Pierce Transit is the proud owner of a 1948, 40-passenger Fageol 41-S Twin Coach Bus. The classic bus was restored and has been making appearances at several events throughout the year. The iconic image of the bus inspires memories from the childhoods of generations past and serves as one of Pierce Transit’s greatest community ambassadors.
The 1948 bus features an all-aluminum body, and is powered by a six-cylinder mid-mounted gasoline motor with a two-speed automatic transmission. The newer coaches of today are 40,000 pounds compared to the Twin Coach, which is only about 20,000 pounds. The new life brought to the historic bus by Pierce Transit’s maintenance team shows the detail and dedication the employees have for all the buses in their fleet.
Stepping into the Twin, visitors are transported back to when the vehicle was new. From the bolts, to the seats, to advertisements on the ceiling, you name it – stepping onto the bus is like stepping through a time machine into the late 1940s.
“It’s one of 55 of the Twin Coach 41-S models built for Tacoma Transit in 1947-48,” says Zack Wilhoute, IT Customer Support Specialist II for Pierce Transit and all-around bus connoisseur. “Our example, ‘The Twin,’ is from the last batch built in 1948.” The bus was manufactured by Frank and William Fageol, who established the Twin Coach company in 1927.
The bus was restored to its immaculate state in a two-step process over many years. Tacoma Transit (today called Pierce Transit) started the restoration more than two decades ago. The initial restoration was, more or less, a quick makeover to get the vehicle up and running in the 1980s.
In 2005, new management wanted to see what they could do to start a bottom-to-top full restoration. Any parts needed were harvested from two buses used for parts that Pierce Transit was able to acquire. One parts-bus was donated from the Bremerton shipyard. Another bus, nicknamed “The Ugly Twin,” came from California. This bus was once property of Tacoma Transit and, though it was used only for parts, is now back home in the Tacoma area.
During the restoration process, the Twin Coach was totally stripped down. Bob Soden and other maintenance team members started from the ground up with new wiring, they rebuilt the motor and transmission, built the aluminum side panels that they could not order, and the upholstery was all redone. The seats were covered in a distressed, leather-looking material that really gives the bus a realistic look. From there, the crew painted it with the classic yellow-gold and dark green colors.
From any angle, it’s easy to see that the maintenance crew took care to recreate the spirit of an original 1948 Fageol. The bus truly looks like it just came from the factory in the 1940s. All repair activities were performed by employees in their spare time while there weren’t other repairs to attend to.
It’s possible this same bus transported many of its event visitors to school and around the city of Tacoma when it was in its prime. Throughout the many years of service, there were more than 100 Fageol busses owned by Pierce Transit. These buses operated from the 1950s to the early 1980s.
Dan Twaits, a coach operator for Pierce Transit, fondly remembers riding the same type of bus to and from school back in the ‘70s in the Tacoma area. Since then, Dan has had the honor of being the driver for the restored coach and has helped display the Twin at many events and locations throughout 2017, including the Proctor Arts Fest and Car Show (8/5/17), the South Tacoma Way Car Show (8/19/17), LeMay – America’s Car Musem (8/26/17), the Sprinker Classic Car & Truck Show (9/23/17), the Fife Harvest Festival (10/7/17) and the Steilacoom 4th of July Parade (7/4/17).
Dan shares his memories of the bus. “I call it memory lane. People from the late ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s – so many generations – remember this bus. You walk in and it kind of just brings back all those old memories.”
Bill Serenbetz, Fleet Assistant Manager for Pierce Transit, explains how, “I see [the Twin Coach] as a symbol of the care and professionalism demonstrated everyday by our maintenance employees.”
Great time and care was taken over the decades to transform the well-worn bus into the shining diamond that it is today. It truly is a sight to see.