Tennessee Coach Company
"The Volunteer Route"
The principals of Tennessee Coach Company were not natives of the Cumberland Mountains of Tennessee, but their origins were in Ohio and North Carolina, an unlikely beginning for what came to be one of the largest and strongest bus companies in Tennessee.
In the winter of 1924, O. B. Baskett left his position in management with Cleveland-Akron Bus Co. In Ohio, and moved to North Carolina where he took a job with a bus line operating between Raleigh and Greensboro, which in 1925 would become part of Carolina Coach Co. North Carolina, however, was only a temporary stop for Baskett though. What he was looking for was the opportunity to start a bus line of his own and in early 1925 he found it and began operating between Knoxville and Johnson City, Tennessee, via Morristown and Greeneville. Baskett's office and garage were in Morristown and he ran two of the larger Fageol Safety Coaches from their to Knoxville and used four touring cars to run from Morristown to Johnson City. He chose his spot well, because within a month he had to abandon use of the touring cars and acquire additional large Fageol Safety Coaches to take their place. The following year, in 1926, he incorporated, calling his company Safety Coach Co. And using a fleet at year end of nine Fageols.
Back in North Carolina, two brothers, Al and M. H. Kraemer, who were involved with Carolina Coach at its founding in 1925, and who were well acquainted with Baskett, watching his progress in Tennessee. Seeing opportunities for growth, Baskett convinced the Kraemers to leave Carolina Coach and join him in Tennessee. In 1928, they formed Tennessee Coach Company, to join Baskett's Knoxville-Johnson City route with a company they had purchased named Southern Motor Coach which in 1924 had begun operating between Knoxville and Chattanooga over US Hwy.. 11. Growth came quickly to the new Tennessee Coach and a year later they inaugurated service from Knoxville to Nashville via Sparta, McMinnville, and Murfreesboro and in late 1929 the Johnson City route was extended to Bristol. In 1930, the line was further extended from Bristol through southwestern Virginia to Bluefield, West Virginia.
After the Fageols, Tennessee Coach turned to front engine ACF parlor buses, but in the mid-30's, when ACF redesigned their coaches with underfloor engines, Tennessee Coach began buying from Yellow Coach. The attached picture of number 66, a 1934 Yellow Coach type "V," arrived in time to introduce service on their newest route, over US Hwy.. 411 between Knoxville and Atlanta. The colors on the buses through these years was blue and white.
In 1940, an alternate route between Knoxville and Bristol via Kingsport was begun using US 11W, with extra service between Rogersville-Kingsport-Bristol to service the Tennessee Eastman chemical plant complex at Kingsport. Much of this service was operated with converted auto carrier tractor-trailer units. In 1942, the Knoxville-Rockwood local line was amended to serve Oak Ridge, where development of the Manhattan Project was taking place.
Up through 1947, after an early brush with Yellow Coach diesels, the company had purchased 77 Aerocoaches, however, in 1945, a fleet of GM PDA-3702 diesels arrived and after 1947, only GM diesels would be purchased until 1961, when the first Eagles arrived.
As Tennessee Coach emerged from the post-war 40's into the early 1950's, they were the dominant carrier in central and eastern Tennessee. Independent and secure in their operating area, they connected chiefly with Greyhound carriers. Atlantic Greyhound's rights from Washington, DC, terminated at Bristol where they fed Tennessee Coach with their passengers for Knoxville and Nashville. However, Tennessee Coach could afford to sit on the fence and in 1951 they were part of four different through bus operations:
Bristol-Knoxville-Chattanooga-Memphis with Dixie Greyhound
Bristol-Birmingham with Southeastern Greyhound Knoxville-Nashville-Memphis with Dixie Greyhound Chicago-Knoxville-Atlanta-Miami with I&S, Modern and Tamiami Trailways
Tennessee Coach allied itself with Trailways on its Knoxville-Atlanta service as Southeastern Greyhound had competing service that ran from Cincinnati to Atlanta bypassing Knoxville and running via Chattanooga over US Hwys. 27 and 41. Smoky Mountain Trailways also had an Atlanta-Knoxville route via Murphy and Cherokee, NC, but Tennessee Coach's route over US Hwy.. 411 was much faster and non-mountainous. The buses used on the Trailways interchange service were painted red, cream and white to match the Trailways colors.
