So There Are "Bus People Enthusiasts," We Are Few and Far Between
I’ve been one of the Bus People since I was only three years old. That’s a lifetime of rolling through the countryside on motor coaches, getting my hands dirty with motor fluids, hearing the rattle of diesel engines and the adrenaline rush that comes with the sweet smell of a diesel engine as it pushes a motor coach up a Texas hill.
By Joe Welps
Motor coaches have a long and important history in the development of our cities and towns. They allowed people from all areas of the country to make choices as to where they would live, visit, and play. For some of us, meeting another one of the Bus People is sharing history and information with a person you feel you already know.
Yes, there really ARE fanatics about buses, and I am one of them. You might think I’m crazy, but I have a VIVID memory of buses ever since I was only three years old, so my fondness for buses is my life. I have Autobiographical and Episodic Memory–a condition that gives me elephant-like control of my mind and all past experiences.
I was born in 1946 in Corpus Christi, Texas - right after World War II. There were many different styles and makes of motor coaches in service in both transit and intercity applications. I can actually remember riding the transit buses with my parents at age three. That was thrilling for me and I’m certain the experience was so intense that it caused my interest in buses.
From 1949 until 1960, I was an active kid and tried to ride every bus I could on the Nueces Transportation lines and Continental Trailways Lines. I was 8 years old when I would ride the Trailways Bus into town in order to go to the movies or shop around town. In this time era, there were generally good people on the streets of Corpus Christi and no one worried about the evils of kidnapping and beyond. Children were safe and could move around easily and safely.
During this time, I really wanted to ride on a Greyhound Bus. I really wanted to ride on one of the GM 3703 Camel Back Bus. You see, Continental Trailways had the rights to the west side of Corpus Christi on Hi Way 9. This was the bus I had to ride into Corpus Christi. Greyhound had the rights to the north side which is Hi Way 181. I lived on the west side of Corpus Christi, so I had to ride on Continental in order to get to town.
I talked my parents into letting me ride a Greyhound to San Antonio, Texas. I would ride there and come right back. As luck would have it, the bus that traveled to San Antonio was a GM 4104. I already rode plenty of them with Trailways, so I didn’t have the thrill of the Camel Back.
When I was 8, I learned that the Camel Back was the bus used on the Houston Route. I asked my parents to please let me ride this bus to Houston, but they told me the San Antonio trip was enough. Back then you did not argue with your parents.
Being a bus enthusiast, I was ridiculed by many of my friends. They just could not understand me and I guess I was confusing to them. I’d start out going to the movies and never make it because I’d ride transit buses most of the day. For me, this was entertainment.
A few parents would bring us in groups to see the Minor League Baseball game played, but I spent most of my time observing the chartered intercity coaches that brought the visiting team and fans to the game. I was hardly ever in the stands watching the ball game.
In 1960, I was 14 years old and just entered high school. This is the time in your life when you start dating, play school sports and become member of different school clubs. I really did not want my peers to think I was abnormal with my interest in buses, so I did not openly show interests in buses and didn’t talk about them. I did, however, keep looking out of the corner of my eyes and when I would see a bus parked on the streets or in a wrecking yard, I would study it intently. I just couldn’t pull myself away from buses.
This went on for 21 years. I had a secrete interest with buses because others didn’t understand. I was still interested in buses all through high school, college, grad school, US Army, and in my teaching career.
All this was kept to myself until in 1981 when I found out there were bus people out there just like me. Boy was I relieved.
I moved my family to a new location in West Texas. Since most of the schools are far in distance, most of them had intercity coaches in order to transport the teams and band to out of town games. I was in Bus Heaven!
Most of these coaches were purchased from the Greyhound and Trailways used fleet. I was told from a few people that this school was thinking about purchasing a bus like this. That got me real motivated, and I ran to the superintendent’s office and volunteered to look for a bus to purchase. My thought was, now I will get to be involved in one of these coaches with my present coaching and teaching position.
There was one charter company located in Odessa, Texas called “Trans Texas Trailways.” This company was owned by a man named Charles Harrington. When I approached him about information of buying a used intercity coach, he gave me the phone number of “The National Bus Trader,” so I called and spoke with Larry Plachno. He sent me a copy of the latest issue and told me if I was interested to subscribe.
I notice there was one advertisement on ordering a book on the history of Greyhound Buses from 1950 to present. This was something I was interested, so I called the number and a person named Bob Redden answered.
