Don and Cameron Haidley. Photo Contributed
Don and Cameron Haidley. Photo Contributed Contributed

Transport pioneers celebrate five decades in the business

CAMERON Haidley fondly remembers the first coach tour he did with his father Don in the late '70s.

It was a trip to Cairns in the Hino RC320 bus, which is now in their historic fleet of buses.

Over the past few months the Haidley family has spent countless hours reminiscing as Haidley's Panoramic Coaches celebrates 50 years in business.

On May 10, 1966, Cameron's parents Don and Heather Haidley purchased their first bus - a nine-seater VW Microbus - along with the Silverwood/Connolly Dam school run.

As time went on they began running small day tours across the Darling Downs and purchased larger vehicles to travel further afield.

In 1969 the opportunity arose to operate coach tours for New Zealand tourists travelling to Australia, visiting the Great Barrier Reef and other parts of Australia, which resulted in long hours of driving by Don Haidley and Roy McKendrick.

In 1975, Cameron joined the business at 15 years of age as an apprentice mechanic.

He has spent the last 41 years as a mechanic, tour driver and now manager of the business.

In 1989, the partnership of Don and Heather dissolved.

Don continued to purchase more school runs and charter coaches and today the third generation has started in the business, with Cameron and Lyndal's sons Hayden and Mitchell now qualified mechanics and coach drivers.

Don and Cameron said there had been so many memorable moments.

Cameron has many highlights - but none as special as doing his first tours with his sons.

"I remember how excited I was when I drove the first tour with dad," Cameron said.

"The driving is in our blood."

"It is a celebration to have been in business for 50 years but it is also a time to reflect on the wonderful staff, our passengers and our suppliers for their great service," Don said.

The depot

Haidley's Panoramic Coaches settled in their current location in Lyons St in 1971.

"The shed's had three lots of extensions and just recently a facelift," Cameron said.

Both Don and Cameron said they loved the industry and enjoyed driving heavy vehicles.

"Every vehicle has a distinctive character. You have your favourites," Cameron said.

"I've driven the Bova for the last 18 years - it's right up there for driver and passenger comfort.

"The V8 Hino has to be my favourite," Don said

"We bought this coach brand new from Denning and to me it was the best coach of its time in the 1980s and '90s."

The Haidley's coach fleet in the 1980s, parked outside the Lyons Street depot. Photo Contributed
The Haidley's coach fleet in the 1980s, parked outside the Lyons Street depot. Photo Contributed Contributed

Tours and concerts

There have been many highlights for the Haidleys over the years from Expo 88, the Olympic Games and Snowy Mountain tours to having the Panoramic Travellers Club, which had more than 1000 members from 1978.

Don said to think he and his drivers have driven thousands of people on tours all over Australia was incredible but if he had to nominate a favourite place it would be the Great Barrier Reef.

"The biggest tour we've ever done was 28 days around Central Australia," Cameron said.

"Adelaide and the Top End have been some of my favourite places to visit."

Cameron said he rotated his tours every five years to keep them fresh.

"Sometimes the response we get can depend on the price of airfares," he said.

"If flights out of the country are expensive, more people will look at travelling in Australia."

Haidley's started taking groups to concerts in the late '60s.

One of Don's favourites was taking a coach load of passengers to Sydney in 1976 to see ABBA.

"The largest concert we've ever done would be Garth Brooks. We had nine coach loads of people from Warwick to Brisbane over two nights," Cameron said.

Don Haidley returns home from the Central Australia tour in 1972. Photo Contributed
Don Haidley returns home from the Central Australia tour in 1972. Photo Contributed Contributed

The colour scheme

Anyone who knows the Haidleys well knows their blood runs Ford blue.

And that's exactly where the green/blue shade came from for the coaches.

"In 1964, Don had purchased a new Ford Falcon that colour and we've stayed with it ever since. It always looks clean," Cameron said.

Haidley's today

Currently Haidley's has 12 buses in service.

They have eight school bus runs going for 42 weeks of the year and the urban Q Connect that runs year round.

"I've been driving school buses that long I'm watching the next generation come through. It's nice to see kids grow up - but now I'm driving their children to school," Cameron said.

The Bova during a tour to South Australia in 2009. Photo Contributed
The Bova during a tour to South Australia in 2009. Photo Contributed Contributed

Changing industry

Technology has changed the face of the transport industry.

"Everything is electronic now - from the ticketing systems to the buses themselves," Cameron said.

"There's CCTV cameras in most of the buses, making it a lot safer for passengers and the driver.

"Until we had mobile phones either UHF's and CBs only worked up to certain distances. If you needed to contact a driver you had to phone the venue they were at.

"It is a tough industry, there's a lot of paperwork for Queensland Transport now as they try to improve the safety and refine the industry."

A day in the life

A weekday for Cameron starts about 7am. He heads into the depot and checks over his vehicle.

Each driver is responsible for getting their coach ready for the day.

They head out on the school runs and get back to the depot about 8.30am.

The rest of the day Cameron may have a day tour or school group trip, completes any vehicle maintenance, and does office work including quotes, until it's back out on the school run and then home for cleaning.

Off-duty Haidleys

Don Haidley has had a long and fulfilling career that has been fuelled by his love for buses, trucks, machinery, tractors and dozers.

Becoming a motor mechanic was the dream of a young boy working with grease, wrenches and gauges leaving sport, music and other teenage pursuits in second place.

This has followed on with Cameron and his sons and they will work on anything to do with engines.

The family also has a passion for restoration with various vintage car and bus projects on the go.

What's coming up

Haidley's has a jam-packed few months with tours and concerts including:

June: Disney on Ice

June/July: 20-day tour to the Territory

October: Singing in the Rain

December: Matilda

Today's celebrations

Hundreds of former staff, business associates and clients will descend on the Lyons St depot today.

The 50-year celebrations start at 11am and run until 2pm.

Plenty of vehicles will be on display, current and historic, for everyone to enjoy.

There will be photo displays and even the chance to go on a tour of the original Silverwood/ Connolly Dam school run.

The future

"I'd love to see the business continue celebrating milestones," Don said.

Haidley's Panoramic Coaches being presented with an award from the Queensland Bus Industry Council for 50 years to the industry. Rolf Mitchell (QBIC President), Cameron Haidley and the Hon Stirling Hinchliffe MP (Minister for Transport and the Commonwealth Games) Photo Contributed.
Haidley's Panoramic Coaches being presented with an award from the Queensland Bus Industry Council for 50 years to the industry. Rolf Mitchell (QBIC President), Cameron Haidley and the Hon Stirling Hinchliffe MP (Minister for Transport and the Commonwealth Games) Photo Contributed. Contributed


Revealed: Shocking rate of our aged care abuse

Premium Content Revealed: Shocking rate of our aged care abuse

“The aged care regulator is a toothless tiger..."

Queensland’s most dangerous crime hours revealed

Premium Content Queensland’s most dangerous crime hours revealed

Not just thieves who get busy on the weekends.

‘Very frustrating’: PM gets impatient with Premier

Premium Content ‘Very frustrating’: PM gets impatient with Premier

“These things have to move more quickly that they have done.”