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David Millhouser
November 1, 2023
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New Jersey and Midwest Bus Events of 2023  

The summer of 2023 came to a great end for bus history buffs with two unique events on September 16, 900 miles apart. Like fraternal twins celebrating at a distance, the Friends of the New Jersey Transportation Heritage Center and the Midwest Bus Museum had simultaneous gatherings for fans of bus transportation history.

Bus gods smiled at us with great weather at both locations.

GM RTS and GM Old Look transit.
Flxible HL100.
GM RTS is in the foreground and a Flxible transit is ahead of it.
NJT MC9 in the foreground.
Bus memorabilia market.

The Friends of the New Jersey Transportation Heritage Center held their annual Historic Bus Festival at Saint Veronica’s Church in Howell Township NJ. This is a huge venue, with acres of parking and a full-sized gymnasium for their bus memorabilia market. 

More than 50 buses were on display dating from the 1940s to a new MCI J4500. The size of the parking lot allowed them to spread out, creating great photo opportunities, and 12 vendors offered a variety of bus models, artifacts, and printed material.

Academy MCI J4500 and GM PD4104.

Jason Davis, Friends of the New Jersey Transportation Heritage Center Vice President, reported that 526 bus history enthusiasts registered, and that, of the buses exhibited, there were about 20 “visiting” coaches complementing the 30 owned and restored by members of the Heritage Center. 

Among the notable visitors was a new Academy MCI J4500 and an immaculate DASH Transit bus from Alexandria Virginia. 

New Jersey Transit brought their bus driving simulator, and it was a huge hit with both kids and adults. 90 guests tried their hand, a great way to get a feel for driving without risking crushed metal.

The crowd had a family atmosphere in a unique sense. Many of the guests were either employed in the bus industry or were “alumni” … and there was a unique bond… lots of shared stories. 

Davis said “It was nice seeing people of all ages enjoying the various buses we had on display. Hearing all the stories of going on a school trip or a charter on a GM Old Look. Or in the case of our younger fans, hearing their stories of riding their favorite MCI Cruiser Bus.” 

The flavor was New Jersey/New York but attendees came from as far away as Florida and New England. Jeff Silver, owner of Iconic Replicas ( https://www.iconic-replicas.com/ ) drove up from Florida up in his spectacular motor home, the Iconicruiser. He’s been a regular at events celebrating bus history for years. The Museum of Bus Transportation/AACA Museum was represented by several members.

Awesome Diecast’s “Iconicruiser”.

The event ended with a parade… one of the Friends of the New Jersey Transportation Heritage Center’s hallmarks… and a tribute to the fact that virtually all their buses are maintained in operable condition.

Davis pointed out that this wouldn’t be possible without “Glenn Schmelz our Chief Maintenance Superintendent. His continuous hard work and dedication allow us to keep all this history rolling. “

One time zone to the west, the Midwest Bus Museum held an Open House for its members and supporters. Founded in 2020, this is a relatively new museum based in Richmond, Illinois with another location in Bangor, Wisconsin. Despite their relative youth, with the help of a dedicated band of volunteers, they’ve grown rapidly, and now have a fleet of 50 buses. 

New Jersey Transit Eagle.
GM Old Look commuter.
Trailways Model 10 Eagle.
Food Truck (actually... very good).

Despite their relative youth, with the help of a dedicated band of volunteers, they’ve grown rapidly, and now have a fleet of 50 buses ranging from a 1926 Wayne/International to more modern equipment. The emphasis is North American school buses, but they have a number of heavy-duty transits. 

For “Skoolie” fans… this is a bit of heaven, with lots of beautifully preserved school buses. This group knows a ton about school buses and is eager to share that knowledge.

Starting with dinner Friday night, and ending with a Farewell Brunch on Sunday, the event was packed with activities for the 30 attendees. Saturday morning was spent exploring the fleet and Richmond facility grounds. Following the lunch/member meeting, the group boarded buses for the Illinois Railway Museum in Union IL, where they rode trolley buses and toured the garage. After dinner, the railway museum provided night rides. 

If you are anywhere East of the Rockies, and love bus history and people… keep an eye out for these events next year. Neither will disappoint. 

https://www.friendsnjthc.org/
https://midwestbusmuseum.org/

The following photos are courtesy of the Midwest Bus Museum at The Illinois Railway Museum

 

Article written by David Millhouser

Dave Millhouser started driving buses cross-country for a non-profit Christian organization called “Young Life” as a summer job in 1965. They carried high school kids from the East Coast to ranches in Colorado in a fleet that consisted of three 1947 Brills, a 1947 Aerocoach, and a 1937 Brill. Their fleet grew to 23 buses and traveled all 48 contiguous states and much of Canada.

When Young Life dropped their bus program, Dave ended up selling parts for Hausman Bus Sales. In 1978 Dave was hired by Eagle International to sell motorcoaches and spent the next 30 years doing that… 13 years with Eagle, as well as stints with MCI, Setra, and Van Hool. His first sale was an Eagle shell for a motorhome, and his career ended selling double-decker Van Hools.

Dave had a side career in underwater photography/writing, and Bus and Motorcoach News asked him to do a regular column in 2006. Millhouser.net is an effort to make those columns available to bus people.

If you find value in them, feel free to use them at no charge. Dave would ask that you consider a donation to the AACA Museum aacamuseum.org in Hershey, Pennsylvania. They recently merged with the Museum of Bus Transportation, and maintain a fleet of 40 historic coaches, lots of bus memorabilia, and hundreds of antique automobiles.

If you are anywhere near Hershey… Dave says, “You will love it.”

In May of 2015, the Editor of Bus & Motorcoach News called Dave a Bad Example for Motorcoach Drivers… his proudest accomplishment to date. Read the columns and you’ll see why.

Click here to reach Dave by email: davemillhouser@icloud.com
Click here to visit his website: https://www.millhouser.net/

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