Mr. Redden explained to me he had many archives on the history of buses and also told me about the club called “International Bus Collectors.” He told me this is composed of people who are bus enthusiasts, and also people that own private coaches. I could not believe what I was hearing. At this time I came out of my shell, and everybody I worked with or I had contact with knew I was a "bus man," and I was proud of it. Oh yes, there were a few people in that community that thought I had a strange hobby and interest, but I really did not care.
I made several calls to Bob and I could not believe the knowledge he had on buses both in the past and present. I do remember riding buses at the age of 3, but I did not know what type or model they were. When I described these buses to Bob, he knew exactly what kind they were.
The Cracker Box Ford was one of the first buses I rode. The next bus I rode was also a Ford Bus which was a model 8MB. The 8M2B was one window longer. Ford Motor Company Bus sold their manufacturing rights to Marmon-Herrington in 1950. This bus remained the same except for the name plate located on the front of the bus.
In 1953, Nueces Transportation purchased 12 TDH-4512 Old Looks 35 feet, and 14 TDH-3714 Old Looks 30 feet. I really thought this was the best looking bus General Motors ever produced.
In 1957, Nueces Transportation then purchased 10 TGH-3102 Old Looks. This bus was much smaller and had a gas engine. Beside this information that Bob told me, I also found out Nueces Transportation was started in Corpus Christi, Texas in 1936 by two brother’s names Ed and Bob Eckstrom. Ed Eckstrom was one of the founders of Greyhound in 1926 in Hibbing, Minnesota. Mr. Eckstrom is actually the person that installed the running dog emblem on the Greyhound Bus.
Nueces Transportation finally sold it business to the city of Corpus Christi in 1966. The name was changed to Corpus Christi Transit. Today it is called The Regional Transit Authority.
When I told Bob about the 3703 Camel back, I learned that this was not a Greyhound Bus. This was operated by the company Missouri Pacific Lines. They only shared the station with Greyhound. The bus color was also blue and white. This company stopped service in Corpus Christi in 1957.
Bob Redden never even visited Corpus Christi, but he knew all about the types of buses and the companies that serviced them especially after WWII.
I did continue to work with the Superintendent of Schools on the purchase of a coach. As luck would have it, the school board was not interested in the school having a motor coach at all. During our out of town events, our school just traveled in regular school buses.
Bob Redden in one of his IBC Issues stated in an article that “it is a shame that people in America cannot transport our school children in a better type of bus.” He also called this type of a bus “Trucks.” In Texas, teachers and coaches refer to them as “Yellow Dogs.”
Eight years have now passed, and the only communications with bus people I been doing is with Bob Redden. All this time I have been subscribing to National Bus Trader and the IBC Magazine. Finally one day, I met another athletic coach at an athletic event who told me his school just purchased a GM 4509. Because of this, the school was selling their GM 4104. I was ready to become a bus owner and was very interested in this GM 4104
At this time, the oil economy throughout the US was declining and most schools in West Texas depended on this economy. The school was in danger of having to cut their budget and staff members.
At first, I was given a price of $5000 to buy this bus, but because of the economy, the school reduced the price to $3500 to make the purchase more desirable. I knew this was a good price, but I also knew my wife and I would be moving to a different school and town the following year. Since the school offered me this price, I told them I would help find them a buyer.
I ran an ad in the “National bus Trader.” I was receiving many calls' not really to buy the coach, but just to ask questions about it. Now I was talking to real “bus people” like me, and I was excited! I found a buyer for the bus and the school was happy. But, I think the best accomplish was meeting other Bus People on the phone during this process. These people also knew personally Larry Plachno and Bob Redden. I was impressed to be part of the group.
The first person to call me was John Vickers. At the time, he owned a GM 4104. His dad made a living as being a Greyhound Driver. John was presently working for American Airlines as a Mechanic. John is also a “busman,” but he is motor home all the way. At present time, John owns a GM 4905-A.
John introduced me to a bus enthusiast named Fred Rayman. Fred was in the bus business and drove for Jefferson Bus Lines. Fred owned a restored GM 4104 that had the painting of a Trailways Bus. That coach was in excellent condition and looked good enough to still be in service.
Next, I talked to a person named Ralph Cantos. Ralph lives in Los Angeles, California. He owned a total of 60 buses of both transit and intercity coach. These buses were in a museum called the “Cantos Collection.” Ralph is the type of “busman” where everything stays on the bus including the seats, and the bus is all original. Right now, Ralph has around 70 buses in his collection. When I first talked to him, his collection was on leased property. Since the lease expired, he is presently looking for land in the Los Angeles area in order to have his museum on a permanent spot.