By 1954, another through route was begun from Washington to Memphis via Bristol, Knoxville and Nashville. Atlantic Greyhound brought the bus from Washington to Bristol, Tennessee Coach took it on to Nashville, and Dixie Greyhound carried it on to Memphis, Again, there was that gap from Bristol to Nashville, 300 miles, where Greyhound had shared or no authority, and in 1954, Greyhound attempted to acquire Tennessee Coach Company. Greyhound was turning over more and more passengers to Tennessee Coach, passengers who, in Greyhound's view, were theirs and should be continuing their trip on Greyhound, not an independent Tennessee Coach. The Kraemer family, however was not anxious to sell. Greyhound then approached the ICC with the complaint that Tennessee Coach controlled all access to Tennessee via Bristol and the ICC ordered Tennessee Coach to turn over one of the two routes between Bristol and Knoxville to Atlantic Greyhound. In 1957, the route on 11W via Kingsport went to Atlantic Greyhound with Tennessee Coach keeping the stronger and more lucrative route via Johnson City and Morristown. At the same time, the Knoxville-Nashville route which had been started jointly with Union Bus Co, (later purchased by Southeastern Greyhound) in 1929 was split apart with Tennessee Coach and Southeastern Greyhound holding duplicate authority.
In the mid-50's, Al Kraemer appointed J. E. Burke who had served as the company's legal counsel, president of the company. Kraemer and Burke were very troubled by Greyhound's actions and feared the loss of Greyhound's traffic and in 1956, Tennessee Coach joined the National Trailways Bus System and at the same time, Consolidated Bus Lines in West Virginia came in.
Tennessee Coach purchased Georgia-Tennessee Coaches in 1957 securing a direct route for Tennessee Coach between Chattanooga and Atlanta, tacking the new Chattanooga-Chatsworth authority to its existing Knoxville-Atlanta line. The major effort though, was the route extension from Abingdon to Roanoke, Virginia, hooking up with Virginia Trailways, replacing a slower route from Roanoke to Johnson City via Galax, Virginia. Through bus service from New York City to Memphis was begun with Safeway operating the bus to Washington, Virginia Taking it to Roanoke, Tennessee Coach bringing it on to Nashville, and Continental Southern completing the trip in Memphis.
In August 1960, Kraemer and Burke, the two major stock holders negotiated an agreement to sell Tennessee Coach to Continental Tennessee Lines, Virginia Stage Lines and Smoky Mountain Stages for $2,400,000, with each company owning a one-third interest. On December 21, 1961, the ICC approved the transaction and in the decision recognized the desire of the three purchasing carriers to maintain the identity of Tennessee Coach as being more important than the Commission's standing policy of merging the rights of acquired carriers into those of their purchasers. Tennessee Coach Co. Passed into history and the new company, Tennessee Trailways, Inc., was born.
NOTE: We wish to thank Redden Archives for the use of especially the color photos of Tennessee Coach buses with this story.
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[Doug Wilkerson asked some questions about Tennessee Coach Co:]
> 1. Did TCC buy another company to get the Bristol-Bluefield route?
Not that I am aware of or have ever heard mentioned. The Bluefield extension came in 1930, which, relatively speaking was pretty early for
commercial bus transportation in that area.
2. Did SMS offer Knoxville-Atlanta thru-service or was it a connection?
Oh yes. Originally they reached Knoxville connecting via Murphy and Cherokee. Keep in mind that I&S Trailways didn't begin running from
Cincinnati south to Knoxville until around 1950, and there was no Trailways station in Atlanta until the mid-50's, everyone used the Greyhound terminal, so Smoky Mountain really couldn't expect too much traffic with Southeastern
Greyhound controlling the Atlanta-Cincinnati market and Tennessee Coach running the direct route out of the same station too..
