Buses of Yellowstone; Touring as in Yesteryear

Photo courtesy Yellowstone Buses Preservation Trust

“For the benefit and enjoyment of the people,” reads the inscription on Roosevelt Arch at the North entrance to Yellowstone National Park. These words came from the Organic Act of 1872, the legislation that created Yellowstone, and true to statement, people today continue to enjoy the wonders of Yellowstone.

Touring the park has been a national and international pastime since its inception, not to mention evolution in exploration. With over 2 million acres, seeing Yellowstone by horse-drawn vehicles was a lengthy endeavor. Late in 1915, Yellowstone began allowing automobiles into the park. They decided in the spring, but it took until August for the road to dry out enough to be accessible by vehicles.

It’s said that the wildlife was less startled by the engines than they were by the heavy wagons pulled by horses. The horses, in turn, did not appreciate the autos and created more than one stir, which caused park officials, in February of 1917, to usher horse-drawn vehicles out. One, for safety, and two, because autos were much more efficient, allowing more people to see more of the park.

Later that year, the park allowed tour vehicles to operate, and the Yellowstone Park Transportation Company decided to procure touring cars and buses of their own. At one point, the need was huge, having over 350 vehicles, the largest privately owned bus fleet in the world. With the exception of the Lincoln Touring Cars, all vehicles were purchased from the White Motor Company in Cleveland, OH.

Photo courtesy Yellowstone Buses Preservation Trust

A history of the fleet:

1917: 135 Model TEB Auto Stage Buses

1917-1924: 50 White Touring Cars

1920-1925: 214 Model 15-45 Buses

1923: 2 Model 50  Buses

1923-1928: 28 Lincoln Touring Cars

1931: 8 Model 614 Buses

1936-1939: 98 Model 706 Buses

Today, a bit of that history is preserved in Red Lodge, Montana. Housed in one of Red Lodge’s historic buildings, a gas station, and a garage that was one of the longest continuous running gas stations in the state, you’ll find a few of these gems, beautifully restored and on display. You can even reserve a bus for a group trip up the scenic Beartooth Highway in an all-original 1937 Model 706 Yellowstone Park bus!

Imagine driving up the Beartooth Highway at 15-18 mph, with the top rolled back, endless skies, and fresh air. Taking in the sights and smells at the pace of yesteryear is a beautiful break from today’s fast-paced bustle. The double-clutch, no power steering, and the vacuum assist hydraulic brakes lend authenticity to the experience.

On display at Buses of Yellowstone Preservation Trust, you’ll find Lincoln Touring Cars from 1926-1939. These sporty, chauffeur-driven touring cars carried visiting dignitaries and other tourists on private tours. The Model 706 buses (available for tours) are the classic art deco style, with Spanish leather and a roll-back top. And the 1941 Ford Telephone Service Truck, a Ford Special Body Truck used for servicing the phone lines.

The display is free of charge and open to the public during the weekends, from late spring to early fall. Tours are by reservation only, hold ten passengers, and must be reserved by single groups. For more information, go to https://busesofyellowstonepreservationtrust.org/.

Photo courtesy Yellowstone Buses Preservation Trust