In the summer of 1993, I made a trip to Los Angeles to see the Cantos Collection where I was introduced to Loren Joplin. Loren owned a total of 125 GM New Look Buses. Every model that was built from 1959 to 1977 was in his collection. These were transits and suburban buses, a total of 32 different models. Another thing I noticed, was the buses still had the city’s name or company from were they were purchased and were all original.
Next, I received a call from Bill Wheeler. He was helping me with a question I wrote in “National Bus Trader” on the Curious Coach Owner. The question was about a GM TGH- 2708 Transit Bus. It looks so much like a GM TGM-3102, and I did not realize these were two different types of buses.
Bill Wheeler worked for General Motors in the Bus and Truck Division for 30 years. When he retired, he still remained a bus enthusiast, and at present time he owns two 1939 Model 1204 Yellow Coaches.
Bill Wheeler and I stay in contact. Because of this, Bill introduced me to another bus Enthusiast named Tim Logan.
Tim is an executive with a major corporation, and has owned 13 different coaches in 14 years. He usually restores them and will sell one and buy another one for a project. Tim had 3 coaches that were in perfect condition. One was a 1958 GM TGH-3102 Old Look, 1969 GM S6H-4503-A New Look, and a 1954 GM TDH-5105 Old Look. Tim still owns the 5105. All three of these coaches are in show room shape.
Another bus Enthusiast I made contact through National Bus Trader was Tom McNally. I did not personally meet him, but we did communicate on the phone and through e-mail. Tom had an excellent rally of mostly Scenicruise Coaches in Adrian, Texas. Because of the time of year this rally was held, I could not make this event.
Tom has an excellent Scenicruise Coach, and I hope I may see it one day.
Larry Yohe also wrote an excellent article in the National Bus Trader on restoring his Eagle 05 Trailways. I made contact with him through e-mail. From seeing pictures of this coach in the article, it is probably in better condition now than when it was in service.
As for the coaches I owned. My first one was a 1963 Flxible Starliner Clipper. My only mistake of being a "bus man," was to let that bus go. This coach was purchased by the Lovington, New Mexico School District brand new. It was use as an activity bus, and had logged in only 185,000 miles from 1963 until 1992 when I purchased it.
My next coach was a 1960 GM 4104. This coach did have some wear on it because it was first purchased by Western Greyhound Lines. After Greyhound removed it from its fleet, it was used by at least 2 charter companies. I believe I was the 4th owner of this coach.
I sold the coach in 2000 and in 2004; I purchased a 1982 MCI-9. I also have this coach today.
I’m of the opinion that these buses are made to ride in, not live in. I had “bus people” who are “motor home all the way” disagree with me. I was also amazed in the article by Tom Yohe where he wrote, “Some people never saw the soft glow of lime-colored lights or bluish cast from the lights above the luggage racks.” I just really cannot see why someone would want to strip out the interior lights, the individual read lights positioned where they located, and remove the luggage racks.
Although people find pleasure in restoring or rebuilding motor coaches, I never destroy the integrity of the coach by cutting into them. I do like to make room for family and friends to ride comfortably by removing some seats, but I never cut into the coach to create an area beyond that of the original manufacturer. I usually leave the first 3 seats on both side of the coach in place. The back part of the bus has the seats removed and replaced with couches and easy chairs. The very back seats are also left in place. I also add carpet to the floor which really gives the coach a neat appearance.
The main thing I also like in private coaches is the destination sign. All coaches should have one. I do like the people on the outside know it is a private coach, so that is what is written in its place. The thing about the restored coaches, many people still thinks the bus is still in service and belongs to a company instead of an individual.
Even if a coach is a motor home, it can still be crowded when you are traveling long distance. I am ready to get out and sleep in a motel room at the end of the day. I will also stop at a restaurant when it is time to eat on the trip. I really do not want to cook on the coach, and I believe it could be dangerous to have a stove on a private coach.
As I said at the first of this article, I became a bus person at the age of 3. That would make me a "busman" for a total of 61 years. Of all those 61 years, I have made contact, either in person, phone, and e-mail, with a total of 10 busmen, whom I mentioned in this article.
I believe Bus People we are one of a kind and there are many people that think we have a strange hobby and/or interest.
Thanks to Larry Plachno and “The National Bus Trader,” and the late Bob Redden and the "International Bus Collector,” bus people can make contact. There is also the “Flxible Owners International” which is an organization for people interested in Flxible Coaches. I was a member of this association when I owned my Flxible Starliner Clipper. My problem then was I could never get off to go to one of their rallies.
In some of the articles in NBT, many people do not leave any material on how to connect with each other. I would like to make connections with real “bus people,” so send me an e-mail and let’s share ideas and interest.
E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org