25th October 2023

Pioneer Tours

Backmark: Stokes & Sons Melb. The compass surrounding the outline of Australia dates from around the late 1940s- early 1960s.

Albert Arthur Withers was the pioneer of this company with origins as a one coach business in 1905, building up a fleet of coaches which became Withers P/L in 1914, then the Pioneer Tourist Couches in 1923.  In 1923 you could tour places such as Yarra Glen, Christmas Hills, Mornington, Sassafrass, the Grampians, Gippsland including Buchan Caves, Warburton and a “Grand Sydney Tour”. In 1927 they offered transport to the opening of the Federal Parliament in Canberra. The following year they started tours of Central Australia and the Northern territory.

Bruce Howard Collection. Libraries Australia #46721358. Pioneer coach c.1925

Walkabout magazine, 1st January 1937 page 6. They offered tours through their own bureaus.

The first around Australia Tour was held in 1934.

Border Morning Mail (Albury NSW), 1st November 1944 page 5.

Restrictions of petrol sales halted the tours during WW2, but they resumed in 1945. In 1944 Ansett Airways Limited had bought the firm with plans to expand the services and co-ordinate then with its plane trips. The company ran 84 coaches by that stage.

To complement the business, Ansett planned to build a chain luxury hotels along focal points of the routes, and started to buying existing hotels and also to build new accomodation, under a new subsidiary called Poineer Hotels P/L. They established a body-building plant in Essendon to produce luxury coaches. By 1947 they had 115 vehicles, ran 210 routes (in all states except for Western Australia) and carried nearly 2000 tourists a day staying in 26 hotels. They had set up garages to service the fleet. “With a sense of achievement” Ansett advertised:

The Daily telegraph (Sydney), 30th November 1947 page 40. The hotel business was renamed Ansett Hotels P/L around 1952.

The Bulletin, 6th October 1948 page 4. The compass symbol caan be seen, without the outline of Australia.

With fuel shortages gradually being  addressed, overland buses to Perth started in 1948, as well as services to Broken Hill. There were now over 150 vehicles in operation, 28 hotels and 5000 tourists carried each week in Victoria alone. In 1950 the firm was applying for permission to build bigger coaches, to increase seating from 10 to 20 passengers. This was why the number of coaches were able to be reduced from 173 down to 135 in 1952. Ansett were finding running of luxury hotels very expensive, and decided not to expand this area of the business further. They had to drop tariffs to Hayman Island to get more visitors.

From 1954 the touring company was known as Ansett-Pioneer Tours.

Pioneer Express services, rather than touring, began with daily Melbourne-Sydney journey, in 1955. This was renamed Ansett Roadlines of Australia in 1958.

Ansett Pioneer was sold in 1986 then split up in 1988. In 1993 the various coach firms were merged into Greyhound Pioneer Australia.

Mimag magazine, July 1964 page 19. See the symbol on the door.

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