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Exactly what constitutes an "Official Old-Look" is somewhat of a grey area to be sure. The GM coaches of the late 1940's through the 1950's are certain to be included within their ranks. Somewhat hazier is the inclusion of the coaches built by Yellow-GM in the early 1940's and back into the late 1930's. For purpose of categorization, this page will include only those "Old Look" buses built under GM authority bearing GM name and builders plates. The earlier "Yellow" models will follow in a subsequent page to be added later.
leaves the start of this page at 1945. World War II was in its closing
days, and the BTC's motor buses were facing a tremendous amount of strain
as a result of hard service requirements brought about by the shortage of
materials, and the rationing of supplies in the War effort. At the time, the
BTC's newest Diesel, #1095, was already four years old, having
been delivered just before the beginning of the American involvement.
Industry's attention to the War effort meant the construction of no new domestic
equipment such as buses (and even automobiles) for several years. It was not
until 1945, that the BTC was able to aquire five new buses which had been
ordered in 1941. These TD-4506's, numbered 1096-1100, were delivered in
June, and were painted in an Office of Defense Transportation (ODT) scheme of
grey and white.
Before the arrival of these coaches, the BTC, in October of 1944, had added an additional 100 TD-4506 coaches onto the 1941 order. These coaches, numbered 1101-1200, did not arrive until 1946, the result of labor troubles at the General Motors plant. As delivered the coaches wore a splashy scheme of Lemon Yellow and white, set off by a bright blue stripe on either side that converged into a "V" in the front, and a dip in the rear. This unique scheme would not last long, however, as changes in control and ownership would impact lasting changes in Baltimore's transit. Interestingly, the majority of these changes revolved around General Motors "Old Look" buses.
Near the end of World War II in late 1944, a control battle would take place within the BTC. First, a sizeable amount of BTC stock would be purchased by the National City Lines (NCL), an outfit controlled by E. Roy Fitzgerald, who had (to say the least) strong ties with General Motors, as well Standard Oil and Firestone Tires. Needless to say, an operation of this influence could certainly be seen as having an interest in seeing sales of GM, Standard, and Firestone products.
NCL, eager to capitalize on their new holdings, began to petition first for board representation, and was granted permission to appoint two members to the Board of Directors. In what might be seen as a somewhat unethical (or at least rude) move, the NCL members sought to give BTC President Bancroft Hill the ability to step aside whenever he wanted. While this would be dismissed, Hill would ultimately retire soon afterwards (the nature of which is unknown). Following this, NCL was able to get its man, Fred Nolan, to head the BTC. Thus, the BTC (with NCL at the helm) was now able to proceed in its plans of a massive conversion of lines from rail to bus, which would involve the purchase of hundreds of new GM buses.
After ironing out issues concerning repaving costs, the BTC, optimistic that their "modernization" plan would be approved, set out in search of new coaches during the Summer of 1946. On July 15th, an order was placed for 200 TDH-4506 coaches, costing $13,127.50 each. However, this order would be cancelled, to be replaced with a subsequent order dated August 8th, for 200 TDH-4507's, priced at $15,051.00 each. Another unfilled order form shows an order for 400 4507's priced just below $15,000 each, but it is believed that the possibility of this order would have replaced the coaches represented in the August 8th order. However, a later order would be placed for Gasoline buses with ACF-Brill that would make up for much of the coaches dropped from the larger order.
In the spring of 1947, the 200 Diesels arrived, numbered 1400-1599 (the 1200's were a group of Fords, while the 1300 series was skipped) to be lated joined by 161 Brill Gasoline Buses. Most of these would enter service on June 22, 1947, typically referred to by Transit Historians as "M-Day," when streetcar routes #11, 17, and 29 were replaced by bus routes #3, 11, 28/37, 29, and 57. On the last day of streetcar operation, BTC held a parade of buses from the Court House northward along a portion of the new route. As delivered, these coaches wore a standard NCL scheme of Yellow and Deep Green, thus testifying to their lineage. All of them would not enter service until March of 1948, when the #6 streetcar line was converted to bus.
A jinxed coach number of
this series was #1465. Originally, a coach bearing serial number
620 was to wear this fleet number. However, enroute to Baltimore, the
coach was involved in a major accident which involved serious structural
damage. As a result, the coach was refused by the BTC, and a coach with serial
number 614 was numbered as #1465. For unknown reasons, this coach
would be the first of this lot to be retired, vanishing from the rosters by 1955. Rosters from 1950 and 1951 show the coach running from out of Bush Street yard.
