Local Businessman, George Ryder, purchases two small bus operators in the coalfields: The South Maitland Motor Company and the Marble Bar Motor Service. He named the company Rover Motors Pty. Ltd. Rab Lewis soon joined him in the business, remaining with the company for over 60 years.
The coalfields boom and buses packed full of miners rattle to the sound of miners whistles across the region. Nowadays, these mines are ghosts of the past with the only reminder being old poppet heads and chimneys strewn across the countryside. Rover Motors grows to become the largest and most progressive bus company in the state and pioneers the introduction of the first centre-door Double Decker Buses into Australia.
Rover Motors is the only private bus company operating Double Decker in Australia until after WW2. In 1944 Rover Motors still continues as the innovator in the bus industry by purchasing the first Semi Trailer Bus in NSW - an imposing site with 14 wheels and 59 seats. The then minister of transport predicts "this type of transport to replace trams" at the presentation of the vehicle to the company. Rovers begins a long association with the Fogg and Mordue families who become part owners of the company.
Rover Motors continues its expansion through the 50's.
Buses now run to Maitland every half an hour from 4.30am to midnight with up to 5 Double Deckers jammed full of revelers operating to the dances Friday and Saturday nights. Services commence to Wangi and Swansea on Friday nights, returning Sunday as people travel to weekenders by the sea.
Services commence to BHP in Newcastle, and with exciting opportunities for employment, the services flourish. Six Double Deckers to day shift, two to afternoon shift and two to dogwatch are required - all full.
Jack Lewis joins as an apprentice and spends the next 50 years working in the company, building one of the finest fleets in the country.
Better buses, now known as coaches, and better roads present opportunities for entrepreneurs. Rover Motors begins operating tours including "faraway" places like the Gold Coast and Snowy Mountains.
With the demise of the railway in Cessnock, Rover Motors first service to Newcastle departs at 7.00am on October 3rd, 1967. Rab Lewis is greeted by the NBN Channel 3 News on arrival.
The family car becomes available and brings about the demise of overcrowded bus travel.
Rover Motors opens a Travel Agency and begins operating tours across Australia as well as providing overseas and domestic travel arrangements.
The company builds its strength, establishing a strong and efficient bus network across the coalfields.
The coach operation grows with the increasing interest in leisure, theatre, sporting, and special events in the Hunter and Sydney. The expanding developments in wine country also present exciting business opportunities.
Aaron Lewis joins the company, becoming the third generation Lewis to work in the bus industry. In 1985 the family buys sole ownership from the Mordue family and begins to develop the company in new areas.
Now simply known as Rover and owned by Jack Lewis, the company expands its network of services across the coalfields in the mid 90s and introduces the first ultra-low floor buses outside of a capital city. These innovative vehicles are the most people friendly buses in the world with no steps - walk on - walk off.
The coaches are the most modern in Australia. All Mercedes-Benz with an amazing average age of two years. Rovers begins to move into major events and conferencing in the Pokolbin wine region.
Rover registers the first coach in the new century. Another Mercedes-Benz deluxe coach that will take the company and our customers into the new Millennium in style and confidence!
Now owned by Gregory, Aaron, Philip and Jennine Lewis, the Company positions itself as a leader in Conference and Corporate Travel, Concert and Event Transport Logistics and Hunter Valley Wine Tours.
The Company contributes to a successful 2000 Olympics transport operation with the entire fleet assigned to the task. Our involvement in the Olympics leads to a similar network of bus services for the growing Concert and Event program in Wine Country. By the end of the next decade Concert venues will increase their capacity to 18,000 people.
Rover is now transporting up to 5,000 passengers to larger acts like Rod Stewart, Elton John, Dame Kiri and Michael Crawford to name a few. The Company is acknowledged by Promoters, Tourism Management and the Venues for its contribution to the growth and success of the events.
In 2006 the Company signs with Transport for NSW to a provide local Route and School Services under a Contract allowing passengers to access $2.50 Pensioner Tickets and reduced fares across the network. This has a major and positive effect, with patronage increasing by 30% on some Routes and continued improvements to the network.
Also in 2006 Rover launches the Wine Country Express, a direct Service daily from Sydney City to Cessnock & Wine Country. While passenger levels never supported the enterprise, it proved the catalyst to the implementation of a new Route 163 Service from Cessnock to Morisset Railway Station, with connections to and from Sydney, commencing in July 2009. The Hunter Region now had an established link to the City.
By the end of 2010 the Company had every right to be proud of its 85th Anniversary!
Changes to Government contracts see the traditional red & white livery on buses changed to blue & white, in line with contracts in Sydney and outer metro areas.
Our local vineyards rocket into the major concert arena with venues increasing to 20,000 + capacity and attracting the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Bruce Springsteen and even the legendary Rolling Stones. Rover contributes to the success of these events managing professional & efficient transport with up to 250 buses moving over nearly half of the crowd on some of the larger events with complete success. Promoters and venue owners alike contribute some of the ongoing success to Rovers transport networks.
The Company invested heavily in its coach fleet with updated rolling red signage, replicated from the 1930’s to reflect the tradition and rich history of the business.
The Company adds wheelchair lifts to all their coach fleet which is 100% Disability Discrimination Act compliant by 2020.
After a decade of bus & coach upgrades, Rover operates an impressive fleet of new Denning & Iveco vehicles with American running gear, a shift from the 90’s and early 2000’s European chassis’. The fleet consists of 45 buses, 8 coaches and 5 mini coaches.
In 2020 the Company celebrates 95 years of continuous operation in the Coalfields and Hunter Valley, proudly the oldest family operators in NSW.
December 2022, The Lewis family's long-time involvement with the company comes to an end with the sale of Rover Coaches to the Buslines Group.
Buslines Group is owned and operated by the D'Apuzzo family who will retain the Rover name. The Cessnock depot will be the 13th region in NSW- spanning from Lismore, Ballina, Dubbo & Griffith.