ACTION’s “Downtowner” bus service was introduced on 9 December 1991. Two replica tram buses were built by Howard Porter Pty Ltd of Fremantle WA on a Mitsubishi Fuso Fighter FK417 light-truck chassis.
Downtowner bus stop sign in Marcus Clarke St
Two buses were initially purchased and were given fleet numbers 001 and 002, although these buses did not have visible fleet numbers on the outside of the bus, apart from their number plates.
Less than four months later, a third bus (003) was ordered, with slight modifications made.
A replica trolley pole was added to the bus to make it even more realistic (along with kits to retro-fit these to the first two buses). A driver’s side door was also added upon the advice of the unions, as the engines were front mounted and drivers had to climb over them to get to their seats.
The buses were painted in the same colour as the first buses operated in the Canberra region, Maroon and Buff.
The slatted timber seating, made from highly polished Tasmanian Sheoak Timber, catered for 25 passengers.
Most seats were doubles, with a single behind and to the left of the driver. The door was after the driver’s window and the first window, with three more windows after it. The buses had two roof vents for ventilation, as well as hopper windows. Two heaters were also located on the floor for the colder months.
The interior featured antique-style dome lighting. The bells were of the pull-cord variety, running along each side above the windows connected to a small brass bell at the front. The interior panels were crafted from polished Tasmanian oak.
The Downtowner service ran on a ten minute frequency between 9.00am and 4.30pm in a circular route linking City East and City West. The route number for this service was 301, the same number used by the previous City Loop service in the 1970s. Although the Downtowner buses did not have destination signs, the service was occasionally run by buses that did.
The original route had 11 stops on the 4km, 20 minute journey, with the bus averaging 25 km/h. The route was designed to pass all major shops, government buildings and hotels in the area. All Downtowner stops had a special “Downtowner” sign on the bus stop, and shelters were painted the same colour as the buses, a dark maroon. Many of the shelters along the route were in the same dark maroon colour for many years after the service ceased.
The route was altered in February 1993 to service 14 stops, but the service times remained the same.
The service had great benefits for shoppers and office workers, which was the intention, but it also fast became extremely popular with tourists, drawn by the benefit of a free ride around the CBD, as well as being able to get on and off the bus at stops knowing that the next one is only ten minutes away. Within days of the service beginning ACTION even received inquiries about hiring the buses for special events such as formals and wedding parties!
ACTION used advertising to offset the costs of the free service, with any ads being placed on the Downtowners being in the style of the buses themselves. The first company to advertise was local law firm, Snedden, Hall & Gallop on Bus 001. The PSE Credit Union and FM104.7 also sponsored the service.
Towards the end of the service, standard buses would often operate instead of the tram-buses due to the popularity of the service, which ended in 1998. The three buses were advertised for sale in July 1998 and were purchased by Mountainlink in Katoomba.
- Mitsubishi Fuso Fighter FK417
- Engine: Mitsubishi 6D16-1A Six cylinder inline direct injection, naturally aspirated, front mounted
- Output: 127KW at 2900rpm
- Max Torque: 477 Nm at 1400rpm
- Bore/Stroke: 118mm x 115mm
- Capacity: 7.545 litres
- Compression Ratio: 18:1
- Transmission: Allison AT545 four speed automatic
- Chassis: Reinforced tapered channel 227.4x70x6.7mm, 840mm width
- Front Axle: Reverse Elliot I beam, 3300kg capacity
- Rear Axle: Mitsubishi D4H fuel floating hypoid. 5:428 ratio. Capacity 7700kg
- Suspension: Semi-elliptic leaf. Double acting shock absorbers – front
- Steering: Integral power assisted ball and nut 21.6 ratio. Steering wheel diameter 500mm. Tilt/height adjustable column
- Brakes: Air-actuated hydraulic dual circuit. Rear-wheel spring actuated park brake
- Wheels/Tyres: Two piece disc 16×6.00GS-135=9t. Tyres 8.25-18LT 14PR
- Electrical: 24 volt negative earth. Alternator capacity 24V 50 amp. Starter capacity 24V 4.5kW Two 12 volt 400 CCA batteries
- Gross Vehicle Mass: 9300kg
- Wheelbase: 3750mm
- Front Overhang: 1195mm
- Rear Overhang: 1600mm
- Overall Length: 6.45m
- Turning Circle: 13.2m
- Front Track: 1745mm
- Rear Track: 1660mm
- Ground Clearance: 190mm
- Tare Weight of Completed Vehicle: 5720kg
- Truck and Bus Magazine, April 1992
- Fleetline Magazine, July-August 1998
Article updated 11 July 2020