2 January 2023

Canberra collector shows why he's always on schedule

| Sally Hopman
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Old Canberra omnibus bus timetable

Canberra collector Luke O’Rourke tracked this 1964-65 Canberra omnibus timetable down in Ireland – and no, it didn’t cost him 10c. Photo: Supplied.

Luke O’Rourke can thank his parents for the fact that, when he was living in the United Kingdom as a youngster, they never learned to drive.

As a result, their home was full of timetables: road, rail, air and wherever else they wanted to go. Pamphlets, brochures, ephemera of all kinds designed to show how to get to a destination, near or far.

It was only when the family moved to Canberra in 2005, when Luke was 12, that his mother learned to drive.

“There were always timetables around the house and I really enjoyed reading them and planning trips on trains and buses,” Luke said.

“I also enjoyed learning how timetables are planned and particularly how the geographical design of them can vary depending on the format of the transport or the area.

“When anyone in my family goes on a trip, I always ask them to bring back a timetable. I also browse the Internet and bookshops and lots of other places to add to my collection.”

French rail timetable

A 1974 French train timetable in English is one of Luke O’Rourke’s favourite items in the collection. Photo: Supplied.

Luke, who lives at Phillip, has also posted some of his collection on Flickr but due to the size of it, it’s a work in progress.

“There’s far too many to count,” he said. “But I think there would be more than 4000. But there’s probably way more than that because so many are unsorted.”

Collecting ephemera such as timetables does have its advantages, according to Luke. You can have thousands of them and they don’t take up a lot of room .

“I’m slowly sorting out the collection into folders and organising them but due to the size of the collection this is an ongoing task.

“I am slowly building up a spreadsheet in order to keep track of all of them too. This too is slow because of the size of the collection.”

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Luke said he uncovered a connection to Canberra way back in his early days of collecting with an omnibus timetable from the capital being sold in Ireland of all places.

“I was simply browsing eBay one evening and came across a listing simply titled `Canberra city timetable’,” he said.

“There were no photographs and information in the listing was nondescript with no useful information about the timetable or anything like that.

“I paid for it and about three to five weeks later it turned up. I was very shocked as it was in excellent condition for its age – around 1964-1965.

“My theory behind it coming from Ireland was either that a tourist visited Canberra or someone lived in Canberra and simply moved back to Ireland and it was forgotten about.”

London train timetable

Close your eyes and you’re almost there … in London – the best way to travel back in 1974. Photo: Supplied.

Does he have a favourite timetable? “I simply have too many to have a favourite,” Luke said. “But if I had to say one, it would be the Tasmanian Railways timetable – due to the fact Tasmania no longer has any passenger railways, apart from tourist trains.”

Luke said he was always keen to collect timetables which depicted the end of an era – or just a journey. When Amtrak in the United States decided to discontinue its printed timetable, Luke recognised the importance of adding one to his collection – so it would be there for posterity.

“I managed to get the last one,” he said. “I didn’t even have to pay any postage costs – they were all sent to me at no cost.”

Luke doesn’t limit himself to timetables – he’s also a collector of street directories, with 500 at last count.

“I enjoy reading maps and street directories and following the development of a city over the years, like Canberra.”

Do you collect anything interesting? Share your collecting story with us. Email details to: shopman@region.com.au

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