Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Photo Essay: Greyhound's Vintage Bus Fleet, Upon Its Centennial

I spent a lot of time on Greyhound busses in my teens and 20s, traveling back and forth between Syracuse and New York City, waiting in line at Port Authority with my boots and bags, hoping for the trip to be over, though I knew I had another six hours to go.

I always got stuck next to someone licking food off their fingers, or nursing a child on their lap, or, in worst times, both.

As soon as I made enough money in my first job in the music industry, I splurged on two luxuries: cab rides home to Brooklyn after late nights in Manhattan, and train rides to Syracuse for the holidays.

But these Greyhound experiences (and the occasional Short Line, Peter Pan, Adirondack Trailways, Fung Wa, Bolt Bus and MegaBus) are woven into the fabric of my memory, my experiences, my formation as an intrepid traveler. I feel a bit wistful for those times when those I wanted to visit were only a bus ride away. When I could scrape together at least that much money, and suffer through a few hours cramped in my seat that refused to recline, smelling the stale French fries and grease-soaked bags that littered the floor, the waft of bathroom spray (or, worse yet, just bathroom) coming from the back of the bus.

In celebration of their centennial, Greyhound has embarked on a national tour of a mobile museum, accompanied by some restored historic busses from their vintage fleet, and made their final stop in Valencia, about an hour north of LA.



By the looks of their 1937 Supercoach, its streamline sexiness courtesy of famed industrial designer Raymond Loewy...



...people riding the Greyhound used to travel in style...



...cruising along on the open road...



...ever moving forward...



...never looking back.



By the 1940s, the Greyhound design began to appear more functional...



...as with the 1948 ACF Brill...



...which focused on the comfort of the passengers, with powerful A/C and heat, and ergonomic seating.



The introduction of the 1968 Sceniccruiser marked the beginning of the 40-foot bus length...



...which became the industry standard...



...marking bus travel as a volume business...



...and probably the demise of a sense of luxury.



Eventually, bus travel became more about the destination...



...than how you got there.



By the time I started riding the bus in the early 1990s, when the Americruiser (like this one from 1984) was still in production...



...the bus had become all about economy. Intercity travel was possible if not pleasant. But that was something. It got you where you needed to go.

Who takes the Greyhound bus these days? The experience appears to have changed dramatically over the last 5-10 years, with their fleet now wi-fi enabled and equipped with power outlets and entertainment systems. But taking the bus will never offer the same romance as the train, or speed as flying, or freedom to explore as driving.

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