Headquarters for the meeting was the AmeriSuites O’Hare Airport hotel, located several miles east of the airport on Higgins Road. Co-chair for the meeting were Director of Conventions Dino Mandros and Chicago member John “#127" Le Beau. Buses for the garage tours were provided by Keeshin Charter Service on Friday, Colonial Coach on Saturday and Downers Grove Transit on Sunday and Monday.
Friday: Friday was “Milwaukee Day” and consisted of visits to three southeastern Wisconsin cities. The first stop was at Kenosha Transit System, with a visit first to their garage where GM T6H-4523N, GM and TMC RTS and Nova Low Floor buss were seen. Then it was on to the downtown transit center, which also houses the maintenance facility of KTS’s fleet of ex-Toronto PCC streetcars. The rebuilt fleet of five cars are each painted in a different color representing various US cities that once ran the cars, including Chicago, Pittsburgh, Shaker Heights, Johnstown and Toronto. The group was given rides on the lakefront trolley loop, which serves upscale restraints, shops and new condominiums.
The group then moved on to Racine, and the City’s Belle Urban System. A new transit center was under construction, so we visited the temporary on-site main transfer point at a park on the outskirts of downtown. The majority of the fleet is TMC and Nova 35 foot RTS buses, but there are still nine T6H-4523As on the roster, and one was seen in service.
Then it was on to Wisconsin and lunch at a downtown mall, after which Milwaukee County Transit System New Flyer Low Floor buses were seen and photographed on Milwaukee Ave., which was in the process of being rebuilt. After lunch, there was a visit to the MCTS Central Maintenance Facility, where a number of Neoplan AN-440s were awaiting disposition. The final stop of the day was at the downtown transit center, which features an historical display on the mezzanine.
Saturday: Saturday was “Rockford Day” and featured visits to four cities in north central Illinois and south-central Wisconsin. The first stop was at De Kalb to visit the Husky Bus operation of the Northern Illinois University. The fleet of 20 buses includes 16 35-foot Gillig Phantom, two GM New Look T6H-4523As and two Ford Aerotech paratransit buses. The group visited the NIU Campus transit center as well as the garage and two different locations where NIU highway buses are stored.
Next stop was at Rockford Coaches, a charter and operator of line service from Rockford to O’Hare Airport. This operator was running a fleet of 20 MCI highway buses, including MC-9s and 12s and 102-A, C and Ds, 102DL3s and new D and G-4500s.
Then it was on to see the Rockford Mass Transit District’s facility. Located on the north side of downtown Rockford, this facility houses not only a transit center, but also the bus garage, maintenance facility and administrative offices. The fleet of 39 buses includes 15 30-foot Neoplan AN-430s, 12 30-foot Gillig Phantoms, eight 35-foot New Flyer low floors and four Flxible 35-foot Metros. +
After lunch in Rockford, the group proceed to Beloit, Wisconsin. Beloit Transit System buses were seen at the system’s main transfer point at Beloit Mall, which has had most of its stores closed. The city has suffered the loss of many of its major employers, and is generally depressed. But still, bus equipment was up to date, with 30 and 40-foot Gillig Phantoms and 35-foot New Flyer low floor buses. At this point, part of the group went directly to the Illinois Railway Museum in one of the two tour buses, while the other continued north to Janesville as originally planned.
As was the case in Beloit, the Janesville Transit System garage was closed, so the only stop was at the new transit center located south of downtown. The only buses running that day were new 35-foot New Flyer low floor units.
The second group then headed back south to the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Illinois to join the first group. The Illinois Railway Museum has a vast collection of mainline railroad and streetcar equipment, as well as a growing trolley and motor bus collection. Included on the grounds is a mile of trolley coach operation, and CTA Marmon-Herrington TC-48 trolley coach No. 9631 was in operation. On display were former Dayton, Ohio AM General Trolley bus No. 906, former Milwaukee County Transit System No. 1925, a GM New Look, former Janesville Transit System 412 a GM T7W-603 RTS bus, former West Towns Bus Co. 343, a Ford Transit and former Chicago Surface Lines 3407, a White 798. Under cover in the garage awaiting restoration were several older buses, including ex-CTA GM TDH-5103 No. 608.
Sunday: Sunday was “Suburban Chicago Day” and featured stops at the close-in Chicago suburbs. The first of two garage stops was at the PACE West Division in Melrose Park. PACE currently operates nearly 900 fixed-route buses, including 35 and 40 foot Orion Is, 40-foot Orion VIs 35 and 40-foot NABIs, and 40-foot Ikarus and Nova Classic full size buses. In addition, there are 30'foot El Dorado and 28-foot Chance minibuses and Chance replica trolleys. Most of the full size bus types were seen at the West Division.
The next stop was at the Downers Grove Transit garage. The City operates a three route feeder system to the METRA commuter rail station in town during morning and evening peak hours on weekdays. The service is run with a fleet of eight 40-foot Gillig Phantom buses, which have suburban seats and no rear door. The City is now considering replacing the bus service with a parking garage at the railroad station. A short stop was made at the Downers Grove METRA railroad station, and then it was on to lunch. In the afternoon, stops were made at the 79th-Western, Midway Airport and Jefferson Park transit centers, where both CTA and PACE buses were seen.
Monday: Monday was “CTA Day” and featured stops at three CTA facilities. The garage tour got a later 9:00 AM start to avoid rush-hour traffic in the city and allow peak hour buses to return to the CTA North Park Garage, the tour’s first stop. The Chicago Transit Authority now operates a bus fleet of over 1,900 units. Included are TMC RTS-08's, Flxible Metros, and Nova and New Flyer low floor buses. Still in the fleet, but being phased out are 40-foot MAN Americana and MAN artics of both original CTA and ex-Seattle types. Just about all of these models were seen at North Park or the other strops throughout the day. The second stop was at the South Shops. At this location heavy-duty maintenance and complete overhaul takes place. The group was divided into sub-groups of ten for a detailed walk-through of this extensive multi-building facility. Leaving South Shops, a lunch stop was provided adjacent to CTA’s Archer Garage. Afterward, the tour proceeded to the Kedzie Garage, where three historic CTA buses were put on display. Included were CTA 8499, the 40-foot Flxible-Twin Old Look bus with a New Look front end, GM New Look TDH-5301 No.301 and Flxible 40-foot New Look bus No. 3706. The Monday tour and the convention was concluded when the tour bus arrived at the hotel at 4:00 PM.
Acknowledgments: MBS Conventions staff wish to acknowledge and extend thanks fo the following folks who helped to make the Chicago convention a success: