Wouldn't you like to stumble on a Pickwick sleeper coach bus like this one stuck away in some forgotten warehouse? And for sale- cheap! In excellant unrestored condition, it would even run with a little TLC and tinkering. Ah, it's the stuff bus dreams are made of!
I went to Amazon and ordered the book ... you lucked out at $9.95 ... I paid $20.
Pickwick Stages was an interurban and long distance carrier based in Los Angeles whose origins can be traced to 1912 and which was an important element in a diversified holding company known as the Pickwick Corp. In the early days Pickwick operated Pierce-Arrow passenger car chassis, stretched and extensively reworked and equipped with locally-built open bodies, The rebuilding work and construction of bodies was undertaken at the company's own shops after 1924, when Pierce's model Z bus chassis came into use. Packard, White, Fageol and other makes were used too. Featured introduced an early as the mid 1920's included reclining seats, kitchens and lavatories.
The first attempts to build up complete buses from purchased parts were apparently made in 1927, and the most spectacular example of this operation was the Nite Coach, first shown to the public in the fall of 1928. The Nite Coach was of all-metal chassis-less construction, based on longitudinal beams on which the body was mounted and from which the axles were hung. There were two levels and intermediate aisle from which passengers could enter 13 interlocking compartments, each accomm odating two people. Each compartment had its own running water, dressing room, storage space, and folding berths, two lavatories and a kitchen being provided elsewhere in the bus (which operated with a crew of three). The purpose of the Nite Coach was to shorten travel times on long western routes by eliminating overnight hotel stops, and the concept was that the buses would be built and owned by Pickwick but leased to local operating companies, as with U.S. Pullman cars on the railroads.
When Pierce-Arrow stopped making the model Z, Pickwick built a factory near Los Angeles and prepared to begin quantity production of Nite Coaches. The depress ion naturally affected the prognosis for the expensive vehicle, and only four more Nite Coaches were built of the original type. In 1930, designer Dwight Austin introduced a day coach version of the design known as the Duplex, about 40 of which were built and sold by the end of 1931. At that time the holding company entered receivership. A substantial interest in the bus operating business had already been sold to Greyhound, which now acquired the balance, and the factory was sold to Dwight Austin. During 1932 he produced a revised Nite Coach design (18 were built) with a newly patented angle drive mechanism and a transverse rear-mounted Waukesha engine, The earlier Nite Coaches and Duplexes had front mounted Sterling engines. But the economic circumstances were not right for the sale or operation of such large, costly buses, and Austin soon turned his efforts to another idea (see Utility Coach).
PICKWICK SLEEPER (US) 1936
Columbia Coach Works (location unknown but most likely near Los Angeles, Ca.)
In spite of its name and purpose, this experimental sleeper coach is not known to have had any connection with the earlier Pickwick bus (q.v.). It was shown in the fall of 1936 and was equipped with two Ford V-8 engines mounted in the rear and driving through a complicated system of shafts to a single rear axle. Perhaps its most distinguishing feature was a mechanical air-conditioning system, one of the first ever used in a bus. There was a plan to organize an operating company with a fleet of these buses, but nothing ever came of that, and the sample bus was sold in 1937 to All American Bus Lines, which also operated two sleeper coaches built by Crown.
Besides the photos you have, these are all the other pics I could find on a Pickwick, the first five being of two models ...
Quite possibly the oddest buses ever made in the United States were two "observation buffet" cars constructed in the Los Angeles shops of Pickwick Stages in 1928. Named "Cherokee" and "Crow", they featured a tiny kitchen squeezed beneath a raised observation deck and a "conning tower" for the driver, One of these buses is shown on it's assigned route between Los Angeles and San Francisco, where raised seats afforded views of spectacular scenery.
The original design of Pickwick "Nite Coaches", of which only five were built, is represented here by "Morpheus". Two Nite Coaches ran between St. Louis and Kansas City for Pickwick-Greyhound Lines for about six months in 1930 until they were ordered off the road as not meeting the size and weight limits of the Public Service Commission of Missouri. They reappeared later in San Francisco-Portland service. "Morpheus" is pictured next to a Tri-Motor of Western Air Express, one of the predecessors of TWA.
Not a Pullman car, but a bus: a compartment in a Nite Coach made up for overnight travel. Early bus lines, like early air lines, avoided night-time travel, and the Nite Coach was one effort to offer more effective competition to the railroads. The idea was periodically revived in the 1930's, but always foundered on the high operating cost because of the small number of overnight passengers that could be accommodated within legal size limits.
One of the original four Pickwick Nite Coaches at a scenic overlook in Yosemite National Park. Not on the regular route, the park was a popular attraction for charter parties and tour groups.
Buses built by Pickwick, Pioneer, Fageol and Yellow Coach are all visible in this 1934 view of Greyhound's San Francisco shop. The big power plant in the foreground with the instrument panel up high and almost over the radiator, is a six-cylinder Sterling "Petrel", the type of engine used in the original Pickwick Nite Coaches and Duplex day coaches.
(I guess this explains why the engine on the model of the Nite Coach slides out the front, the engine and transmission were mounted on a sub frame that was removeable)
All of these photos and text from Over The Road, A History of Intercity Bus Transportation in the United States by Albert Meier and John P. Hoschek, published by the Motor Bus Society, 1975
Your contributions always informative, entertaining and appreciated ...
stuartcnz wrote:Was the engine called Sterling, or was it actually an external combustion Sterling engine?
That would certainly have referred to the Sterling make of engine, not the Stirling external combustion engine, which has not yet been used successfully in an automotive application; it has however been used in a few submarines.
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