[This feature was published in the September 2003 issue of the Bull Sheet]
Vintage Buses Find a Home
Collection now on display in museum at Hershey, Pennsylvania
[By Allen Brougham] . . .
I've made this confession before, but here I go again... I like buses.
As a kid, I was enamored by Greyhound's fleet of Silversides coaches. I thought they were neat. (I still do!) But I only got a chance to ride in one of them once. And then came the heralded Scenicruiser, where passengers in the raised rear portion of the coach could look forward through their own windshield as though they were riding in a dome car. But, I never got a chance to ride in one.
Buses that have outlived their usefulness have a way of simply disappearing. Bus companies have typically neither the space nor the resources to maintain a non-performing asset, and unlike an antique car, a bus is not something most folks can keep in their garage or driveway. So it should be no surprise that examples of a number of early bus classes are either nonexistent or in some decrepit shape in a scrap yard.
But not all of them!
To the credit of a handful of history-minded heroes, a few coaches from yesteryear have indeed been saved and restored to mint condition. I got a taste of some of them at a vintage bus display five years ago in Frederick, Maryland, at an event called "A Celebration of Buses." It was arranged by Fred Wengenroth, the manager of the Greyhound depot in that city. On hand for the occasion were seven coaches dating between 1947 and 1960. It was a very nostalgic event. Fred had every intention of making his celebration an annual affair, but he died several months later. The event was not repeated.
It was there at the Celebration of Buses that I learned of the Museum of Bus Transportation to be located in Hershey, Pennsylvania. I joined the organization. Its founder, Richard Maguire, who attended the celebration with some of his buses, was a retired president of Capitol Trailways in Harrisburg. With his sense of history for the industry, he had preserved a number of coaches, one from as early as 1927. It was his and the organization's dream to house his collection along with some others at the Hershey museum, then in the planning stage to be housed with the Antique Automobile Club of America. Regrettably, he did not live to see his dream come to reality. He died in 2001.
So it was with much remembrance and appreciation of both Richard Maguire and Fred Wengenroth that I attended the grand opening of the AACA Museum on June 29. Make no mistake about it, the 80 or so antique autos on display at the facility in their pristine, shiny condition are well worth the visit. But it was the buses that I really went there to see. And on the bottom floor, there they were. Seven of them.
The oldest on exhibit was a 1915 White from the Fullington Auto Bus Company. Others included a 1927 Fageol Safety Coach, a 1936 Fitzjohn-Chevrolet, a 1947 Flxible Clipper, and a 1964 Trailways GM-4106, all from the Richard Maguire collection; and a 1951 31-seat Fitzjohn from Wolf's Bus Lines. But amazing (to me), also on display was a 1975 MCI MC8. Golly, I can remember trying to charter one of those when the model was brand new! (We got an MC7 instead.) Now the MC8 is considered an antique! How time flies when you're having fun!
Tom Collins, president of Museum of Bus Transportation, poses at the door of former Trailways GM 4106
The Museum of Bus Transportation is actually a tenant at the AACA Museum. Space for the buses is limited to about eight to ten exhibits, depending on their size. But this in itself is an achievement; until now the buses could only be enjoyed by a limited few. There are plans to cycle some of the buses with others housed in an off-site location, thus avoiding repetition for those who go to the facility, say, about three times a year. In fact, I plan to return in October as part of an Oakleigh Tours group, going there (you guessed it!)... by bus! (If only we could find a Scenicruiser to get there in!)
The AACA Museum is located in South Hanover Township on PA-39, a couple of miles north of Hershey. For further information call 717-566-7100, or go to www.aacamuseum.org. For information on the Museum of Bus Transportation call 717-774-4848, or go to www.busmuseum.org.