The Launch of the Great Western Railway’s Road Motor Services

August 17, 1903

The Great Western Railway (GWR), which originated in the 1830s and operated throughout western England as well as most of Wales, began a new type of transit option for its passengers traveling to rural areas without direct access to trains. The GWR road motor services were seen as a cheaper alternative to building railroad lines in those areas and involved having motor vehicles pick up passengers at train stations and take those individuals to their otherwise tough-to-reach destinations. F.C.A. Coventry oversaw the operations of these motor vehicles in his capacity as GWR’s superintendent of road transport.

The first route for the GWR road services covered 10 miles (16.1 kilometers) in southwestern England between the train station in the town of Helston and – overlooking the Celtic Sea – the Lizard peninsula. This route was formally launched on Monday, August 17, 1903, following a series of trial runs throughout the weekend. 

The vehicles made available for the new route were two single-deck buses jointly created by tramcar manufacturer G.F. Milnes & Company and automotive pioneer Daimler Motor Company Limited. The London-based Daily Mail newspaper reported that the vehicles stopped “at five different points en route for the most populous villages, and are run in conjunction with some of the most important trains.” In appraising the success of these inaugural runs for the GWR road motor services, the Daily Mail noted that the overall ridership “exceeded all expectations, both cars being needed.”

The GWR road services subsequently expanded its reach elsewhere in England and also in Wales. The chocolate-and-cream colored vehicles used for the routes became a familiar sight in those regions, and the GWR road services made history as the first successful bus operations run by a British railroad. The enterprise remained in operation until 1933, with GWR ultimately handing over the management of the routes to private bus companies.

For more information on the Great Western Railway road motor services, please check out


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