You know how I like motorhomes. And good stories. This one is a gem that combines them both.
I’ve documented a few oddball home-built ones here before, like this Toronado-powered one, and this one built out of two ’62 Buicks. But this very touching story about how this dad turned an old Ford school bus into a train-like, twin-engine motorhome with which he took his family all over the US, may just take the cake.
The full story is here, but I’ll give you the Cliff Notes version. In 1949, Mr. Schilling (he wrote the memoirs, and his first name isn’t given) bought a 1938 Ford school bus. After some basic outfitting for travel, it made its first trip to the Black Hills in 1950.
But Schilling’s creative juices were about to transform the school bus radically over the next six years. A 1938 Ford 2-door body was cut down the middle and a center section from another 2-door was spliced in to widen the over-engine cab to eight feet. A new Chevrolet cab-over truck front hood was rebuilt to the same proportions as the Northwestern 400 diesel train engine. The bus was outfitted with a kitchen, closets, and sleeping areas.
On its first major outing to Chicago in 1951, the tired old ’38 Ford flathead V8 died, and the bus had to be towed back home, Galesville, WI. The solution? Yank the engine out of the family 1950 Ford, and head back to Chicago. The Schillings and their rig attracted a lot of attention at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. After returning home, the borrowed V8 went back into the family Ford sedan.
Mr. Schilling then found a Ford Big Six truck engine, rebuilt it, and installed that. But later that fall, on a trip to Waterloo, IA., the engine seized up, and a friend came and pulled them back home.
The Schilling family was growing quickly during this time, so it was decided to substantially expand the Galesville Limited in order to take the whole family to see the USA. The bus was lengthened at the rear, and in order to power the much heavier vehicle, a second power train was deemed necessary. The solution? A Buick straight eight with a Dynaflow transmission mounted at the rear, driving the newly added second rear axle, which was flipped over to take the drive from the rear.
Why the Buick/Dynaflow combination? Because it didn’t need to be shifted, unlike the front engine and manual transmission. A pusher, in the true sense of the word. Unfortunately, keeping the hard-working big Buick engine cool in the back would turn out to be a continual problem.
In 1952, the nine Schillings headed east to Washington D.C., where once again they received a lot of attention, and were asked to pose for photos, including in front of the Capitol. And that includes their dinghy Jeep, which was towed behind, and was used for urban sightseeing trips, including New York City.
In 1953, the Galesville Limited headed west. In the summer heat, especially in the Rockies, issues with keeping the Buick engine cool required fabricating some additional air scoops and vents along the way. But they made it, as this shot taken in Seattle shows.
On the way back home, the Galesville Limited averaged 550 miles per day and 4 mpg, so there were a lot of gas stops. making sure all the kids were on board was a bit of an issue; at least once, a detour back to pick up a straggler was required.
The following year, in anticipation of a big Canada trip, the front Ford engine and manual transmission was replaced by a new Buick Roadmaster V8 and Dynaflow. This made driving much easier, needless to say. And the ever-clever Mr. Schilling devised a way to synchronize the two Buick engines with a device that matched the vacuum of the front engine to the rear. And now with two engines working against the Dynaflows, the Galesville Limited actually sounded more like a diesel locomotive.
But the new Dynaflow conked out on that trip, and they had to make their way home on just the rear engine. It was still under warranty, at least, so it was a free repair. One wonders why Buick would honor its warranty under this setting. The good old days.
Probably because of constant reliability issues as well as the decision to go back to farming, the Galesville Limited saw no further big trips. It was used locally in parades and such, and in 1956, it was sold to someone who was looking for a unique RV.
The deal was made, but the other transmission conked out just eight miles after the new owner drove off. And after that was fixed, the new owner ran off the highway into a tree, because of a braking issue.
But in 1977, the Galesville Limited was spotted in a junk yard, and one of the sons with his kids went to check it out. They stripped out a few interior fittings as mementos of their times in the bus.
The story ends with this finale:
“We have traveled coast-to-coast and border-to-border, but have never seen the equal of the Galesville Limited. My guess is that it was unique only because of the unlimited hours of designing and fabricating. The dollars that went into it were limited to what Mother Goose would let me spend on it.
One of our goslings summed it up by saying, “I recall our Galesville Limited trips contained a certain amount of agony, but overall they were a super experience that very few people can match and they are a source of family pride today.”
The full story is here: bundlings.com