Bus Stop Classics: 1942 Santa Fe Trailways “Victory Liner” Coach – Another Innovation During War That Didn’t Make the Transition to Peacetime

A few weeks back we looked at the Dyson Land Liner coach, which was essentially a trailer bus with the prime mover tractor replaced by a front-mounted powered bogey.  It was an interesting experiment that had its genesis in the World War II environment of increased passenger loads and scarcity of key materials.  The US faced these same conditions and one operator came up with a very similar solution.

1940 White Transit Coach

1940 ACF-Brill Intercity Coach

In 1942, the US government constructed what was then the largest ammunition factory in the world – 10,747 acres (43.492 km²), employing over 12,000 employees, just outside Kansas City.  Getting all those workers to the factory required an extensive public transportation network.  Buses would be the primary element – with Santa Fe Trailways Lines being a key contractor.  But new buses required quite a bit of scarce materials – steel, rubber, etc.  Santa Fe looked for some “out-of-the-box” alternatives to the then current coaches that were 35 feet long and could hold around 33 seated passengers.

Like Dyson, they settled on a large trailer body with a swiveling front-powered bogey.  However, instead of steel, they used a new type of reinforced plywood to construct the body.  Plywood was in much greater supply and would also result in a lighter coach – similar in thought to the superb De Havilland Mosquito twin-engined, multi-role fighter then in use by the Royal Air Force.

The plywood body was similar to other large trailer buses, except it was a “deck and a half” – with a single front seating area in the front one-third, and upper and lower seating aft.  It had significantly more doors than a typical coach to speed loading and unloading.

Its seated carrying capacity was 117, so I assume that seating was a rather tight “three and two” versus the usual “two and two” per row.  Very little other information on length, width, or powertrain exists.  I’ll hazard a guess and say it was approximately 45 feet long and 8 feet wide, and likely had a large Hall-Scott SOHC gas six cylinder, which was one of the most powerful over-the-road engines at the time.

It appears the driver was seated farther back in the trailer portion, just based on some of the pictures.

While several were planned, it looks like just one was built – and as it was in use almost 24 hours a day shuttling workers over three shifts, the plywood body probably wore out fairly quickly.

Another interesting one-off creation developed when wartime circumstances forced many to improvise.