In the 1880s Sydney’s main streets were laid with durable hardwood blocks. The city was filled with the sound of steel-tyred buses and other vehicles rumbling over these blocks, accompanied by the clip clopping of countless horses’ hooves.
The horse bus was usually hauled by two horses. At peak times, or up steeper hills like William Street to Kings Cross, four horses were used. Upstairs seats, reached by a vertical ladder, were the domain of male passengers until the advent of a ‘safety stairway’ in about 1890 allowed women to enjoy the freedom of upper deck travel.
The bus was operated by the Sydney Tramway & Omnibus Company, the city’s largest omnibus company, which serviced most of the eastern suburbs. Signage on the bus indicates that the fare for the Macquarie Place to Woollahra route was two pence or ‘tuppence’ each way. The plodding pace of the horse buses, the increasing cost of feed, and the intense competition from cable and electric trams, brought the horse bus era in Australia to an end by about 1910.