Eagle Buses and Coaches
by John Veerkamp
The Eagle coach was the result of a contact between
Continental Trailways in the United States and the Karl
Kassbohrer bus and coachbuilding firm in Germany. Kassbohrer had
introduced its integral coach range in the beginning of the
1950s. These were called Selbst Tragend (self-carrying).
Kassbohrer also was a pioneer for articulated buses in Europe
and its patented trailer section was dominating the market for a
decade or so. One result of the contacts was the export in 1956
of two articulated coach for Trailways, built on an underfloor
Henschel chassis with Kassbohrer bodywork and trailer. Also in
1956, Kassboher built a high specification 40 foot 3-axle coach
especially designed for Trailways. In May 1957, Trailways
director Mr. Moore and Mr. Otto Kassbohrer christened this coach
the "Golden Eagle" during a ceremony in Germany. This coach was
a success, and fifty coaches with MAN engines were delivered in
1957 and 1958. In 1958, 41 more Eagles were be built by
Kassbohrer, though this batch was to a lower specification.
These were called "Silver Eagles", as the "golden" sides changed
to "silver" at the same time.
The result with the articulated coach was such that Trailways
ordered four articulated coaches with the Golden Eagle design.
These coaches were delivered in 1958. They featured underfloor
Rolls Royce engines and a Kassbohrer trailing section, but had
the same body design as the rigid examples. However, Trailways
decided to standardize on the Silver Eagle rigid coach, and no
more articulated Eagles were built.
Around 1958, Kassbohrer announced its decision to concentrate on
the European market and declined to build more Eagle coaches for
Trailways. Trailways looked for another European partner that
was found in the form of La Brugeoise in Belgium, an old company
mainly building railway equipment. In 1960-1961, La Brugeoise
built 185 Silver Eagles of a somewhat different design, called
Model 01. In 1961 the Bus & Car factory was opened. Low labor
costs were apparently the main reason for the decision to build
the coaches in Belgium, using many US components, and then
transporting the vehicles to the US. Bus & Car built the Model
01 until 1968, when the new Model 05 was introduced. The main
visible difference was the interchange of the rear axles, with
the tag axle being placed in front of the main axle, providing
for more luggage space, however this change also resulted in a
wider turning radius. The Model 05 also received a squarer
appearance in 1969, though these design changes were gradual.
Late Model 01 and early Model 05 coaches have the same
appearance. Bus & Car produced the Model 05 for the US market
until 1976, mainly using Detroit Diesel engines. In 1967 one
prototype 2-axle 102 inch wide coach was built for Trailways,
called the Model 03, while in 1969-1970 45 3-axle Model 07
coaches to the 102" width were delivered to various Trailways
companies, though these were virtually indistinguishable from
the Model 05.
In addition to the coaches for the US market, Bus & Car
developed other models. The Eagle 04 was a 2-axle coach for the
European market, small numbers of which were sold in, among
others, Belgium, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom around
1966-1970. In 1972, Bus & Car built twenty Eagle 09s for South
African Railways. These had the external appearance of the 05,
but were shorter. Other exports of Model 05 look-alikes were
made to Australia (24 coaches) and various European countries.
In 1974 forty Eagle Model 14 buses were built for the Belgian
Vicinal Railways (NMVB-SNCV, series 4285-4324), using Mercedes
engines and SNCV's standard body design. Another effort at
building buses resulted in the delivery of fifteen Eagle 16s
with Caterpillar engines to the Brussels public transport
company, MIVB-STIB (series 8046-8060) . While the design of
these buses followed the standard Brussels model they featured
"silver skirts" and a rather special windscreen. By 1978,
however, sales had dropped so much that the company got into
financial trouble and was sold to Mol, a long-established
Belgian builder of heavy machinery. Mol had built a small number
of bus chassis and wanted to expand in this area. In total, Bus
& Car built around 4,000 Eagles. 1,450 of these were Model 01
Mol revised the Eagle range and added the production of
chassis. At the 1979 Kortrijk, Belgium, bus show, Mol showed two
different Eagle coaches. One basically looked like a Model 05
with the Model 01 axle arrangement, but had bonded windows, a
feature never used on the US coaches. Another coach was called
the "Transcontinental". It had the typical European low central
exit door. Also shown were a prototype transit bus which was
somewhat reminiscent of the Brussels Eagle 16, called the
"City", and a coach chassis, named the "Touring". This one had
Spanish Irizar bodywork. Also in 1979, Mol built three small
chassis with Cummins engines, the Mol Eagle M28, for Belgian
Vicinal Railways for use on their Brugge city services (series
5559-5561). These received Jonckheere "Trans City" bodywork. In
1981-1982 a series of 25 bus chassis, Mol Eagle M31, were built
for the Vicinal Railways for use around Gent (series 5715-5739).
These had Mercedes engines and received Jonckheere A120 standard
bodywork. In total, Mol produced only fifty Eagles until 1987,
when production ceased. Apparently the "City" transit bus was
demonstrated in the United States, among others in Seattle,
though it seems no orders materialized.
