Public Transport: Buses and Trams

There were a variety of modes of public transport in East Renfrewshire in the early days. In the early nineteenth century, horses and stage coaches were the preferred means to get around, apart from on foot. There were carriers' wagons, "jaunting cars", stagecoaches and later horse buses, the precursor to the motorised bus. Private firms began to compete with each other then, when it became apparent that railways were the way forward for many people travelling long distances, started to offer services to train stations . Early transport to and from Giffnock, for example, was almost entirely by train. The station was filled twice a day with private carriages.

Stage Coaches

Carriers' wagons travelled from Barrhead to Glasgow through Thornliebank and by 1819 three stage coaches a day were leaving Glasgow for Paisley, probably passing through Thornliebank. In the 1830's there was no transport with the exception of a "jaunting car" run by Stephen Young of Cudgerhill, from Busby through Clarkston, which transported a few passengers to Glasgow on market days. By the1840's people mostly travelled by stagecoach. Foot runners carried light letters and light parcels. For the journey to Irvine, a line of stagecoaches ran from Oswald Street with a halt at Gillies Hotel, Barrhead. From the Queen's Hotel, Water Road, a line of local coaches ran to County Square, Paisley. It was customary for male passengers to disembark and walk up the hill at Dykebar to ease the two horses.

Horse Buses

In 1852, Andrew Menzies of Balornock, owner of the largest fleet of horse buses in Glasgow, extended his operations to Thornliebank, the terminus being at Jenny Lind. By the mid 1860's a regular horse bus service connected Clarkston Station with Eaglesham. Eaglesham had the famous "soor milk cairt" immortalised in the song by Tom Johnstone, the Calton barber poet.

There was a Clarkston/Eaglesham service, which was later replaced by the Caledonian Motor Car service, which also connected with Cathcart Station around 1910. In the 1870's a horse bus operated by Mr. McGhee ran between Newton Mearns, Eastwood Toll and Giffnock as competition to the railway horse bus. There was a private carriage run by William Taylor of Newton Mearns, one of the directors of the City of Glasgow Bank.

Motor Vehicles and Bicycles

At the end of the 19th century motor vehicles began to appear on the roads. Around 1900, according to Boyd Scott, the "safety" bicycle became epidemical. Barrhead's first car appeared in 1905, however, by 1908 the excessive speed of motor cars was causing concern and on August 3, 1910 the Motor Cars Regulation (Renfrew) Order limited speed to 10 miles per hour between Orchard Drive and Park Road.


In 1905, Glasgow Corporation Tram service was extended from Newlands to Eastwood Toll. Nellie's Tollhouse was built in 1832, however, after the abolition of tolls in 1865 on the Glasgow/Kilmarnock turnpike road, it became known as Nellie Niven's sweetshop and was eventually demolished around 1907.

It was a well-known Dublin entrepreneur called Murphy who built the Paisley Tramway system and extended it to Barrhead. The 1906 Rouken Glen service was a red tram route that became service 8 in 1938; on March 14, 1959 it was replaced by bus service 38 and in June the 8A tram was replaced by the number 45 bus. On February 10, 1910, Paisley District Tramways Company opened the Barrhead to Spiersbridge line showing Rouken Glen as its destination. The company purchased the ground at the terminus and set up the Queen Mary tea gardens.

In 1908 Glasgow Corporation Tramways decided to extend their electric trams from Pollokshaws via Spiersbridge to Rouken Glen, necessitating the widening of the road from the railway bridge at Thornliebank Station, past the new Eastwood Cemetery (under construction) to Thornliebank Public School. On August 16, 1921, the Glasgow Corporation Tram service was extended from Netherlee to Stamperland and then to the final terminus in Mearns Road on October 1, 1921.