Later on, when Tennessee Coach started operating Knoxville-Atlanta as part of a Trailways thru-bus route, Smoky Mountain participated in one trip a day to keep their hand in, but because going around by Cherokee took too long, it was operated this way:
Smoky Mountain - Atlanta-Copperhill-Benton,TN
Tennessee Coach - Benton-Knoxville
Of the two rounds a day from Miami to Chicago, Smoky Mountain Trailways was always plugged into one of the round trips like that.
3. Overall did TCC lose or gain business aligned with NTBS vs. connecting with Greyhound?
Oh,I would have to say that they lost business because Atlantic Greyhound had the majority of service from Washington to Bristol. Atlantic Greyhound had the only authority down US 11 from Roanoke to Bristol. That said, Tennessee Coach was the dominant bus company in Tennessee east of Nashville and Chattanooga though, so they still did well. It wasn't until the mid-50's that NTBS carriers finally cobbled together a Knoxville-Roanoke-Washington route. Virginia Trailways had a route from Roanoke to Galax, VA where it dead ended. Queen City, in 1954 bought out a company called Carolina-Tennessee Coach Co. who had, among other things, authority from Galax to Johnson City, TN. This is how they ran....
Safeway Trailways - New York City-Washington
Virginia Trailways - Washington-Roanoke-Galax, VA
Queen City Trailways - Galax-Mountain City-Johnson City-SouthCentral-Greeneville
Smoky Mountain Trailways-
Continental Tennessee - Knoxville-Nashville
Continental Southern - Nashville-Memphis.
Prior to this route, the routing used by Trailways carriers from NYC to Memphis was via Danville, Salisbury, and Asheville, and then via Chattanooga (originally) or later via Knoxville. Continental Tennessee did not compete in the Nashville-Knoxville market until quite late. The road via Galax between Johnson City and Roanoke was a pig track and the old Queen City
drivers I know used to kid that the bus brushed more Mountain Laurel along the road than they saw people. There was also the draw back that the route did not serve Bristol but left Johnson City and went to Elizabethton and then Mountain City, West Jefferson and Sparta to Galax.
Tennessee Coach didn't join Trailways until 1956 and, immediately filed an application with the ICC to operate from Abingdon to Roanoke over US 11 to tie into Virginia Stage Lines.
4. Was TCC's Chat-Alt running time comparable to Greyhound's HY 41?
Well, Tennessee Coach didn't have the overhead traffic that Southeastern Greyhound had, so TCC only ran one local round trip a day for years that actually went through. Tennessee Coach's run took 3:40 and Greyhound's locals took 3:40 via Dalton and 4:25 via Rome. SEG's non-stops, though
could run it in 2:45-3:00 depending on the time of day. However, the only thing feeding Tennessee Coach at Chattanooga were Continental Tennessee's two rounds a day between Nashville and Chattanooga via McMinnville, so they
weren't a major player in that market as nothing fed them from the north at Nashville. Southeastern Greyhound had most all the long haul traffic that ham strung the others.
5. Did anybody complain about TCC's Abingdon-Roanoke extension?
Oh yeah, Greyhound fought it but didn't really have a case since the ICC had made TCC give Atlantic Greyhound one of the Bristol-Knoxville routes. Turn about's fair play, although Atlantic Greyhound didn't see it that way.
Tennessee Coach only got closed door interstate only authority though, no intermediate stops and no Virginia intrastate authority, so they had a 3:15 trip without being able to pick up any passengers. When they left Roanoke
or Abingdon, they'd better have a paying load. Tennessee Coach did make a rest stop at Abingdon, VA and Atlantic Greyhound was more than happy to have Trailways' passengers spend their meal money there.