Despite the intial hard-fought success of the BTC in the initial round of conversions, successive conversions would prove to be less overwhelming, usually involving a single route at a time, and later "Old Look" bus orders reflect this. The next order of GM buses would not be delivered until 1951, as 20 TDH-4509s arrived, numbered 1600-1619. These coaches were primarily bought to replace a group of Pre-War Yellows that were at retirement age. By the time these coaches arrived, the standard scheme had changed to the "Transportation Orange" scheme that dominated during the 1950's.
A delivery of 31 new TDH-5103's in 1952 and 1953 helped to convert the #18 line from streetcars to buses. These were Baltimore's first 40 foot buses. The introduction of the capacious design helped to give the NCL team more leverage in looking to convert the heavier streetcar lines to buses, and the remainder of the 1950's saw them doing just that through further old-look bus purchases.
Baltimore got its first
ride on air-suspensioned Old Looks beginning in 1953, with the delivery
of 15 new TDH-5105's, which were followed in 1954 by an
additional 4 units, in total numbered 1800-1818. Delivery of
these coaches helped to supply sufficient coaches to allow for the conversion of
the #13 line to buses.
Beginning in 1954, the BTC began to take a cheaper route when it came to additional coach acquisitions, in looking at the second hand GM Diesel market. Acquisition of these coaches would in time create a convoluted numbering scheme, in which some purchases were isolated into their own series, while others were simply tacked onto existing series.
First of the second hand coaches to be recieved were 16 coaches purchased from Knoxville Transit Lines. These coaches consisted of three 1946 TD-3609's which would be numbered 900-902, five 1947 TDH-3610's to be numbered 903-907, and eight 1945 TD-4506's which would be numbered 1201-1207. Interestingly, the "new" 900's would allow for the retirement of a number of the small Gasoline Ford units, thus opening up enough space to number the 4506's into the 1200's. However, for about a year, the BTC was rostering two separate series of 1200's! The "new" 1200's, when coupled with declining ridership, allowed for the conversion of the #14 streetcar into a new, longer #23 bus line.
In 1955, the BTC would have to return to the new coach market, in its interest of converting the #32 streetcar to bus operation. 45 new TDH-5105's numbered 1819-1863 were ordered to sufficiently equip the BTC with enough coaches to meet the need. This would be followed in 1956 by an additional 40 TDH-5105's numbered 1864-1893, which would allow enough equipment to convert the #19 line to bus operation (Harford's initial allotment of coaches would be 1840-1871). BTC would also acquire an additional ten second-hand coaches, this time from Bluebird Coach lines, in 1956. These 1946 TD-4007's would be numbered 1034-1043, tacked onto the beginning of a series of 1940 Yellows, a few of which remained in service. They would spend their career at Kirk Division, primarily working the #70 Downtown line.
While no conversions
took place in 1957, a number of bus purchases still took place. First,
25 new TDH-5105's arrived numbered 1894-1918. These would be
followed by 11 more Knoxville buses. First of these were 6 1955
TDH-5105's that were numbered as if new (no mention is made as to WHY KTL
was already selling two year old coaches), being assigned to numbers
1919-1924. The coaches are readily distinguishable from BTC's new
5105's by their split window sashes. Also purchased from
KTL were more of their TD-4506's, which would join their sister coaches
and bear numbers 1208-1212. The 36 coaches received this year may
have spurred the retirement of some of the Brill
In 1958, BTC relied solely on second hand equipment in its preparation to convert the #26 streetcar line. First were 5 TDH-4509's bought from Augusta Coach Company. These would be numbered 1619-1624 to mate in with the existing 4509's. They were basically identical, aside from the lack of the front "Therm-O-Matic" unit above the destination sign. Also in 1958, the BTC dared to venture into the 1300 series finally, with the purchase of 16 1947 and 1948 TDH-4507's to be assigned fleet numbers 1300-1315. These coaches were purchased from Buffalo Transit Company (and may explain the incorrect application of "Buffalos" ["Buffalo" is a term commonly used to describe a type of GM over-the-road coach] to all Old-Looks by some drivers) and spent their careers at Eastern Division, with one minor exception.
