Brooks Trailways Bus Line
Special Thanks - Pictures, research and historical information for this
installment of the Trailways history was furnished by Doug Wilkerson from
his collection as a life long student of the bus industry and a particular
friend of Trailways.
One of the most significant developments affecting both bus and rail
transportation in the United States during the last century was the
migration of large segments of the population in the South to the industrial
areas of the north in search for jobs, often on assembly lines, giving up
their former rural life tied to agriculture. This movement occurred across
the width of the entire south and extended not only into the Northeast, but
also to manufacturing centers like St. Louis, Chicago, Cleveland and
Among those journeying north in the early 1920's was a young man from
Paducah, Kentucky, named J. Polk Brooks. Jobs were plentiful in Detroit and
he found employment with Briggs Body Company and later Chevrolet. While
Brooks lived in Detroit, in his mind he was still a Kentuckian and on many
weekend and on holidays, he and his wife would journey back to Paducah.
Often, other friends in Detroit who were from home would ask to ride with
them and chip in with expenses for the trip.
Riders traveling home with Brooks got to be a constant fixture on each trip
home and in 1929 Brooks realized that there was a need for regular
transportation to and from Detroit for people in this unique situation. He
took the step of quitting his job with Chevrolet, secured a Kentucky taxi
license and purchased a new 1929 Plymouth for $810 to reliably make the
trip. He offered one round trip per week and charged a one way fare of
$8.00 That fare included pickup at your house and delivery to your
residence on the other end. Brooks knew his market, and in the lean days of
the depression, if a rider was short on funds, he didn't insist on the full
amount. There was alternative transportation available, both rail and bus,
but the fares were higher and the running time longer. Brooks' service
catered to residents of Western Kentucky and Southern Illinois, and operated
as an express to Michigan points. Brooks' service became well known and
By the mid-30's, Brooks' schedule was up to four trips a week and traffic
had increased to the extent the regular sedans could no longer accommodate
the passenger loads and several Buick stretch-outs were purchased. 1934 saw
the extension southward to Fulton, Kentucky on the Tennessee line from
Paducah. In 1937, Brooks hit a major glitch. He had been operating under a
Kentucky taxi license, but in 1935 the Interstate Commerce Act had gone into
effect and in 1937. Brooks was stopped on the road en route in a routine
check for ICC operating authority. In all actuality, Brooks would have
qualified to grandfather his authority in -- had he known about the act and
done it, but he was busy with his Plymouths and Dodges and missed his
opportunity. Brooks hired an attorney who, despite the protests of other
carriers, got Brooks temporary operating authority in 1938 and then full
permanent authority came in 1941.
With the needed ICC authority finally granted, Brooks graduated to buses and
purchased Flxible products which were painted red and white. Service was
also increased to daily and the door-to-door service was discontinued in
favor of using bus stations.
In 1942 Brooks joined the National Trailways Bus System and for many years
the bus line was known as Brooks Trailways Bus Line. The schedules operated
overnight service in both directions and featured reserved seats and
Buick powered (straight eights) Flxibles drove Brooks through the mid-40's
until in 1949 Brooks purchased their first diesel, a GM PDA-4101, followed
by two PD-4102's in 1950 and two PD-4103's in 1951. Having bought five
brand new buses in three years, Brooks took a little breather until in 1954
they began purchasing GM's new PD-4104 model.
Brooks was still a member of Trailways, but in 1959, with the lack of any
meaningful connection or traffic feed from other members of the association,
the decision was made to drop out of the association and continue as an
independent carrier. Slightly over forty years would pass before part of
Brooks would return to Trailways.
They stayed a loyal GM customer, finishing off with the PD-4905A in the
mid-70's and then turned to MCI, purchasing MC-8's. In 1962, though, the
purchased a Beck DH-1040, Beck's forty foot coach which closely resembled
Greyhound's Scenicruiser. The bus had originally been delivered to Cuba but
had been repossessed and then refurbished at Beck's plant in Sydney, Ohio.
