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Swan Song of the Pickwick Pullman-Style Nite Coach

Pacific Greyhound Lines Night Coach

The Pickwick Bus line began in 1912 with the purchase of a Model “T” Ford. The new stage line prospered and by the early-1920s Pickwick was building its own coach bodies and installing them on Pierce-Arrow chassis’.

Soon the progressive Bus Company introduced the Pickwick intercity Parlor-Buffet coaches featuring the driver seated in a rooftop drivers compartment and behind him passengers in the observation deck. Pickwick upped the ante in 1928 when it introduced the “Nite Coach,” a two-level fast service cross-country coach with 12-sleeping compartments suitable for up to 24-passengers.

  •             The lead image is a 1933 PR photo of one of the last Pickwick 24-passengers sleeper models.

Nite Coach sleeping berth

  • A model demonstrates one of 12 convertible sleeper berths that accommodated two, complete with a window, bunks, lights, heat and radio.

Pacific Greyhound Lines contracted with the Columbia Coach Works to build ten of the new “Nite Coach” buses. On what routes Greyhound ran the new coaches is not known, but two likely runs are the Pacific Coast and, Chicago to Los Angeles. The PR photos were taken in LA in 1933.

The new coach was designed by Dwight E. Austin, who also planned and patented the successful earlier “Nite Coach” machines that were produced by Pickwick. His next move was to work for GM in its “Yellow Coach” division on new coaches for the Company.

How long the 18 units that Columbia built for both Greyhound Lines and Columbia Pacific “Nite Coach” Lines Inc. were in service is not known, but one of the units survived until 1941. A film clip of it can be viewed below in the 1941 comedy “Sullivan’s Travels” staring Veronica Lake.

Learn more about the earlier Pickwick “Nite Coach” and the Parlor-Buffet coaches here on The Old Motor. The photos are courtesy of the USC Libraries.

Pacific Greyhound Lines Night Coach 1

  • Three Firestone Tire representatives in Los Angeles where photographed on the same shoot as the other PR photos to publicize that fact the coach used the Company’s tires.

Nite Coach bathroom

  •                                        One of the “Nite Coach” rest rooms located on both floors.

Sullivan’s Travels – A short “Ditching the Entourage” film clip of the Universal Films 1941 full-length comedy starting Veronica Lake, shows actual footage of one of the “Nite Coaches” in action.

Angled rear drive patent 1

  • Dwight E. Austin patent, filed on July 25, 1932 and granted on March 12, 1935. The patent drawings illustrate how a Waukesha engine and a transmission powered the rear axle at an angle. 

Angled rear drive patent 2

9 responses to “Swan Song of the Pickwick Pullman-Style Nite Coach

  1. One of my favorite screwball movies of the era, and recognized it immediately from the first image above. What a fascinating unit!

  2. 1956: At age 17, from Los Angeles I travelled by Grayhound’s large “Scenicruiser’ bus to Chicago, Oshkosh bound, on a smaller Grayhound, to help my Brother drive his ’48 Mercury Coupe, back to L.A.. We were ONLY to Riverside (60 miles) when we were able to finally go 55 MPH! The Huge newer Grayhound had a flat tire on an inner front dually axle that shook the whole bus abour 1-1/2 inches at about 58 to 60. Being an EXPERIENCED Commercial Truck Mechanic, I reported the problem to the “Driver” at a “quickie” rest stop in Indio. He told me I was” just a kid” and “I didn’t know what I was talking about” ! The problem grew worse, and finally (at the Raton Pass , many states away—in the middle of a ROARING Hail & lightning storm ), the tire came apart and began bashing the bottom of the bus VERY loudly !!! with very HEAVY shaking ! ALL of the customers attacked the Driver, with FIX THIS NOW!!! Off in the distance was a “HELL” station (with burned out “S”). He pulled in, the 350 lb. 6’6″ Tire Mechanic came out (and of course it was an INNER tire!) with NO automatic changing equipment he changed the tire. Apparently, someone from Grayhound was on the bus, who had HEARD the Indio, Ca. wise crack to me. He LIT INTO the Driver and made him BUY a new tire — which was also mounted to the huge rim, manually. One hour later, we left “HELL” and we had a nice SMOOTH ride to Chicago, that was initially WAY above the speed limit, to make up time . Much to the Driver’s credit, he apologized to me! Edwin – 30 –

  3. I noticed that the lead photo shows a fake grille on the front of the bus. The rear-mounted engine must have been an oddity when it first appeared. I remember my incredulity upon seeing a rear-engined car for the first time. It was a Renault 4CV.

    Edwin Winet’s story is wonderful. I’ll bet he has enjoyed telling that story ever since.

    • This is a later model The first models had a front engine & the driver setting over it and also had a short hood. Those early models were also longer, & had a pantry for heating food.

  4. In 1967 I had to take the Greyhound Scenicruiser from Barstow California to Philadelphia Pennsylvania, somewhere between Las Vegas and Albuquerque our bus had a flat tire also, but the driver knew what had happened and pulled into a truck stop and had the tire changed, before he got to the truck stop all you could hear was the tire flapping on the road, I can imagine how much tire shrapnel the bus left on the road because there was not too much rubber left on the tire when the mechanic changed it. East of Phoenix we hit a major blizzard, which made driving dicey, everybody on the bus was nervous, even the big-rigs were parked along the freeways. That was the most uncomfortable bus rides I was ever on.

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