Bus Stop Classics: GM “Old Look” Coach And MH Trolley Coach – When No Transportation Meant Public Transportation

Mh 7

(first posted 2/14/2016)    Growing up in central Ohio, we were one of the few “no car” families in our lower middle-class neighborhood.  Mom never drove and Dad gave up driving in his 30s – mostly due to the expense.  So anytime we needed to go anywhere, it was off to the bus stop.  Thus began a life-long fascination with motor coaches.

Fortunately, our city was served by the Columbus Transit Company (CTC), a progressive transportation entity spun off from the Columbus and Southern Ohio Electric Company in 1949.  In the mid ‘50s to mid ‘60s, CTC operated two different coaches; the ubiquitous GM Old Look, in various sizes and seating configurations, and the Marmon Herrington (MH) TC-44/48 Trolley Coach.

ol 5105

Non-Columbus bus – example only


Paul did a great post on the GM Old Look Coach here.  It’s hard today to understand just how common these coaches once were – in 1956, GM held 84% of the transit and highway coach market in the US – a fact that invited government scrutiny and the Dept of Justice filed an anti-trust suit in federal court that year.  CTC operated three versions of the Old Look.


As Paul outlined, naming designations were pretty easy to decipher.  For example, this is a TDH 5105 – T (Transit) D (Diesel) H (Hydraulic automatic transmission) in 51 (seat) configuration, series 05.  CTC also used TDH 4512s.

OL 2

Non-Columbus bus – example only


Smaller TGH (Gas) 3102s were used on the cross-town and low demand routes.

OL 1

Non-Columbus bus – example only


As Paul mentioned, these had a very distinct ride, as the two-cycle 6-71 diesel engines spinned up quickly – and the two-speed Allison V-Series automatic transmissions gave a very abrupt shift from low to high gear (essentially direct drive).   Sometimes, we typically preferred riding in something a little less jerky.


Prior to 1946, Marmon Herrington was a manufacturer of trucks and automotive components; perhaps best known for their 4WD conversions of Ford station wagons and pick-up trucks.  They identified a niche in the large post-war bus market – GM and the other smaller bus manufacturers were focusing on internal combustion engine buses, primarily diesel.  Few were offering electric traction models.  MH built a new factory in Indianapolis to hopefully exploit this niche.

MH 5

And one of their eager customers was CTC, who was looking to replace its older Brill and Pullman trolley buses, and purchased a series of MH coaches in 1947/48 – here some are being loaded on rail cars at the MH factory in Indiana for delivery to Columbus.

MH 2

Again, an easily understandable naming convention – T (Trolley) C (Coach) 44 or 48 (seating).  TC-48s can be distinguished from TC-44s by the extra window and row of seats in between the front and rear doors.

MH 1

They served on all major routes.

MH 6

By the late ‘50s – early ‘60s these MH’s were getting a little long in the tooth – note that was just the bodies and interiors – the drivetrains, as with all electric motors, had little wear.  And if you could live with the slightly older, worn-down interior, you’d be rewarded with smooth, fluid electric traction as it pulled away from each stop – no lurching hydraulic auto transmission here.


Non-Columbus bus – example only


The only time things didn’t go smoothly was when the poles came off the power lines (a dewirement).  This didn’t happen often and was usually greeted as a nuisance by the driver, who had to steer the bus over to the curb, exit, walk to the rear, and guide the poles back on to the wires.   These buses also rode “hard”, as they lacked the innovative air suspension of the GM models.

MH last

The MH’s continued to serve until 1965 when the last run was made on May 30, and the age of the trackless trolley came to an end in Columbus.


However, evidence of how well-built these coaches were, thirty-two were sold to Dayton in 1967.  Twenty of these were refurbished (twelve used for parts) and continued to provide excellent service for another 15 years.

carillion park

The bus in the two pictures above (515) has been preserved and is on display at the Carillon Historical Park in Dayton.

MH 8

Both these GM and MH buses are true Curbside Classics.