6. What happened to the Galax route?
It never had more than two rounds a day and by 1958 was cut back to one trip with Tennessee Coach running three rounds a day over the new, faster, non-stop route. The Galax route ended up belonging to a company called Apalachian Coach Co. who ran Roanoke to Johnson City, buying the Virginia and Queen authorities. However, without the overhead traffic (Knoxville to Washington), there wasn't enough local business to sustain it.
Capitol Trailways of Pennsylvania
Capitol Bus Company, which became one of Pennsylvania's largest and most
well respected bus companies, had its origins in the mid-1930's as a chance
Joseph L. Maguire, who had an engineering degree from Penn State University,
was working for the county engineer's office at Pottsville in east-central
Pennsylvania's coal region. When tax revenues fell in the depression, the
entire office was wiped out and Maguire ended up taking a job with the state
highway department in Harrisburg, 55 miles each way down a hilly, winding
two-lane road. Maguire wasn't the only one living in Pottsville and working
in Harrisburg and before long several people had asked to ride with him on
the trek to work.
Maguire, whose father had operated a livery stable and later a jitney
service in nearby Mahanoy City, saw an opportunity to turn his daily drive
into a profit and shortly figured out a reasonable charge for the trip and
posted some notices on bulletin boards looking for additional riders. An
employee of Pennsylvania's Public Service Commission saw one of the notices
and sent word to Maguire that he either had to apply for a passenger motor
carrier certificate or cease his activities.
The mid-30's were a late start for bus service, especially in eastern
Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Greyhound Lines traces it's origins to the
mid-20's, Frank Martz dates from 1912, but no one was operating between
Harrisburg and Pottsville. In 1936, with his brother John Maguire, he
formed a partnership and filed the application. It was granted without
opposition to operate 12 passenger stretchouts. Service began on July 6,
1936, a local charter to an amusement park in nearby Twin Park. The
Maguires had found a niche and within the year they acquired a second
Chevrolet-Fitzjohn Stretchout, this one a used unit from the Arrow Line in
East Hartford. The stretchouts were painted "Hollywood tan" with white
The Maguire's business kept building, and in 1937 they returned to the PSC
to amend their certificate to allow for the use of larger buses on their
route. The first of many Flxible buses was purchased, a 20 passenger
Chevrolet powered Flxible 20CL. While stretchouts were normal a single
color, with the larger vehicle the Maguires added "Chocolate Brown" to the
"Hollywood Tan," and those colors adorned their equipment until 1948.
In the late 30's, operations were conducted without the benefit of formal
terminals. With Edwards Lakes-to-Sea and East Penn Transportation they
loaded on the street in Pottsville and in Harrisburg used the Highway
Service Station at 4th & Chestnut. The one-way fare to Harrisburg was $1.50
and the trip took an hour and a half to cover the 55 miles.
Passengers were just restricted to commuter trips either, the brothers soon
noticed that they were getting connecting passengers at Harrisburg from
points further on and in 1939, Capitol applied to extend their route
northward from Pottsville to Shenandoah, Hazleton and Wilkes-Barre.
Permission was granted except that Capitol was restricted against carrying
local passengers to protect the smaller local lines they were running over.
By 1940, the war in Europe was in full swing and the US military was looking
towards the day this country would become involved. A National Guard
training area along Capitol's route at Lickdale was taken over and became
the Army's Indiantown Gap Military Reservation. Capitol began hourly
service using Ford transit buses early on, then, like many carriers involved
in war time service with semi-trailer converted car carriers and finally
they purchased their first diesels 19 1845 with GM-TD-4007's. Eleven of the
diesels were purchased replacing both the Fords and the converted
carcarriers. In 1943, Capitol was carrying over 6,000 passengers a day and
operating service 24 hours a day.
In 1943 company headquarters were also moved from Pottsville to Harrisburg
and plans were made to improve the inadequate terminal facilities there. As
the war ended,, plans were made to purchase new equipment and plot a course
for a solid future for Capitol.
