A group of public transport buffs calling themselves “Friends of the Bus” have set out to find a permanent home for 15 vehicles that are currently parked at a depot in the capital’s Gazi district.
“Our team has collected 15 buses. We have also amassed enough spare parts to almost put together a whole bus, but not quite,” said the head of the group, Andreas Chronis.
The group have turned their historical interest and experience in urban and suburban transport into a hobby. The aim is to keep this part of Greece’s transport history alive.
“Over the years, we have created a record of our own experiences and observations as regards public transport in our lifetimes,” explained Chronis, whose group includes people from a range of professions including lawyers, doctors and private sector employees.
“Car drivers were our heroes [in the 50s]. Because there were so few of them they seemed exotic,” he said.
Trains have already found a home at the OSE museum, says Chronis, adding that the group’s objective is to record the history of land transport around the country and the creation of a transport museum, a popular institution in other European countries.
The group has a rich collection of photographs of buses that belonged to former manufacturers, bus owners or relatives of people who in one way or another left their mark on the country’s transport history.
Many of the vehicles now under the group’s wing were rescued from scrapyards, others were donated, while some were actually purchased, but they all carry part of Greece’s transport history.
“Our aim is to promote the role of those who drove the buses to isolated parts of the country, thus keeping many villages alive,” said Chronis.
“In many parts of Greece over the 1960s and 70s, buses were the only connection to the outside world as they were used to carry medicine, shopping, animal feed and newspapers – just like ships for isolated islands,” he said.
At the same time, the group wants to see the establishment of a museum as a tribute to the makers of these vehicles who did their best to serve the particular needs of every period.
There are a few old buses at the ETHEL depot in Thriasio, but the cost of transporting them to the Gazi depot is prohibitive, said Chronis. The future of the Gazi depot is itself uncertain as plans to unify the capital’s archaeological sites foresee its removal from the area.
Two or three times a year, members of the group take one of these buses out on the street with the help of an OSY driver. Recently the group did part of the old 152 route around the neighborhoods of Ilioupoli, setting out from Academias Street in central Athens.