Saturday, September 26, 2009

Tranzit -what's in a name

Like most kiwis I orientate more towards English or European culture. However the USA has given the world something beyond the incredible richness of music born in the south, birthplace of jazz, blues, country, cajun, bluegrass and rock. It is the simple term "transit" to refer to public transport. The term is standard throughout  North America (i.e in Canada too) and has been adopted to some extent in Australia eg NSW State Transit Authority. I find "Public transport" is a clumsy term to use, and reeks of stale old leather seats and lumbering old buses of eras gone by. A very dowdy image. The word "Transit" may have that image overseas, but it's still fresh here. Like modern buses it's quick and easy to use.

"Tranzit" spelt with a Z is actually also the name of a lower North Island bus company, one of those great family bus firms, spanning several generations, that are still found in the bus industry in a way rarely found in many other walks of life. That dweadful wabit with the debonair pose [see profile photo] was photographed only about 50 metres from Tranzit's original home base, when they were operating as Blue Bus Services out of a depot in Queen Street, Masterton. I well remember Mr (David?) Snelgrove - the ultimate role model of a bus driver, from brylcremed hair combed back to white shirt and blue tie. Also his opposition the incredible Martin Smith, with his tieless suit jacket and trilby hat, and leaned pinched face, a real character straight out of the depression. Us kids would bike past his small backstreet depot on a summer evening and see Martin Smith scrupulously washing and polishing his buses. These were mostly pre-world war II buses with huge leather seats, engines boxed forward of driver (lights on the separate mudguards) and the ultimate "modern" 1930s streamlined shape, sloping backs. One or some even had had a divided, oval shaped back window. A childhood legend was that British Leyland actually gave Martin Smith a brand new Leyland Royal Tiger, in exchange for taking one of his immaculate, still working, vintage buses back to their museum in the UK...not sure how true! When I say opposition to Blue Bus it might be misconstrued, because I believe the Snelgroves used to help out Martin Smith, even inviting him around for tea after a hard day.

Ps After writing this I thought, I wonder if any photographs exist of those Martin Smith image turned up not just historic photos but the very buses themselves, sitting in magnificent dusty dignity in some secret private bus museum.
NOTE since I first added this as a link, GEOCITIES has been dissolved, so I no longer can offer direct access to the source of this photo. I hope the photographer will not mind that I have printed as is - the more so because this is not a museuam the public can visit


  1. your site is very nice, very useful for me , i bookmarked your blog

  2. Mine is 'the secret private bus museum' and no, there is no truth in the childhood rumour that BL gave Martin a brand new bus in exchange for one of his old ones. Bar the NZMB Comet all seven are in my shed.

  3. Is that secret private bus museum owned by a Snelgrove?

    1. No, Yankee friend, that secret private bus museum is not owned by a Snelgrove...

  4. i have a 53 Leyland comet that used to belong to Midlands in Christchurch and then was sold on to newtons in Dunedin. I have been trying to find images and information about its history. would the anonymous private bus museum owner have any info??

  5. No, Anonymous, I regret that the anonymous private museum owner does not have any information on Midland Motors vehicles. You could try the Omnibus Society.

  6. Hello Anonymous museum owner. I remember as a child the green Cadillac with the big headlights and the Ford V8 that you have in your museum stopping outside our house in Ashhurst. I would love to see these again. any chance ??