It may look awkward and a little odd to modern eyes, but the Fageol Safety Coach was a major milestone in the evolution of intercity bus design. It was just one of a long line of innovative and unconventional ideas of the four Fageol brothers during their long association. Before the Safety Coach, buses had been built on conventional truck frames. Their high center of gravity made them extremely prone to rollovers and high floors provided a steep climb for boarding passengers.
- “Automotive Industries” of May 11, 1922 photo shows the Fageol trademark hood louvers along with a door for each seat
These two problems were eliminated by the double drop frame design of the Safety Coach. Extreme kick-ups over each axle lowered overall height to only 76 inches with a floor only 21 inches from the ground. A wide 64 inch track contributed to previously unheard of stability on turns at highway speeds. Initially power was applied by a single overhead cam Hall-Scott four cylinder engine and a Brown-Lipe four speed gearbox with an overdrive top gear. Coupled to a specially-built, quiet running Timken worm gear differential with a 5.4 to 1 ratio 50 mile an hour highway speeds were easily achieved.
Early fabricated rear frame kick up – Laminated wooden wheel centers and cast aluminum brake shoes -Later cast steel kick up and air brake hardware
The icing on the safety cake was the first use of air brakes on a motor coach. Developed by George Westinghouse in 1869 for railroad use, aside from providing smooth, progressive application and low operator effort on heavy vehicles, his design was almost entirely fail-safe. They functioned in a way that, should an air leak develop, braking force would be applied unlike hydraulic systems that lose effectiveness when fluid pressure drops.
Diagram showing air brakes on a Fageol chassis and a complete description of their operation from “Automotive Industries” of November 30, 1922
An oft repeated story implies that a Fageol Safety Coach may have led to the naming of the best known brand in intercity bus transportation today. Observing the rapid passage of one in Wisconsin, a person remarked that it was as swift as a greyhound dog. This was apparently overheard by a Mr. E.J. Stone who repeated it to Ed Eckstrom who was in the process of buying Stone’s bus company.
Eckstrom in turn incorporated the idea into advertising for his Safety Motor Coach line. His company was eventually acquired by the Hibbing, Minnesota based Motor Transit Corporation which became the Greyhound Corporation in 1929. You will find many more interesting bus and truck photos on The Old Motor. Top photo courtesy of the W.B. Fageol Collection.