Capitol again pushed north in 1946 and through application extended their
routes from Wilkes-Barre on to Scranton, restricted against carrying only
interstate passengers in that market. Since Capitol had no interstate
routes, in was a shallow victory, but at a later date they did manage to
obtain Pennsulvania intrastate authority, again, restricted against local
In 1947, Capitol acquired two companies operating short regional routes
south of Harrisburg. Gettysburg-& Harrisburg Transportation offered service
between those cities and Adams Transit Co, running from Harrisburg to
Hanover, PA. Both companies operated 29 passenger, Buick powered Flxibles,
three from G&H and one from Adams Transit. Adams Transit was immediately
folded into Capitol, but G&H was operated as a separate entity for a while.
The partnership ended in 1948 when the Maguire brothers incorporated, Joseph
as President and John as Secretary-Treasurer and in charge of maintenance
that, to his credit, was unequaled in the US. The brothers also changed the
paint scheme, to red and cream as the company joined the National Trailways
Bus System that year. A swing away from Flxible also took place as they
bought two PDA-4101 diesels, followed by two more 4101's in 1949 and in
1950, a 4102 and four PDA-3704's. Capitol also opened its new terminal,
garage and office at the location of the original service station agency in
Harrisburg, 4th and Chestnut Streets. American Buslines buses also served
the new terminal.
In 1953, Capitol purchased the rights of McMahon Transportation from Hanover
to Baltimore, MD and a pool operation was started with Safeway Trailways
allowing Capitol schedules to reach Washington, DC and connect for all
points in the Trailways system south of Washington. Six round trips per day
went to Washington. Capitol reached Washington under its own steam when in
1957, they purchased From Eastern Greyhound, the route originally run by
Blue Ridge Lines from Gettysburg down US 15 to Frederick and then into
Washington. Pool service with Virginia Trailways and Carolina Trailways
began south of Washington to Richmond, Norfolk and Camp LeJeune, NC. To
match Virginia and Carolina's equipment, Capitol began specifying rest rooms
on its new 4104 buses.
In 1959, Capitol purchased Dickenson Lines operating between Binghamton and
Elmira NY and began the application process to extend operations from
Wilkes-Barre to Elmira. Naturally, Greyhound opposed the application and it
wasn't until 1962 that the authority was finally granted and service was
finally linked up with Empire Trailways (Western New York Motor Lines) from
Elmira to Rochester and Buffalo.
The Reading Railroad set up Reading Transportation in 1928 to compliment
their existing railroad passenger service. Reading bus service operated
from Harrisburg east to Reading and Allentown, from Lancaster to Reading,
from Allentown-Bethlehem to Philadelphia, and from Pottsville to Reading and
Philadelphia. Over the years, Reading operated mostly transit style buses
and what intercity cars they had were generally small GM's and Buick powered
Flxibles. In 1950, five GM diesels were purchased for the heavier intercity
lines, the were PDA-3704's equipped with the small 471 diesel. In 1955
Reading joined the National Trailways Bus System and the colors went from
blue and gray to Trailways' red and cream. With Trailways membership
Reading moved into Capitol's Harrisburg terminal.
Reading began two thru bus pools, both involving Royal Blue Coaches from
Allentown to New York City. One pool ran Harrisburg-Reading-Allentown-New
York City and the other ran Washington-Lancaster-Allentown-New York City.
Neither Reading or Royal Blue's equipment was up to pool standards and some
ex-Consolidated Trailways PD-4103's were quickly transferred to Royal Blue
by the Jessup family to hold up that end of things and Reading purchased six
PD-4104's for their part of the DC-Allentown-New York City run and the
Harrisburg-New York City service. With the death of Royal Blue's owner,
James Gall in 1963, the Allentown-New York City service went to Public
Service who continued the pools from Washington.