It was purchased for touring by the country music artist Ray Price. Brooks
held on to the bus for four years during which time it ran on the line and
also in charter service. Since it was a 43 passenger bus, holiday periods
always saw it on the schedule.
Over the years, Brooks had several acquisitions of other carriers which were
significant. In 1960, Brooks purchased a small Michigan commuter carrier
named South Macomb transportation, who operated a line from Detroit to
suburban Utica, Michigan. South Macomb operated four Kalamazoo Pony
Cruisers which were not to remain long. Being replaced with Brooks' 4104's
and later 4106's. More importantly, South Macomb also had full charter
rights out of metro Detroit and the company was renamed Brooks Charters and
Tours. In the 1976 this Michigan operation had grown to the extent that it
was difficult to control from Paducah and the decision was made to sell it
to Brooks' Detroit manager, Judson Rohrer.
In 1973, Brooks purchased Western Kentucky Stages, a regional carrier
founded in the early 40's. Western Kentucky's principal route was between
Paducah and Clarksville via Hopkinsville. The mainstay of the service was
its status as a bridge route in Greyhound's route structure between
Nashville and St, Louis. One through bus was operated each day with
Greyhound between Nashville and St. Louis with Western Kentucky operating
the Clarksville-Paducah segment. With the purchase of Western Kentucky,
Brooks slid into this situation. The financially lucrative arrangement
continued until with the deregulation of the bus industry and Greyhound's
changing financial situation, Greyhound decided that having Brooks in the
middle of what they considered "their" route, they'd just operate the bus
all the way through, thus cutting Brooks out and essentially ending the
viability of the line. Greyhound continues to run over the former Brooks'
route today with the exception that all the intermediate points lost their
Brooks continued as a charter and tour operator based in Paducah, but
several years ago, the current head of the company, Kevin Brooks, sold to a
Memphis based motor coach company by the name of Southern Stages. Not to
long ago, Southern Stages joined Trailways as a tour and charter member, and
so after an absence of 40 years, Paducah's Brooks Bus Line is back in the
To most people, this operation was nothing more than Continental's tag-on
extending into the nether regions of the Pacific Northwest. It was,
however, supposed to be a bus line extending from Phoenix, Arizona to
Seattle, Washington, and therein starts our story.
The corporate entity, West Coast Bus Lines, Ltd., was organized in early
1938 by an industry veteran named Gene Allen. He started in the bus
business in 1921 with a company called Columbia Gorge Motor Coach System
which was later acquired by Pickwick Stages. Columbia Gorge was operated as
a separate entity from Pickwick, running from Salt Lake City to Portland,
Spokane to Pendleton, Oregon, and from The Dalles, Oregon to Bend and
Klamath Falls. In 1934, Motor Transit Corp. (Greyhound was acquiring
Pickwick and its Columbia Gorge operation. In the early 30's, Gene Allen
joined Mount Hood Stages, a company started by Myrl and Maurice Hoover, who
owned a Ford and Lincoln auto dealership in Bend. While still with Columbia
Gorge/Pickwick, Allen had transferred the routes from The Dalles to Klamath
Falls, and Portland to Government Camp to Mount Hood. After he joined Mount
Hood, he was also able to secure the former Pickwick route from Bend to
In 1933, Allen sold his stock in Mount Hood to the Hoovers and took a
position with Santa Fe Trail Transportation, staying with them until 1937
when he left to form West Coast Bus Lines, Ltd.
In April 1938, West Coast made application to the Interstate Commerce
Commission to operate from Phoenix, Arizona through Los Angeles and then
north to Seattle, Washington. A hearing for West Coast to prove public
convenience and necessity was held in August 1938. The ICC didn't seem to
want to make a hasty decision and West Coast did not receive a grant of the
operating authority until 1943. North Coast Lines, a bus line running from
Portland to Seattle, promptly filled an injunction against West Coast and
held up the final grant of actual operating authority until November 1944
His finances running low due to the long delays, Allen sold Santa Fe
Trailways and Continental Bus System each a 15.8% interest in West Coast and
in July 1944, ordered 30 ACF Brill IC-37 coaches with delivery promised by
the Fall of 1945. ACF failed to deliver the buses.
