Central SMT

Timetables : Memories from Down Under

The article reproduced below is by Duncan MacAuslan, a native of Edinburgh who now lives in Australia. Duncan's grandparents had a newsagents shop in Hamilton, at the top of Low Waters Brae in Cadzow, and they were ticket and parcel agents for Central SMT. Duncan spent many holidays in the shop, selling tickets for the red buses, so different in appearance from his native city's madder and white.

Duncan's main transport interests focus on Edinburgh and Sydney, but thankfully he hasn't forgotten his childhood Central experiences. Not being a mechanical type, his main interests are in the timetables and social history of buses, and in the ferries of his new home city. He also does voluntary work at the Sydney Bus & Truck Museum where, in his own words : "we have the luxury of operating several preserved double-deck half-cabs, including Albions, and some of the ugliest Atlanteans in the world!"

My Grandparents' Shop

In the early 1960s the various companies comprising the Scottish Bus Group published timetable books of a uniform size and format. There were at least 6 in the set from Scottish Omnibuses, Central SMT, Western SMT, Alexander's (Midland), Alexander's (Fife) and Alexander's (Northern). Each had a different coloured cover and contained not only the timetables but other details such as general notices (usually rules and regulations), a complete - but too small to read - map, fares, diagrams of bus stations, adverts for private hire, etc. As well they listed all the parcels and booking agents in their operating area. Of interest in these lists was the inclusion of their early closing day - all shops in most towns and villages closed on one afternoon, usually Tuesday or Wednesday, to compensate for opening on Saturday afternoons. The validity of a timetable was usually for summer (May  to October) and winter (October to May).

I was recently able to acquire (for £12.00 as against a cover price of 4d) a Winter 1962 timetable book for Central SMT, who operated in Lanarkshire (south of Glasgow) and Dunbartonshire (north west of Glasgow), the distinctly separate areas being the result of acquisitions prior to nationalisation. With a red cover and having 148 pages plus a paper cover it contains 100 separate tables (numbered 1 - 94 plus some such as 37C) in what appears to be a random sequence of route numbers. In fact the tables progress from east to west across the operating area and service numbers are related to time of introduction, not the area. Thus table 1 is for service 38 in Biggar and table 94 for summer-only service 83 at Balloch on Loch Lomond.

The timetables are in standard British format with time points on the left and services in columns. There are many footnotes covering services to factories and mines, e.g. “D - When not required for Douglas Area Quarries operates at authorised Sunday time of 6.7am ex Lesmahagow” or “CTS - As required for miners on Saturday, commences Thinacre Mine 6 minutes earlier”. These reflect the then heavy dependence on coal mining in the area.

Why the title of this article? Well, my grandparents owned a news agency in Eddlewood and were both a ticket agent and parcels agent. Thus my grandmother’s name appears twice in this issue. I was interested in these wonderful timetable books even then as a ten year old and had amassed a collection of old issues from their shop. Somehow they didn’t survive the migration to Australia and now I’m paying for them!

Click on the illustrations to see full-size extracts from the 1962 timetable.