In 1964, the Reading Railroad decided to sell their bus operations and
Readings Trailways' routes were sold piecemeal to four different operators:
1. Safeway Trailways purchased Lancaster-Reading Allentown
2. Edwards Lakes-to-Sea got Allentown-Shamokin and Pottsville-Shamokin
3. Penn Stages too over Philadelphia-Allentown (Bieber today) and
4. Capitol Trailways got everything that was left, namely
Harrisburg-Reading-Philadelphia, Reading-Pottsville, Reading-Tamaqua and
Reading's charter certificate, ICC rights from five miles either side of
every Reading Railroad track in existence. Capitol also picked up Reading's
TDM-4515 suburbans, 29 passenger Flxibles, the PDA-3704's and 14 Reading
PD-4104's, one of which, became the restored 41094 in Dick Maguire's
historic fleet. Capitol retained the 4104's and immediately disposed of the
1965 also saw Capitol operating a lucrative thru bus service with Hudson
Transit "Short Line" from Elmira to Binghamton and then via Short Line to
New York City.
Capitol turned away from GM in 1969, buying six Model 05 Silver Eagles and
followed up with an additional four Eagles in 1970. The Eagles operated
Capitol's part of the pool service from Buffalo to Washington and then to
either Norfolk or Camp LeJeune. The buses were only what could be called
garage queens/ They didn't break down on the road but parts were almost
impossible to come by and by Capitol's maintenance standards, that was
unacceptable. In 1972, Capitol became the third Trailways carrier to buy
MCI, following Adirondack and Martz, purchasing four MC-7's. At the same
time, Western New York (Empire Trailways served notice that if Capitol
didn't break the pools south of Washington, Empire would break them at
Elmira. This coupled with the arrival of the MCI's made for a relatively
easy choice and Capitol buses have not run south of Washington since.
Sadly, in 1972, Joseph Maguire, the fellow with the car pool and flair for
the bus business passed away. His brother John had died several years
previously. Joseph's son Richard J. Maguire, took over the helm and steered
Capitol on. Dick Maguire was a graduate of Lehigh University, with a degree
in both civil engineering and business administration and was a commissioned
officer at the Army's Ft. Belvoir, VA, with the Corps of Engineers.
Not content with the status quo, Dick inaugurated service to the recently
completed Penn National Race Track when it opened and with the flood of 1972
also began to provide all of Greyhound's maintenance in Harrisburg.
In 1981 improved highways between Reading and the Philadelphia area allowed
substantially improved running times and Capitol was in the forefront as
they revised schedules and unveiled new service to catch additional
business. Dick Maguire also decided to try service into BWI International
Airport and purchased some specially configured "Linobuses" featuring two
and one seating to attract riders. An additional suburban stop was added
leaving Harrisburg to make the service easier to use.
In 1985 Dick Maguire decided to act on an idea first suggested in 1972 and
began operating between York-Lancaster-King of Prussia-New York City.
Trailways, Inc. Refused to allow him to use the Trailways name and mark over
the new route, claiming it competed with their American Buslines subsidiary,
so the service which became a success, operated under the name of "The Bus
To The Big Apple" for years. With the demise of Trailways, Inc., operations
continued, but under the Trailways name.
With the advent of casino gambling in Atlantic City, Capitol moved quickly
to develop the gambling mecca as a destination. They took the lead early
and continue as the dominant carrier in their marketing area for that
destination. Also, in the 80's service was begun from Scranton to Syracuse
via Binghamton, stretching Capitol's main line from Washington, DC to
In 1988, shortly after the purchase of Trailways, Inc. By Fred Currey, Dick
Maguire sold Capitol Trailways to three individuals, Joshua Bennett (from
the Pittsburgh area's Lincoln Coach Lines), Joseph Wrable and Skip Becker.
The company struggled under a heavy debt load as it tried to buy itself,
further complicated by Greyhound's financial upheavals but continues into
the new millennium, now partnered with Greyhound in revenue sharing.
After the sale of Capitol, Dick Maguire turned his attention to charitable
work and the setting up of a national bus museum. At the time of his death
in late 2001, he had spearheaded the raising of $500,000 for that purpose
and plans are set to donate the "Parade of Progress" historic fleet to the
museum when it opens.
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