Allen leased four Aerocoach P-37's and one Flxible 29BR Clipper from Car
Leasing Co., of Maywood, Illinois, and on November 5, 1945, a little more
than six years since Allen had filed his original application, service began
on West Coast Trailways with one round trip per day between Seattle and San
Francisco. A picture of one of the leased Aerocoaches at the agency in
Roseburg, Oregon, is included with this history. West Coast was conceived
with the idea of being a Trailways carrier and always operated as such.
ACF finally managed to deliver eight of the IC-37's in March 1946 by
diverting a portion of a Santa Fe order and service was increased to three
rounds a day between Seattle and San Francisco. In the fall of 1946,
disaster struck the fledgling West Coast operation when one of the
Aerocoaches was involved in a horrendous accident on US 99 in Southern
Oregon, resulting in a huge story in the newspapers with much bad publicity
along with Car Leasing recalling their remaining four buses. West Coast was
forced to cut back to two rounds per day.
It was tough going for the new company. Besides the bad publicity from the
accident, West Coast was operating through territory long cherished by
Pacific Greyhound as their own. In addition, West Coast only held
interstate authority and had no local rights within the states of
California, Oregon and Washington. Intrastate rights within California
were granted in May 1948, but only from Sacramento north, San Francisco to
Sacramento, a prime local market, remained restricted against local
traffic. Oregon intrastate authority would come in the early 1950's.
Another problem for West Coast was as a result of an error in their original
ICC application... They forgot to ask for authority to handle package
express! Package Express authority was finally obtained, however intrastate
authority in the State of Washington was never obtained due to Washington's
one-route, one-carrier law and West Coast and later Continental refused to
challenge the law in court. This made West Coast operations between
Portland and Seattle very weak. In essence, when a West Coast schedule left
Portland for the last five and a half hours of it's 907 mile trek north, it
could only drop passengers, no one could get on, 190 miles with closed
doors, coupled with the first 100 miles restricted against local passengers
leaving San Francisco.
West Coast's general offices were in San Francisco and they had shops there
and in Portland and Seattle. West Coast made another application to operate
between Sacramento and Stockton, California, thus obtaining a short cut to
connect with Santa Fe for passenger traffic from the northwest to Los
Angeles. Service was never operated by West Coast Between Phoenix and San
Francisco and of the 30 IC-37's ordered, only 20 were ever operated, eight
1946 models diverted from a Santa Fe order and the remaining twelve in 1947.
They were numbered 5 through 25 with number 123 omitted for superstition and
with the Continental purchase, in 1949, all received a "P" prefix to the
number. Later on, the ACF's were transferred to Continental Western Lines
and received "W" prefixes with some being renumbered also. At the time of
the sale, West Coast was running four round trips per day between Seattle
and San Francisco.
In 1948, with Continental's purchase of Santa Fe poised to go through,
Continental would then own 31.6% of West Coast and negations were entered
into with Gene Allen to purchase his two-thirds interest in West Coast. The
sale was approved by the ICC in 1949, the sale was approved and West Coast
Bus Lines, Ltd. Was renamed Continental Pacific Lines, Inc. The office was
moved to Los Angeles from San Francisco and the company was administrated
thereafter by Continental Western Lines.
Continental Pacific was still operating with their original ACF IC-37's and
competing with Greyhound's Scenicruisers and 4204's until 1956 when 12
nearly new 1955 Flxible Vistaliners were transferred to Continental Pacific
and renumbered P-26 through P-37 from Continental Western. The buses were
still titled to Continental Western and from 1953 to 1975, Continental
Pacific was actually a bus company with no buses, using Western's equipment
on lease. In with the advent of the five-digit numbering Continental
Pacific was assigned the 44000 series of numbers and received five new Model
05 Eagles. These five buses were actually the first new buses for the
company since West Coast received the last 12 ACF's in 1947!
