The historic garage in which we showcase our original operating Yellowstone Park vehicles is located in the Historic Commercial District of Red Lodge. The garage was built in 1936 and is the home to one of the oldest, if not the oldest service stations that operated continuously in the State of Montana.
We purchased the garage in late 2018 and consistent with our desire to preserve the historic past and ensure we have a structurally sound building in which to store and display our vehicles, are in the process of restoring it to its former glory. The garage is primarily open to the public on weekends (late spring through early fall), for special events and by appointment. Individuals and groups are free to enter the building when open and view all that is showcased therein. There is no charge for entry.
The Model 15-45 Bus with GR Engine has a completely redesigned engine and transmission on a heavier frame from the earlier Model TEB Bus. The 50 hp GR engine features a removable head and a pressurized oil system with an oil pressure gauge added to the dash. The slanted spark plugs distinguish the GR engine from the earlier GN engine used in 1920-1923 Model 15-45 Buses. The longer, four-cylinder engine increases the wheel base by 4.5 inches resulting in a longer hood and front fenders. The new transmission has a more traditional shift pattern and is easier to shift.
The bus has a curved cowl below the windshield and a metal-covered trunk at the back for passengers’ luggage rather than the simple canvas cover found on the previous Model TEB Bus, a carryover from the stagecoaches.
The bus has slightly smaller, 22-inch wheels with balloon tires, rather than the high-pressure tires of earlier models. The felloes (the rim supporting the spokes) for the first time are made of steel rather than wood.
The bus has kerosene tail lamps and acetylene gas headlamps with the acetylene tank mounted on top of the running boards. The running boards and front floor boards are covered in gray ship deck linoleum.
Sporty, chauffeur-driven touring cars were used for giving visiting dignitaries and other tourists a special ride to see the sites in Yellowstone Park, but in the early 1920s the White Motor Company touring cars of 1917 were becoming outdated. The first Lincoln touring car arrived in 1923. After many of the original 1917 White Motor Company touring cars were lost to a fire in March of 1925, the Yellowstone Park Transportation Company decided to replace the aging White Motor Company touring cars with the Lincoln touring cars.
A closer look at the Lincolns reveals that they have several of the latest features to please the wealthier clientele. The radiators have bright, nickel-plated shells and vertical louvers that automatically open and close depending on the water temperature. The electric headlights cleverly raise and lower for high beam and low beam. Fashionable wind-wings on each side of the windshield add a sporty look and also deflect harsh winds from the passengers’ faces. A beautiful wood-grain dash features nickel-plated instruments, including a speedometer. A separate second cowl with another wood-grain dash separates the front seat from the rear passenger area and provides storage for the folding jump seats when not in use.
The Lincoln touring cars are equipped with comfortable leather seats and with a convertible top to provide passengers with open unobstructed views of the Park. The V-8 engine provides sufficient power to travel over 50 mph, where roads and speed limits permit, and allows the Lincoln touring cars to climb the steepest grades in the Park without losing as much speed as the buses.
The owner of Car #809 restored it to their taste by adding wire wheels, two-tone blue paint, and blue leather seats. This car has won several car shows and was invited to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance which is quite an honor. The owner would like to return the car to the original yellow and black of Yellowstone National Park.
Ninety-eight Model 706 buses were added to the fleet between 1936 and 1939. The Model 706 body, with styling by Alexi de Sakhnoffsky, is in art deco style. The long bold horizontal black stripe running the length of the body and the black oversized teardrop rear fenders are in contrast to the yellow body and chrome radiator shell, bumpers, and door handles.
The interior of the bus features an open rollback top and comfortable seats upholstered in Spanish leather. Each of the four seats has a grab handle and a roof bow support bar for passengers to hold as they stand to view scenery through the open top. Behind the fourth seat, yet separate from the luggage area, are two compartments where the driver can keep tools, personal belongings, and blankets.
The six-cylinder engine was the latest design from the White Motor Company and featured 318 cubic inches. The engine underwent some modification after 1936 but remained essentially similar through 1939. An advanced mechanical feature on the Model 706 bus was the introduction of vacuum assist, hydraulic brakes.
Bus 401 came off the assembly line on April 29, 1937 at the White Motor Company in Cleveland, Ohio. It was number 12 of 40 buses built for the Yellowstone Park Company that year. It operated throughout Yellowstone National Park from 1937 until 1960, including trips to Red Lodge, Montana between 1937 and 1940. After its 23 years of service transporting park visitors, Bus 401 was purchased in 1960 by a family from Bozeman, Montana. The family used the bus as a camper for five years, taking it to Alaska and back during that time. In 1965 the bus was parked in a barn on the family ranch. The Buses of Yellowstone Preservation Trust purchased Bus 401 from the family in October 2011. Bus 401 was restored by the Buses of Yellowstone Preservation Trust to its original condition, making its debut in the 2012 Red Lodge 4th of July parade.
Bus 434 was built by the White Motor Company in 1938. It was used at West Yellowstone to meet the Old Milwaukee Railroad at the Gallatin Gateway Inn. It was privately purchased in 1968. The last known driver of the bus while in service at Yellowstone Park was Smokey Pastema. Bus 434 is often on display at the Museum of the Yellowstone in West Yellowstone, Montana, during the summer months.
Yellowstone National Park owned the phone lines that serviced the park and were in charge of maintaining them. The buses were too big to use on service runs so the Yellowstone Park Company made an addition to their growing fleet, that being the Ford Special Body Truck. This truck became the telephone truck used in the park. The truck featured a flathead V8 engine. This truck was donated to the Buses of Yellowstone Preservation Trust by a family from Billings, Montana in 2015. The truck needed very little work to restore it to its original condition except for modifications made to the motor.