A major project of the Australian Timetable Association

January 2020


The major aim of the Jack McLean National Timetable Collection (NTC) is to permanently preserve a paper copy of all public transport timetables produced in Australia. The Association has an agreement with the State Library of Victoria to manage the Collection and to make it available for research. The agreement also requires our Association to make two deposits to the Library each year. 3104 timetables have been deposited in the Library using cataloguing that was done mostly in Sydney.

We are extremely grateful to members, and to people who are not ATA members, who have donated their timetables to the Collection. The Collection has attained a reputation as a dependable permanent home for timetables that enthusiasts enjoyed and treasured, and they want to ensure that future historians and researchers can benefit from their preservation. The Collection includes all types and formats of timetables as well as timetable information, system maps and operations guides.

Moving Forward

The timetables are stored at the Prahran Mechanics Institute in Melbourne, and we appreciate the support that the Secretary, Steven Haby, an ATA member, has given in providing this accommodation. We have reached the stage where the volume of timetables received, and the space we need to sort and organise them, exceeds the space available, and we must move to more suitable and spacious premises. We need at least 60m2 in a secure building. If you know of any suitable building, or of any agency that may be able to help us as a not-for-profit community association, please contact Len Regan or Richard May.

Most of the timetables have been through the initial sort. One copy has been allocated to the NTC, and any duplicates are put aside for the ATA Auctions or Distribution List, or made available for research projects. Every collection we have received so far has included more unique timetables for the NTC.

We are now moving into the phase where we must concentrate on cataloguing the timetables and scanning them before we deposit them at the State Library. Scanning the timetables means that the Association will have a digital record of them which can be made available in the future through the Association’s website.


The Association has applied to the Public Records Office of Victoria, through the Local History Grants Program, for $15,000 to purchase suitable computer equipment and storage shelving, and to have access to sophisticated scanning equipment that efficiently delivers quality digital files for the variety of timetable formats, from small leaflets, pocket booklets and fold-out sheets up to large A4 loose-leaf documents and hard-bound 400 page books.

We need to maintain the quality of material that we offer in the ATA Auctions in order to generate the funds to cover the management costs of the National Timetable Collection. Most of the material for the Auctions comes from surplus items and from overseas items that are included in timetables donated to the Association.

Volunteer Workers

The working sessions at Prahran will start again for 2020 on Thursday 16 January and Saturday 25 January, and then each week alternating on a Thursday and a Saturday.

There is a wide range of activities that members can undertake to help with the National Timetable Collection project, depending on their interests and capabilities. These include:

  • Sorting and culling of timetables. A continuing task as new material is received. Currently done at Prahran.
  • Cataloguing timetables to be deposited in the State Library. This can be done on an Excel file at home or in small local working groups. Training can be provided.
  • Gaining skills in using large book scanners and then scanning timetables to create digital files. Training is being arranged. This will be done at a scanning studio in Bayswater, Melbourne.
  • Selecting timetables in response to requests from research projects. Currently done at Prahran.
  • Assembling batches of timetables for the ATA Auctions. Currently done at Prahran.
  • Preparing the Auction Catalogues, and despatching timetables to winning bidders. This can be done at home. The winning bidders will be assessed by the Auctioneer Geoff Hassall.
  • Processing the sale of transport books and overseas timetables on the ATA’s eBay account. This can be done at home.
  • Help with the packing and collection of timetables that are donated to ATA. This is usually done in association with the donor.
  • Helping with relocation to our new premises, when we have found them.
  • Storage of boxes of timetables if you have suitable space available. Saves self-storage fees.

If you can help in any of these ways, or if you want more information, please contact Hilaire Fraser, Richard May or Len Regan.


It is common for timetable enthusiasts to think about downsizing their collections as they grow older or have to move to smaller accommodation. This is a time when ATA can help with how to pack the timetables and pass them on to the National Timetable Collection. The rule of thumb should be: Don’t throw any timetable out. All timetables have a life beyond the enthusiast who saved it. ATA can give it that life.

Timetable Bequests

The future success of the National Timetable Collection depends on the continuing acquisition of timetables from collectors and enthusiasts.

An important source of timetables comes from the collections of people who die. It is heartbreaking to hear of situations where relatives of a deceased family member do not know what to do with a treasured collection, and simply consider that there is no option but to throw it out. The Association has recently been able to save a large and valuable collection that was threatened in this way.

A solution that we encourage is for all members to make a specific mention in their Will that their collection of timetables and related material is to be bequeathed to the Australian Timetable Association. Solicitors can advise the appropriate wording to be used. As well as this, family members should be made aware of this bequest, and they should know how to contact the Association.

The ATA will work with the estate executor to arrange for the collection to be packed and picked up or delivered to the NTC premises. ATA is also prepared to pay for any freight transport costs.


The National Timetable Collection is a worthwhile project that all ATA members can be associated with on one way or another.

There are many tasks that need to be done, either at the NTC premises, at members’ homes, or in small working groups arranged locally.

There are many skills that can be gained by working with the NTC project – sorting, computers, cataloguing, scanning, listing, packing, picking up, advising. And there is always the joy and camaraderie of spending time with people with similar interests.

For more information, and for discussion about how best you can be involved with the National Timetable Collection, please contact: