Work Bus

Parked at the back of a nearly empty RV storage lot along Highway 3 in Crowsnest Pass is an old converted school bus. You can tell it hasn’t moved from this spot for a while. The front tires are flat and there are some engine parts sitting on a wooden bench next to the bus. I’m not sure what condition the motor is in, or if it even runs. I keep looking at this bus with interest, each time I pass by. It’s unique and has a lot of character.

My curiosity about the bus got the better of me a couple of weeks ago while driving by, and I pulled over to take a closer look. I had my camera with me and took the opportunity to snap some pictures.

At one time, it was not unusual for retired school buses to be sold to the general public, only to be “camperized” and converted into recreational vehicles or customized into motorhomes. Others were modified in other ways, in order to be used for commercial purposes. That seems to be the case with the GMC 9500 short bus that’s currently sitting in Crowsnest Pass. I’m no expert on dating vintage buses, but I believe it’s a mid-to-late 1950s model.

While it may have started out as a school bus, carrying up to 20 passengers at a time, at some point it became a mobile washing outfit, carrying pressure washing equipment from one worksite to another. The company cleaned everything from cars and trucks to buildings and heavy equipment.

In its early life, it would have been painted in the typical “school bus yellow” color scheme but was changed to orange and beige when it entered the mobile cleaning business. Windows were replaced with panels, and the company’s name, A & A Mobile Truck Washing, along with other advertising were painted on the sides of the bus. The graphics have held up well and it’s what I like best.

I also like all the fine details – the lines, the curves, the weathered paint, and the rust.

There are no license plates on the bus, making it difficult to determine when it may have last been running. I hope whoever this old workhorse of a bus belongs to will get it back on the road again. Wouldn’t it be great to see it traveling along Highway 3, en route to another job?

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10 Comments

  1. Bob Costa February 4, 2020 at 5:17 pm #

    Looks like a great project for you, Vic. I can see it now…..”3 Rivers Shuttle Service. All Anglers Welcome!” Rooftop rod carriers. Ice cold beer fridge at the back. Perfect!! It has a great hood latch BTW.

    • Vic Bergman February 5, 2020 at 9:25 am #

      Hi Bob,

      Excellent idea! It would also make a great food truck. Are you in? We just need to come up with a theme (local or exotic?) and menu (gourmet food or burgers & fries?). I’ll drive, you cook. Deal?

      It was nice chatting with you yesterday.

    • Bob Costa February 6, 2020 at 5:09 pm #

      Deal!! Git ‘er runnin’. And it sounds like David D. knows something about these things. Maybe he can get it running! You want in DD?

      • Vic Bergman February 6, 2020 at 6:43 pm #

        Sounds good. Two cooks and one driver (me). All we need is a mechanic!

        • David D February 7, 2020 at 8:37 am #

          Don’t tell anyone but I’m quite a bit older than that bus. I’m not much of a cook but I have done quite a bit of mechanical work back in the day. I also had a license to drive school bus once upon a time.

          Interesting side note. In the mid-fifties most of the V8 school buses came with Pontiac motors. You would also find some with Olds and I’ve heard of some even with from the factory 322 cu in Buicks in them too.

          • Vic Bergman February 7, 2020 at 9:50 am #

            Hi David,

            I see you are much more qualified at driving and repairing buses than me. Due to your seniority, I guess I’ll be cooking with Bob.

  2. David D February 4, 2020 at 10:58 am #

    For several years they looked the same, 1955 thru 57. Mostly just the grille got changed each year. This one’s grill shows it’s a 1956 model. Then I believe in 1958 they went to dual headlights. This is from my memory which has probably as much rust as that old girls got on it.

    If those motor parts are from that bus it’s not going to run anytime soon. That old crankshafts pretty rusty. Great picture though. If that bus could talk, imagine the stories it could tell. I used to do that bus routine when I was a kid and in the winter they came and got us in a bombardier.

    • Vic Bergman February 4, 2020 at 11:53 am #

      Hi David,

      Thanks for the info on the year. If it’s a ’56 model, it’s older than me. I’m almost as rusty as the bus. I’m sure it could tell a lot of interesting stories of school kids and working on job sites. I don’t know if those are spare parts, or what. I never thought of checking to see if the bus has a motor. I was too busy taking photos. Thanks for commenting!

      • Linder Armitage February 4, 2020 at 10:35 pm #

        That is a very nostalgic post. The VIN/Serial number could be on the left cowl. If I get it there will be a fair amount of information about the chassis which I agree is likely a 1956 or a 1957 model. Maybe 750 or 825 x 20 tires with vacuum brakes and probably a 4 speed transmission and a 283 Cu In V8. For sure no air conditioning or air brakes. Probably a recirculating heater and maybe no power steering. Interesting — wonderful photos. You are a real artist. Best to you and Carol.

        • Vic Bergman February 5, 2020 at 9:34 am #

          Hi Linder,

          Since it’s a GMC bus, you would know a lot about it. Thanks for the info. You and I drove past it a couple of times last October, while heading to BC to go fishing. I should have pointed it out to you. I think it would make a great restoration project. Glad you like the photos. Thanks for commenting!

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