A major project of the Australian Timetable Association
The major aim of the National Timetable Collection (NTC) is to permanently preserve a paper or digital copy of all significant transport timetables produced in Australia. The timetables cover airlines, trains, trams, coaches, buses, ferries and community transport for interstate, metropolitan and country services. The Collection includes all types and formats of timetables as well as timetable information, system maps, fares schedules, rosters and operations guides.
The National Timetable Collection has been established so that there will be a permanent record of how public transport impacted on social life, development patterns and access to services over time. Academics, consultants, health and social service investigators, demographers, teachers, transport enthusiasts, novelists and advocacy groups can research what transport services were available in particular places at particular times with a great deal of accuracy. Their published work provides immeasurable benefits and enjoyment to present and future communities.
The Association has a written agreement with the State Library of Victoria (SLV) which will manage the Collection and to make it available for research. The agreement also requires the Association to make two transfers to the Library each year. 4040 timetables have already been transferred to the Library, and hundreds more are ready to be deposited.
The SLV considers that the NTC is unique in that it aims to bring together complete collections of timetables, rather than the small numbers of individual timetables that are held in some other libraries and museums. Des Cowley, former Principal Librarian, Collection Development & Description, at SLV has been an avid supporter of the Collection and of the State Library’s involvement. Des retired in August 2022. Former Deputy Prime Minister, Tim Fischer, was an ardent supporter and advocate for the Collection.
The project has been overwhelmed by the volume of timetables that have been donated. Timetables for the Collection are donated by members, and by people who are not ATA members, who are downsizing their personal collections. Every collection received so far has included more unique timetables for the NTC. The Collection has attained a reputation as a dependable permanent home for the timetables that enthusiasts have enjoyed and treasured, and who want to ensure that future historians and researchers can benefit from their preservation.
The timetables are initially stored in Melbourne at the high-security CAVAL library building in the grounds of La Trobe University. Most of the timetables have been through the initial sort. One copy of each timetable has been allocated to the NTC and these are bundled in over 260 appropriately labelled storage bins or boxes. Any duplicates are stored separately. Significant duplicate timetables are retained in the ATA Archives and others are made available to members and researchers on request or through the ATA Auctions. Duplicate timetables become a revenue source to help fund the project.
The Agreement with the SLV stipulates that the Association prepares a catalogue of all the timetables in an Excel spreadsheet in a format devised by SLV. For this, an appropriate computer has been acquired and set up at CAVAL. The SLV uses this spreadsheet to convert the details of the timetables into the Library’s own catalogue, which is then available on-line worldwide.
The Association does not have the resources to undertake the scanning of printed timetables. However, it has an agreement with the Australian Railway Historical Society NSW (ARHS) in Sydney to undertake any scanning that may be needed for railway timetables. Requests for scanned copies of timetables are handled by ARHS.
Many timetables are now produced only in digital format. These timetables will be included in the National Timetable Collection. Arrangements are being made to capture the files for the digital timetables from websites and archive the files in year, mode and operator order.
Many of the donations of timetable collections include overseas timetables, transport books and DVDs which are outside the scope of the NTC. These documents are gradually placed in the Association’s Auctions where they become a source of revenue to help fund the project. In the future they will be made available for sale on this website.
The Association pays for the cost of storage at CAVAL out of its own funds and from members’ donations. More funding is needed, and applications will be made to appropriate funding programs as they become available.
Work on the NTC provides members with skills in sorting, filing, cataloguing, labelling, storage, organisation and computer usage. Work is usually undertaken on one or two days each week, and these days can be varied to fit in with workers’ availability. Information on how to join the team of NTC workers can be obtained by contacting the Archives Officer – go to Contact Us.