The Paisley company was bought by Glasgow Corporation on August 1, 1923. On August 17, 1924, the Glasgow trams (blue route) ran through Thornliebank and Spiersbridge to the Renfrew ferry; this became service 14 in 1938, however, the service was abandoned on November 1, 1959 making it the last tram service in the county of Renfrew. It was replaced by the number 57 bus service. The Clarkston tram service was withdrawn in 1953 and replaced, first by the trolley bus, then the motorbus service 66 on May 27, 1967.

Private Bus Companies

Around 1910 the Caledonian Motor Car Service operated a motor bus service on the Clarkston to Eaglesham route and also on a route to Cathcart Station. The bus can be seen in the photograph with the corrugated iron bus garage in the background.

The 1920s was the era of the small, private bus company; the Sanderson Brothers, for example, ran one on the Eaglesham/Glasgow route. On weekdays the earliest bus leaving Eaglesham was at 6.53 a.m. and the latest at 10.20 p.m. A service operated by the Gemmell Brothers was later taken over by the Midland Bus Company in 1926. There was a multiplicity of private bus operators in the Thornliebank area, the first being David Danks in 1922, his vehicle a converted Ford van holding eight passengers; the O'Hara's then took over. Almost all the operators - the most important being J. O'Hara, Barrhead; W.J. Wright, Barrhead; Smith & Kelly, Neilston; Carmichael Brothers, Neilston; Wardrop, Barrhead; Hughes, Neilston; Roberston & Lennox, Barrhead - were members of the N.B. Bus Operators' Association before the Southern Midland & Transport buses took over in the late 1920s, who themselves were bought out by the S.M.T. group during 1931-32.

In 1920 a Mr Caldwell started up a small Ford bus service, which held ten passengers and ran between Newton Mearns and Giffnock. Matthew Young ran a smaller service with two Fords and a Fiat. In 1924 there were complaints about the dangerous condition of charabancs running between Eastwood Toll and Newton Mearns. During the later 1920s buses of the Scottish Transport (red), a subsidiary of British Electric Traction Co. Ltd., Midland (blue), and John Sand of Airdrie and Southern (maroon), operated independently along the main Kilmarnock Road (now Fenwick Road) to Newton Mearns, Kilmarnock and Ayr.

In Clarkston in the 20s, the Rankin Brothers ran a bus service from East Kilbride via Busby and Clarkston, this being taken over in 1928 by the General Omnibus Company and finally in 1932 by the central S.M.T. Ltd., which became part of the Scottish Bus Group. McGill's buses started operating in Barrhead in 1936.

Larger Bus Companies and Corporation Buses

In an attempt to relieve congestion, the newly widened Giffnock Railway Bridge was opened on January 10, 1930 with financial help from Glasgow Corporation Tramways. In 1922 this road had around 640 vehicles a day; in 1927 there were 3,125 and by 1930 practically 5,000. By 1931-32 all the local independent bus services had been taken over by the S.M.T. group with its black and white livery.

On February 28, 1932, Glasgow Corporation buses started with the service 8C. On June 12, 1938 the Rouken Glen service diverted to Clarkston via Eastwoodmains Road. During World War II, from June 8, 1841, experimental gas balloon holder and gas producer buses were used on the routes to save fuel. On May 1, 1943 the 8C was renumbered 32, Clarkton to St Enoch Square; this service became the 38A Clarkston to Millerston.

In 1950 a service began to run from Spiersbridge via Orchard Park, Giffnock to Glasgow and in 1957 a "cross country" service ran from Clarkston to Paisley via Eastwoodmains Road and Eastwood Toll. The traffic bottleneck at Eastwood Toll, which had been worrying the planners since 1929, ultimately became a diversionary road scheme to by-pass the Toll. The new diversion and roundabout opened in 1962.

The orange buses of Strathclyde Passenger Transport Executive then took over, an example being the 44 to Eaglesham and the 38 to Mearns. In 2005, First buses now run throughout East Renfrewshire and the long awaited A77 by-pass has been opened relieving the conservation village of Eaglesham of much of the traffic, which had caused concern over foundations.