BTC would receive it's last "Old Looks" in 1959, when 25 coaches numbered 1925-1949 were delivered. These were among the last TDH-5105's to ever be built - only 20 more coaches (for Milwaukee) would follow the BTC order. These coaches were almost certainly intended to replace the remaining trackless trolleys then in use. With this order in 1959, the paint scheme finally changed. BTC replaced the NCL variation with a two-toned green paint scheme. This scheme includes a few variations in its use, ranging from an all-green body with large centered numbers to a two-tone green with small cornered numbers and a white roof.
BTC would not return to purchase buses again until 1963, by which point, all 40 foot buses were of the "New Look" design, thus giving rise to the opposing term "Old Look." BTC's Old Look fleet would remain largely intact throughout the 1960's, as BTC's bus purchases of the 1960's were intended to replace both streetcars and Brill buses. As a result, the BTC had an all-bus, all-GM, all-diesel fleet by 1967.
While the BTC would retire very few "Old Looks," it's successor, the MTA would see to it to replace them all. After arrival of the first set of a massive 370 bus order in 1971,all of the coaches up through 1400 were retired (with exception of #1306, which saw a brief stint at Kirk). In addition a number of the 1400's were also retired, while others were shuffled about to odd new divisional homes. Arrival of the second set of coaches allowed for the retirement of the remaining 1400's and 1500's.
While MTA would retire a
number of Old-Looks in 1971, they would acquire an additional handful in
1973, with their acquisition of the McMahon Transportation Company's
suburban routes and equipment. These would be short lived, however, and would
soon be retired. Descriptions of these coaches will be listed in a separate
page detailing equipment acquired from the takeover of
MTA's purchase of 100 buses in 1973 and 1974 primarily served to replace most of the equipment acquired from the independents, and equip the agency to fulfill an ambitious expansion plan during the mid-1970's. However, before the arrival of the last 60 of these buses, a tight fuel crunch hit the United States, and MTA, looking for a temporary fix to prepare it for an increase in ridership, bought about 20 of the retired TDH-4507's back from Agro Motors near Fort Smallwood. These "zombies" ran for a brief time, most carrying no roll signs, only cardstock destinations in their windows. It is believed that these coaches did only short tripper duties for the agency during the time in which they operated.
The temporary return of these 1400's and 1500's, along with the implementation of a modification of the state Paint Scheme in 1973, which quite honestly, looked good on the old-looks, made for the final "Swan Song" of these coaches. With only one exception, only the 5105's were given this new scheme, and most of the targets were the coaches from 1956 and later. Virtually all of the 1959 models were repainted.
The order for 205 new Flxibles in 1975 saw the retirement of both the 1600 series and 1700 series. In addition, a large number of 1800's and 1900's were weeded out. Still, a respectable number of 5105's remained to serve until 1979 and 1980, when two orders of RTS-II's finally replaced them. The last handful were sent out to Martin Airport, where they were ultimately sold in a sealed-bid auction.
Initially, five coaches were saved: #1894, 1909, 1912, 1928, and 1949. Coach #1894 was converted to a Motor Home for a while, but appears to have been subsequently scrapped in Florida. Meanwhile, coach #1928, a former Christmas Bus, was saved for a time, but ultimately served as a parts bus for #1909. The remaining three survive, spread about. Coach #1909 remains in Baltimore, restored to BTC green by Charlie Neal, #1912 was saved by George Knarr, but ultimately wound up restored as a Metrobus by WMATA Finally, coach #1949 lives a new life out in Washington, saved by bus enthusiast Les Bagley.
The surviving "Old
Looks" are not simply confined to 5105's. Two others are alive and
well. Coach #1096 was held onto by the MTA, largely as a
result of its significance as the first TDH-4506 produced. It was
donated to the Baltimore Streetcar Museum, and has ultimately been
repainted back into the Yellow scheme dominant through the 1950's. Coach
#1426 also survives, the result of the hard work of the restoration of
Father Kevin Mueller. This coach had been sitting for years out in
Elkridge, only to be brought back to life by Father Mueller, and
now wears the "Fruit Salad" NCL scheme that it was delivered
In summary, the "Old Looks" were a significant part of the Baltimore transit picture, responsible for the most significant changes to ever take place to the tapestry of the system during the postwar era.