Glacier’s red buses headed for an overhaul

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A red bus head into the East Side Tunnel in Glacier National Park.

Glacier National Park announced plans Friday for a major overhaul of the park’s 33 iconic red buses, products of the White Motor Co.

The Model 706 buses, manufactured between 1936 and 1939, will receive new Ford 6.2L, V8 engines that will be assisted by an electric hybrid system designed to reduce fuel consumption and emissions. A battery bank powering the hybrid system will charge when the vehicles decelerate, including on downhill runs, according to a news release.

Each bus will be remounted on a new Ford chassis. The dashboard and gauges will be replaced with historic replicas. Refinishing will include rust removal and painting, using the historic red color of ripe mountain ash berries.

Lauren Alley, a spokeswoman for Glacier National Park, said a few buses will be rehabilitated each winter and then returned to service for the summer season. The work will require several years.

Alley acknowledged that having the buses in good condition is even more important as visitation increases at Glacier National Park.

“Glacier’s various visitor services are all in very high demand with the increase in visitation, so it’s quite important to keep things in good operational order — particularly our historic resources, whether they be red buses, hotels, visitor centers, etc.,” she said.

The last time a rehabilitation of the buses occurred was in 1999. Ford Motor Co. donated that work. This time, the National Park Service included the bus rehabilitation as a responsibility in the most recent concessionaire contract with Xanterra Travel Collection.

Xanterra has selected Legacy Classic Trucks, based in Driggs, Idaho, to do the work.

During the 1930s, the White Motor Co., in partnership with the National Park Service, manufactured more than 500 Model 706 touring coaches, in a variety of colors, for a number of national parks. Thirty-five buses were purchased by the Glacier Park Transportation Company.

The park service said Glacier is the only national park to have maintained its fleet of 1930s White Motor Co. buses.

Reporter Duncan Adams may be reached at dadams@dailyinterlake.com or 758-4407.

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