Coach pioneer leaves legacy

MOST people living on the North Coast these days would not have heard of the New England Motor Company or of its founder, George Albert Robinson.

However, George and his company played a major role in the motor and air transport industries not only in our area but throughout Australia.

G.A. Robinson was born in the Macleay River District in 1880, the son of George and Emma Robinson.

His father operated boats and passenger ferries on the Macleay and George Albert started his working life firstly as a deck hand and later as a pilot on these boats.

However, in 1909 he decided to become a land-lubber and, having purchased a horse and sulky, started conveying passengers to and from North Coast steamers at Trial Bay and Kempsey.

With growing demand for this service George quickly purchased a buggy and two horses.

However, this too was replaced when he purchased a two-cylinder Talbot car in 1910 and a four-cylinder Clement Bayard soon afterwards. In 1911 he designed a vehicle built on a Berliet chassis and which would carry 12 passengers.

This vehicle was used between Kempsey and Taree.

About this time the North Coast railway was gradually extending northwards out of Sydney and though his coaches linked passengers to railway stations George could see that there was more scope for his enterprise on the Far North Coast.

In 1918 he moved to Casino where he purchased a garage and established a service between Casino, Tenterfield and Lismore.

The headquarters was later moved to Lismore and a company formed. Its motto was ‘Fidelity and Confidence'. In line with the motto strict adherence was given to vehicle maintenance and timetabling.

Over the years, services were extended throughout the North Coast.

Coach services met trains at Tenterfield and Grafton. These services continued even when the railway link was completed between Grafton and Casino and the bridge opened over the Clarence River.

A service was also provided between Murwillumbah and Tweed Heads, and later this was extended to Brisbane.

In the late 1920s a service began between Brisbane and Sydney. This was the first inter-capital service to operate in Australia.

The comfort of passengers was important as well as speed and punctuality.

Because of this, the best available in passenger vehicles were purchased, with large windows to give plenty of air as well as allow passengers an uninterrupted view of beautiful scenery.

Blinds were also provided to protect passengers from unwanted sun glare or to allow others to sleep.

Well-appointed and up-to-date terminus buildings were provided, allowing passengers to relax before and after journeys.

Magnificent new premises were opened in 1956 in Lismore opposite the Lismore croquet lawn.

Not content with road transport George Albert established himself as an air transport pioneer.

In 1931 New England Airways was established and this later became Airlines of Australia and then Australian National Airways (ANA).

Eventually this became part of the Ansett empire. As with road transport safety and reliability were of major importance. Only the best pilots and engineers were employed.

When George Albert Robinson died in 1953 he left behind him a solid company with his two sons as managers.

In 1970 the company was sold to Kirklands.

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