If you’ve ever seen a vintage public transit bus in the streets or at a community event in Metro Vancouver, you can most likely associate it with the work of the Transit Museum Society of British Columbia.
They were also responsible for last week’s free vintage trolley bus tour rides in downtown Vancouver, celebrating the 75th anniversary of the region’s trolley bus network.
And currently, their mobile museum, using a vintage bus, is being showcased throughout the entire 15-day run of the 2023 PNE Fair, where up to 5,000 people are expected to walk through the displays inside their bus each day.
The mobile museum features display cases with exhibits and an audio-visual presentation of film and video showcasing local public transit history. Found at 20 to 30 community events annually, it is always free to enter.
But the existing mobile museum using a 1957-built General Motors bus vehicle is now in need of a replacement vehicle due to its age and condition. While the vintage bus still looks great from the outside, the cost to rebuild its antique diesel engine is too expensive, and the parts are hard to find.
Through GoFundMe, the non-profit organization comprised of volunteers is looking to raise $20,000 to create a new mobile museum using another vintage bus. So far, since the crowdfunding campaign began earlier this summer, they have raised just over $800.
The plan is to convert a 1982-built General Motors bus the museum owns for a new mobile museum — by replacing seating with display cases and an audio-visual system. Although the bus is now four decades old, it is in relatively good shape, replacement parts are still available, it is easier to drive, and the vehicle is wider and longer than the existing mobile museum bus for more interior display room. This model of bus retired at the turn of the century.
Functional work on the new mobile bus relates to installing batteries for the electricity needs of the interior museum, installing new brake and suspension parts, air lines, and tanks, performing rust remediation on the underside of the vehicle, and repainting the exterior’s distinctive red, blue, and white livery of BC Transit’s previous branding scheme.
This model of bus was first introduced in 1972 and would be the last of the original “Fishbowl” design of the era. According to the organization, this particular vehicle was acquired to operate in North Vancouver, before being used in Burnaby, Surrey, and Port Coquitlam. It was known for its suitability to traverse steep terrain. In 2007, TransLink officially retired this bus after putting it in storage for some time.
The 1957-built bus originally served Victoria, and then Powell River, Mission, and other smaller communities. It was retired in 1986 for its exhibition at the Expo ’86. After the World’s Fair, in 1989, BC Transit restored and converted the vehicle into a mobile theatre and public relations vehicle, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the provincial public transit authority. It was later refurbished again, just in time for TransLink’s Transport 2050 exhibit at the 2019 PNE Fair.
The existing mobile museum using the 1957-built bus will be kept intact with all the displays still active to save it for a future museum as a static display.
The organization does not have a permanent Transit Museum location where people can visit. It depends on TransLink for its warehousing needs, where it can store vintage buses and other materials. They currently own a total of 16 buses built between 1937 and 1996, with the vast majority dating back to 1980s and prior.