Come for a ride in a Charabanc!

Charabanc - Australia - 1920s

When I first came across this particular photo amongst our family photograph collection, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had never in my life seen such a strange looking vehicle! It took a lot of rummaging around on the internet with some creative search parameters to finally identify this vehicle as a “charabanc”.

“A what?!” I hear you ask. Glad you did.

A charabanc, or char-a-banc, is a type of touring bus mainly used for sight-seeing, though I have also seen reference to them being used as normal buses – even school buses. Charabancs began as horse-drawn vehicles and eventually evolved into motorised versions. According to various online speaking dictionaries I tried, it is pronounced: sharra-bang.

Charabancs were popularly used for special events and it was a common sight to see charabancs crammed to overflowing with happy revellers. The annual workers’ day picnic in the country or trip to the seaside was an often keenly anticipated event by many employees and the charabanc was frequently the vehicle of choice to get them there. Charabancs were used all over the world though their popularity seems to have began to wane after the 1920s.

Flyer - 'Beautiful Melbourne, Motor Char-a-banc Trips', 1910s

Flyer – ‘Beautiful Melbourne, Motor Char-a-banc Trips’, 1910s – front page (Unknown designer, Museums Victoria, https://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/items/1775672)

The Charabanc “Experience”

Charabancs were rather primitive vehicles and not really known for comfort. One newspaper article opens with this description of a typical charabanc ride:

Whereas an invitation to ride in a motor car is accepted as a favour, an offer of a trip in a charabanc leaves one cold. One envisages a picture of endless crawling in bottom gear, a system shaken up by running on solid tyres, the smell of overheated metal, and so on.1

I think this old postcard also succinctly, if colourfully, describes the charabanc “experience”:

Holiday postcard featuring charabanc - H.B. Ltd: 1910-1940. Monash University Library Rare Books Collection Online: Seaside Postcard Collection: http://arrow.monash.edu.au/hdl/1959.1/737681

Holiday postcard featuring charabanc – H.B. Ltd: 1910-1940. (Monash University Library Rare Books Collection Online: Seaside Postcard Collection: http://arrow.monash.edu.au/hdl/1959.1/737681)

Safety First?

Not only were they usually uncomfortable, they didn’t seem to be particularly safe either. Being rather top-heavy, as you can see from our photograph, charabancs tended to overturn rather easily – somewhat like modern SUVs. Trove throws up many, many articles about charabanc accidents – rolling over, colliding into other vehicles or trains, toppling down hills and embankments, and so forth.

Charabanc accident - 1912 (State Library of South Australia - PRG 280/1/14/571)

Charabanc accident – abt 1912 (State Library of South Australia – PRG 280/1/14/571)

Various newspaper articles about charabanc accidents in Australia and overseas

Various newspaper articles about charabanc accidents in Australia and overseas2-7 – [click to enlarge]

The Shape of Me and Other Stuff

The charabanc in our photo looks rather similar to the 16 passenger Hudson Super-Six Charabanc below though ours appears to sit higher off the ground. Making it more top-heavy, perhaps? Note that the article says the front portion of the roof is removable and may explain why our photo shows only a partial roof.

The 16-passenger Hudson Super-Six Charabanc

The 16-passenger Hudson Super-Six Charabanc (1925, October 18. Truth (Sydney, NSW : 1894 – 1954), p. 6. http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article168704297)

 

However, charabancs come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.

Charabancs in the country bat 1920 - State Library of South Australia - B 70865/14

Charabancs in the country – abt 1920 (State Library of South Australia, Leaver Family Collection – B 70865/14)

A Lewis State Tourist Bureau Albion Charabanc (State Library of Australia - B 9231)

A Lewis State Tourist Bureau Albion Charabanc – they look so stiff, I can’t tell whether they are enjoying themselves (State Library of South Australia – B 9231)

An outing in a charabanc - abt 1925 (State Library of South Australia - B62619)

An outing in a charabanc – abt 1925. They look rather precarious to me! (State Library of South Australia – B62619)

And last, but not least, here is a photo from my own personal experience of a modern charabanc from our African safari in Botswana. After researching this article, I realised that I also had ridden in a charabanc without even being aware I was doing so. However, unlike the older versions, our truck was surprisingly comfortable given the rough tracks we travelled over. And it was lots of fun!

Botswana - Africa - safari - charabanc - truck

A Botswanan version of a charabanc from our African safari

 

Have you ever had a charabanc ride or know someone who has? Please tell us about it!

 

Sources

1 NEW CHARABANC (1923, August 28). News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 – 1954), p. 7 (HOME EDITION). Retrieved July 6, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article129817206
2 CHARABANC CAPSIZES. (1928, April 3). Daily Mercury (Mackay, Qld. : 1906 – 1954), p. 7. Retrieved July 6, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article175816952
3 PICNIC ACCIDENT. (1928, April 2). Recorder (Port Pirie, SA : 1919 – 1954), p. 1. Retrieved July 6, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article95781451
4 CHARABANC OVERTURNED. (1919, July 12). Observer (Adelaide, SA : 1905 – 1931), p. 22. Retrieved July 6, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article165893736
5 CHARABANC ACCIDENT. (1925, October 7). Tweed Daily (Murwillumbah, NSW : 1914 – 1949), p. 5. Retrieved July 6, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article191407174
6 ONLY ONE SAVED (1923, August 16). Tweed Daily (Murwillumbah, NSW : 1914 – 1949), p. 3. Retrieved July 6, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article190175112
7 CHARABANC OVERTURNS. (1923, December 4). The Riverine Grazier (Hay, NSW : 1873 – 1954), p. 2. Retrieved July 6, 2017, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article140124856

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This entry was posted in Genealogy, Memories, Mystery, Newspaper, Photograph, Postcard and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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