resource to track down details of what or who was at specific addresses as it is indexed by name, street and business type. Both “J. McIntyre” and “Preston Motors” were found and cross referenced to the specific street – in this case Chapel Street at the corner of Brighton Road and Grosvenor Street. This was further confirmed by referring to some old Morgan’s street directories of Melbourne which PMI has several.

Finally the date was hopefully further narrowed by searching for details about the cars and bus in the picture. Two of the cars in the yard were Holden “FE” models which were built around 1955-56 period. Details of the bus was found on a bus enthusiasts website which noted sparse details save for the fact that it was a Leyland RTS8c Tiger with bodywork by Cheetham & Borwick of Carlton.

The mystery was solved.


Image © and permission has been given by the copyright holder for the use of this image

Source: Keith Kings Public Transport Collection, Pictures Collection, State Library of Victoria



Plotting History: Steven Haby: How I use the PMI Victorian History Library collection

Plotting History: Steven Haby: How I use the PMI Victorian History Library collection


As readers may not be aware your Secretary Librarian is a keen student on bus, railway, shipping and tramway history and I’ve been a regular contributor to a number of journals. In preparing an article on, for example, bus services in Box Hill during the 1950s to 1970s I would often refer to the collection. I’d use it to source information regarding the development of the suburb that supported or influenced the growth of bus services in the area. Sources include established histories of Box Hill and surrounding suburbs and articles published in historical society journals

We also have a vertical file of ephemeral material such as brochures, maps or guides that, for example, would be too small to easily house within the collection. This collection provides another source of invaluable information about a specific area that may not have been included in a book or article. Images are also very important in helping create an impression of what a suburb or town would have been like during a particular time. The PMI Victorian History Library is developing a small but significant collection of images gathered from various sources. For example, the image above is taken from the Bus & Coach Society of Victoria’s CD collection of Victorian bus body builders from the 1920s to the 1980s. Here we see a GFM-071 a Ford with A. E. Grummet & Son bodywork from the early 1950s at Wattle Park. The bus belonged to F. H. Rennie & Son which operated a tram feeder service from Burwood tram to Box Hill station via Wattle Park tram. Note the wonderful detail of the shopping centre in the background including signage for the State Savings Bank of Victoria and Street’s Ice Cream, and the arrangement of the tramway wiring including the green lighting housing powered from the tram wires. Furthermore apart from the bus there is only one other car in the picture.

These sorts of street scenes provide much needed and rich sources of information to the historian when writing about a locality.

To avoid the misappropriation that local histories can appear to be dry and uninteresting, the use of ephemeral material and images where possible will dramatically improve the appeal of the definitive history of whatever town/area is being written about.

Steven Haby

Secretary Librarian