by Gerald Squier
Some 50 persons were present for the Society's first convention in Minnesota's Twin Cities over the weekend of April 30 through May 2. The weather cooperated nicely, and warm sunny days were provided on the convention weekend between the normal spring rain storms.
On an unusual Friday tour, the group headed towards the Hibbing Greyhound museum. But before leaving the Twin Cities area, a stop was made near Spring Lake Park at Lorenz Bus Service,, where owner Jim Canine greeted us for a brief tour. About to be replaced, but still on the property were GMC new look coaches, but most transit runs were held down with RTS units. Also on the roster for charter and long-distance route service were a number of MCI/TMC parlor buses. The next stop was in Duluth, where the Duluth Transit Authority's Roy Chavez gave a brief talk about the agency, its service and equipment. The group was then taken to the indoor storage garage where GMC T6H-4521As were found, along with 35' Flxible Metros, GM RTSs and Gillig Phantoms. The DTA's first low floor bus had recently arrived from the Gillig plant. It was demonstrated for the attendees and taken outside for photographs, After lunch, it was onward to Hibbing where we were met by Greyhound Museum curator Gene Nicolelli. Here we first learned that the Origin Center, as it is called, is not an official Greyhound corporate function, but rather a project of the city. The museum's artifacts had been housed in the Hibbing community center, but a new building had been constructed through donations from various corporate transportation sources. Although the new building was supposed to have be completed before our visit, construction problems caused delays. The interior was complete, and most of the displays had been moved in, but not set up. The exterior and the parking lot remained to be completed. The MBS group was the first to visit the new site, and the gift shop was opened for the occasion. After viewing the displays, we were taken on a short historical tour that ended at a city garage where the Museum's bus collection was temporarily stored. Located here were a Hupmobile, a 1927 White, a Yellow Coach 719, a Silversides and a Scenicruiser. Also on hand, but not yet restored was a GMC PDA-3704 cruiser.
On Saturday, the first stop was at Jefferson Lines' new garage and headquarters that had been built on former railroad yard property at 26th & Minnehaha Sts. in Minneapolis. Besides housing all corporate and office functions, the new location maintains Jefferson's fleet of MCI and Prevost parlor buses. The group enjoyed a nice spread of coffee and pastries which Jefferson had provided for the occasion. Afterwards, Maintenance Director John Strantz provided a talk and tours of the facility that he had designed. Greyhound buses are also stored and maintained on the property in space leased from Jefferson. The next stop was at the sales and repair facility of ABC Bus, Inc. in Faribalt. After enjoying sodas and cold drinks, the group was shown how ABC can repair and completely rebuild damaged buses. Outside, various "for sale" buses were inspected, including MCI, Prevost, Van Hool, Flxible and other parlor coaches. Also seen were former New York City RTS buses. The group then continued on to Rochester and a lunch stop adjacent to the Rochester City Lines garage. After lunch, RCL owner George Holter and his son Dan, who manages the Rochester property, hosted a tour of the facility, which is also the location of Richfield Bus Sales. A large number of buses that had been acquired for parts and resale were located on the Rochester/Richfield property, including GM old and new look and RTS buses as well as Flxible, AMG, Neoplan and MAN articulated buses. Several Fitzjohns (one of which was being restored) and a Reo Flying Cloud bus (George's first) were also seen. In the active RCL fleet were Canadian GM T8H-5307As as well as GM RTSs, Flxible Metros, Neoplans and Gilligs. For those wishing to take photos on the street, Dan drove a shuttle to the downtown transfer point, where the headquarters of the Mayo Clinic could be seen in the background. Final stop for the day was at George Holter's Richfield Bus Co. in Bloomington. This location is the Minneapolis headquarters for the firm's charter, contract and tour business. It also houses a number of older sales and parts buses, including a nice collection of former MTC buses (GM 5303s, Flxible 111-CCs, AMG 40102s and AMG/MAN articulates). The queen of this collection is an ex Twin City Lines Mack C-50DT. Revenue vehicles present were more GMD T8H-5307's for contract work, a small fleet of 25 passenger cutaway buses and MCI MC-9, 102C3, 102DL and Renaissance coaches. Some of the Renaissance buses were lettered for Richfield's tour subsidiary, Heartland Tours.
Following an active flea market on Saturday evening, a brief business meeting was held, presided over by the new Vice-President Conventions, Gerald Squier. Jerry confirmed the Fall 1999 convention as being in Orlando, FL in conjunction with the APTA Equipment Expo. Squier also announced the year 2000 meeting schedule: Pittsburgh, PA in the Spring and Portland, OR in the Fall. MBS member George Holter spoke about his experiences in the bus business, with the start and operation of his Richfield, Rochester and Sioux Falls, SD properties. The meeting was concluded by a presentation of Minnesota bus slides by John McKane and Jerry; member Les Hoffman brought along slides of the Seattle area for viewing.
Sunday was spent touring the facilities of the Twin Cities Metropolitan Council's Transit Operations Division, known locally as Metro Transit. The tour was led by the manager of terminals and facilities, Aaron Isaacs. Stops were made at the Ruter (formerly Shingle Creek), Heywood, Snelling, Nicollet and South Garages. The mainstay of the Metro fleet is nearly 600 Gillig Phantom 40 foot buses. A small portion (perhaps 50) of the 300-bus MAN Americana fleet were still to be seen, along with two groups of New Flyer articulated buses. Newest arrivals on the property were ten Gillig low floor buses. In addition to the Metro Transit coaches, buses for the so called "opt-out" agencies, which are operated under contract, were stored at some of the locations. This includes Maple Grove (Ruter), Plymouth Metrolink (Heywood) and Mississippi Valley (South). The MBS group also visited the Lake Harriet streetcar operation of the Minnesota Transportation Museum, (MTM) and rode on the Museum's Duluth car on the mile of track along the east shore of Lake Harriet. The car barn was opened for the group and they were able to see the MTM's Twin Cities standard car and former TCRT PCC car which is undergoing restoration. The MTM also owns a number of former MTC buses that are stored at various Metro Transit garages. Seen by convention attendees was the restored GMC TDH-5105 No. 1399 (in original cream and red with blue strip livery) at the Nicollet garage. At the South Garage was unrestored ex-MTC GMC TDH-5303 No. 198 was seen in the old "boxcar red" paint job.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: Our heartfelt thanks for providing buses for the three day tour goes to Jefferson Lines, Richfield Bus Co. and ABC Bus, Inc. Jefferson's Dave Aarsvold arranged for the MCI 102A3 coach which was driven by MBS member and Jefferson's Oklahoma Division driver, Fred Rayman on all three days of the convention. ABC Bus Inc. Board member, Fred Dunikoski arranged for a Northfield Lines Van Hool coach for the Saturday tour when the group toured the ABC Faribalt facility. On Sunday, George Holter provided a second bus, which at the unanimous request of the attendees, was one of his Canadian 5307's. The bus was driven by son, Stan Holter. Our thanks also go to Marilyn Holter for compiling the Richfield/Rochester bus rosters and helping with their duplication. Finally, thanks to member John McKane for helping to arrange and manage the tours. Everyone seemed to agree that this was one of the best MBS events in recent years.