Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Great Northern's "Budd"

While we are all familiar with Edwin Gowen Budd's ability to fabric a new metal - stainless steel - few are aware that his first "products" were car bodies and aeroplanes! His first self powered rail car, "the Green Goose," was tested on the Reading Railroad in 1932, combining technology from Michelin and Goodyear, incorporating his ability to fabricate carbodies from a strong yet fickle material, stainless steel.

Following several years of prototyping and modifications the final concept was unveiled as s/n 2960, the original Budd Rail Diesel Car 1 - RDC-1 - in August 1949.

And while the Budd car went on to provide far reaching transportation solutions for many railroads seeking to remove full blown passenger trains from territories that just could not be profitable with smaller passenger demands, some railroads took to the highway to get out from under non-profitable passenger and freight operations.

Great Northern Railway was one of them, creating this hybrid passenger and freight combination highway bus to run in remote Montana, the GN 101.

Great Northern's 101 was built to combine passengers and freight on a "branch line" run that wasn't profitable even for a self contained rail car. Averaging six round trips, daily, between Whitefish and Kalispell, from 1951 through 1971, the “Bruck” had a capacity for 20 passengers and seven tons of freight.

Great Northern 101 was one of a dozen Brucks custom-built by Kenworth Motor Truck of Seattle. All 12 were used in Montana. A Hall-Scott pancake motor powered her, developing 220 horsepower, with a 10-speed manual transmission. An earlier version was built for Northern Pacific Transport, but was a split-level coach.

Actually, we can trace the concept of the bruck back to Canada. In 1943, New Flyer Industries of Winnipeg introduced what it called the "Bruck," a combination truck and bus. Essentially, a storage compartment accessible from the outside replaced the last rows of the bus by a rear door. New Flyer Industries Inc. is the largest bus manufacturer in North America.

And another bus manufacturer, Crown Coach got into the act. Crown introduced a bus/truck hybrid or bruck that combined passenger and freight-carrying capability in a single vehicle. Popular with small railroads, the vehicle was built using their 40’ tandem rear axle chassis. The coach half of the vehicle carried 20-passengers who sat ahead of 20’ deep windowless rear freight compartment that was loaded through a pair of doors at the rear. A handful of shorter 35’ brucks were built using a single rear axle and seating for 12.

The story of the 101’s mere existence today is remarkable story. The vehicle was discovered at a salvage yard in Great Falls by railroad buff Larry Hoffman of Michigan. Coincidentally, he was attending a convention of the Great Northern Railway Historical Society.

Mr. Hoffman passed away before he could buy the Bruck. But his wife, Connie, purchased the dilapidated vehicle as a memorial to her husband and donated it to Stumptown Historical Society in 1999.

Mrs. Hoffman stipulated that the historical society had to restore the Bruck to its original condition within five years.

Well look at her now!

Yet another tribute to “innovation.” The Bruck was born out the necessity to transport people and goods over a route that just was not profitable, even by an oil electric car.

You may notice two builders’ plates on the nose, Kenworth and Pacific. Founded in 1923, the Kenworth Company took its name from H.W. Kent and E.K. Worthington who had been directors of its predecessor company, the Gersix Manufacturing. Kenworth-built school and transit buses built under the "Pacific" name. The "Pacific School Coach", was produced from the early 1900s up to 1957

4 Comments - Click here:

LinesWest said...

Robert, really enjoyed this post.

Thanks for the history lesson on the various manufacturers too. I worked for awhile at one of the companies that supplied diesel engines for these trucks (well, the modern versions) and developed an appreciation for them. I've always been interested in their development over the years - the cabovers, the introduction of aerodynamics in the mid 80s and beyond, and I remember seeing some of the earliest White-Freightliner cabovers growing up around Vancouver, BC.

The Bruck is a favorite of mine too, although I had never heard of it until the Empire Builder stopped outside the Whitefish station on a trip west one night. It's quite a neat machine and it's beautifully restored.

Thanks as always,

SDP45 said...

I had seen everything you posted until that final photo. Looks like the truck has a huge headache!

Very interesting research. I had no idea some of those truck manufacturers started out here in the wilds of the PNW!


Anonymous said...

Quite a good read.

Interesting to also know is that Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, etc. Built similar vehicles for use in Europe. The only difference being they had an open freight section.

Anonymous said...

In Europe these 50/50 bus-trucks are almost exclusively found in Scandinavia, mostly Sweden, where they are called 'Skvader' after a mythical animal. The first I saw was circa 1982 in Pori (Suomi) and it had a closed body, not a fladbed/canvas. They were frequent then in Suomi on the cross-country services. Volvo and Scania dominated, but there are some Mercedes too. From the 1950ties to the early 1970ties the (West-)German postal service ran a 'Landpostdienst' (= cross country postal {bus} service), which used similar vehicles from Opel and Hanomag, but these were considerably smaller with around 3t to 5t and 6 to 12 seats. The van part was used for postal cargo obviously.

from Bristol

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