In late 1975 TCO Industries, the parent of Continental Trailways, merged the
operating rights of Continental Pacific Lines into those of Continental
Western Lines, thus ending the unique life of this carrier, which had spent
its life as an also ran. Beyond the early problems of West Coast which have
been discussed earlier, here are some of the goings on which kept the
company from thriving as part f Continental........
ABSOLUTE MANAGERIAL NEGLECT -- Continental Pacific was managed by Western
Lines who saw the operation north of Sacramento as a looser that was far
away. They operated it with outdated, tired equipment and had absolutely no
supervision for the 806 miles north of Sacramento to Seattle! The only
exception was the retaining of Elwood Arneson of Evergreen Trailways in
Seattle to keep an eye on things on a part time basis. Continental
Pacific's drivers were a breed unto themselves, who complained bitterly if
they had to handle a passenger load more than six passengers and whose
physical appearance as Trailways bus drivers can only be described as
disgusting and appalling.
FIVE STAR LUXURY SERVICE -- While there's nothing wrong with the Five star,
for years, that's all there was on Continental Pacific, giving "Trailways"
in the northwest the reputation as being more expensive than Greyhound. In
addition, agents who were desperate for sales, when the opportunity arose in
holiday periods, sold every passenger who walked up, irregardless of whether
they had a reservation, meaning that a bus coming out of Seattle for L.A.
was generally fully loaded by the time it left Olympia with the upshot that
no agencies below that point could board anyone, even those who had
legitimate reservations until a seat was finally vacated. L.A.'s answer to
the problem, open the tickets to Greyhound and tell the passengers to walk
down the street... No doubles!
DEMANDS ON OTHER CARRIERS -- Pacific Trailways had schedules which
originated in St, Louis and Dallas which ran through to Seattle, three
rounds a day, operated between Portland and Seattle by Continental Pacific.
Few people know that PT was forced to subsidize the Continental Pacific
operation of these schedules or there would have been no service north of
A STUDY SAID IT WAS A DEAD END STREET -- Continental, under Holiday Inns
ownership commissioned a study of the Pacific Northwest and the results
which came back from that told them that the Northwest was a dead issue.
Dallas bought the absurd conclusions and things got even worse after that.
That's when the started to try and unload it...
The first carrier to be offered the authority was Bill Niskanen at Pacific
Trailways in Bend. Bill later confided to me that refusing their offer to
sell it for $1.00 was the stupidest thing he ever did. He was looking at
the pathetic operation and low traffic counts without realizing that the
route was potentially more valuable than PT's mainline from Portland to Salt
In the early 80's, they one of Trailways, Inc.'s managers convinced Kerrigan
to put on a lot of service in the Northwest. It was ill conceived and
failed miserably with a horrendous cost. With their sinus's cleared (along
with their wallet), Dallas talked Paul Harmon at Cascade Trailways into
taking it over, but they didn't give him the operation all the way to San
Francisco, they pulled him up short at Sacramento. The ink had barely dried
for Harmon's take over of the lease on the Sacramento depot when Trailways,
Inc. Went down, stranding Harmon in a Greyhound sea. Suffice it to say that
Greyhound was not interested in sharing, not even for one Cascade Schedule.
Harmon died a quick death and turned it over to Evergreen Stage Lines out of
Portland who also got their financial clock cleaned by Greyhound who wanted
no competition and made sure that there was no schedule from the south to
feed the northbound Trailways departure at Sacramento.
In the early 90's, the Trailways association, in an attempt to rebuild,
talked a number of west coast carriers into starting line service. Harmon
at Cascade was talked into running from Seattle to Medford where Alex Allen
with Amador Trailways was going to meet him from the bay area. Harmon
started, Allen never showed up and dogged everyone's phone calls. Harmon
got cleaned for the second time. Score, good guys zero, Greyhound's hand
took the trick again.
So the end of what should have been a viable bus line and bus route for
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