Rising labor costs in Belgium and a declining dollar resulted
in the decision to shift production for the US market to the
other side of the Atlantic. The Eagle Coach Corporation factory
started deliveries from Brownsville, Texas in 1975. For one
year, the Bus & Car and Eagle factories both produced coaches
for the US market, but since 1976, all US Eagles were produced
in Texas. The Model 05 was built until 1980, when it was
superceded by the Model 10, of which 2,217 were built until
1987. In 1982 a second factory was opened in Harlingen, Texas,
to produce a 2-axle Model 10 Suburban, which met with little
success. In 1985 marketing began of the Model 15, a 102 inch
wide bus or coach (all the others had been 96 inches wide).
Finally, the Model 20 was introduced in 1987, which was
basically a Model 10 with the external design of the Model 15 -
i.e. a narrow Model 15 with a smaller engine. Externally it is
difficult to distinguish the Model 15 and 20. Over the years,
many smaller improvements were made and some companies ordered
special versions of the standard models. For example, New Jersey
Transit bought a special version of the Model 20, called AE-20,
which had, among other features, large destination displays. In
1988, a 2-axle 35 foot version and a 3-axle 45 foot version of
the Model 15 were introduced. In 1989, smooth sides became an
option.The Eagle also became popular as a conversion shell for
motorhomes. Over 3,000 Eagles were built in Texas, mostly for
the US market, though there were some exports, for example to
Australia, Mexico and Taiwan.
In 1987 Greyhound bought Trailways and Eagle, but went
bankrupt in June 1990. Eagle production stopped in December,
1990, and Eagle filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1991. In
October, 1991 the factory was sold to a Mexican corporation as
Eagle Bus Manufacturing, Inc. Production resumed in July, 1992,
but output remained low, with a fairly large proportion of
vehicles built as conversion shells. By the end of the decade
the company got into trouble again and filed for Chapter 11
protection in January, 1998.The Eagle trademark and product line
were purchased by Maplex, and activities were re-launched as
Eagle Coach in August 1998 when some of the old facilities were
leased from the town of Brownsville. Priority was given to the
manufacturing of spare parts.
During its production of over four decades, some 8,000 Eagle
coaches have been built in three different countries on two
continents, and they have been the trademark of Continental
Trailways for over three decades.
- Buses Worldwide, Issue 100, May/June 1999
Setra Veteranen Club, Germany
- Bus World (MAK Publishing) , March, 1998
- Encyclopedia of Buses by Ed Stauss, 1987
- Modern Intercity Coaches by Larry Plachno, 1997
Mol Eagle Bus by Walter Deckx
SILVER EAGLE ADDRESSES
(1) Bus & Car SA, St. Mihiel, Belgium 1961-1974
(2) Eagle International Inc., Brownsville, Texas 1975
(3) Mol, NV, Hooglede, Belgium 1976 to date
The largest component of the association of intercity
bus companies known as the National Trailways Bus System has, since the late
1940's, been a group of operating companies based in Dallas, originally
known as Transcontinental Bus System and now Continental Trailways, Inc. In
1956, in an effort to compete with the 40-foot bilevel Scenicruiser bus
built by GM for Greyhound, this company contracted with Karl Kassbohrer,
A.G. for a prototype "Golden Eagle;" delivered in 1956 and followed by 50
more in 1957 and 45 (including four articulated buses) in 1958. These had
MAN diesel engines. Late in 1960 an additional 85 buses were acquired from
Kassbohrer, incorporating numerous modifications. These, as well as the
1958 batch, had more seats and fewer interior frills, and were designated
Transcontinental Bus System organized a subsidiary in
1961 to build its own buses, basically using the Kassbohrer design but
incorporating a Detroit Diesel 8V-71 engine. The plant was set up in Belgium
under the name of Bus & Car, S.A., and it was later included in a group of
overseas affiliates spun off to Transcontinental stockholders in the form
of a new corporation, Western Sales, Ltd. Bus & Car also built a small
number of buses of other types for European tour operators, under the
"Eagle" name. With minor modifications, approximately 3,500 Silver and
Golden Eagles were built from 1961 to 1974, the majority for National
Trailways Bus System operators, but others sold as well to independent
regular- route and charter carriers. A few have also been marketed in South
Africa and Australia.
A second manufacturing plant at Brownsville, Texas, was
set up in 1975 and now supplies the U.S. market. The St. Mihiel factory also
built transit buses, the initial purchase comprising 140 for Israel, and the
U.S. plant is also beginning to make an effort to sell these buses, which
are now built by another Belgian plant.
With the steady decline in the value of the dollar
against many other currencies, importing buses became an expensive
undertaking for the Continental Trailways system, especially when its
traffic levels declined, and late in 1976 the purchases were discontinued;
approximately 3,630 Eagles were imported in 16 years. Production of
identical buses has been continued by Eagle International of Brownsville,
Texas, lately at fewer than 100 vehicles per year. MBS
Model 1 Production History
1956-1957 Golden Eagles, Model
Setra-S, by Kassbohrer (Germany)
1958-1959 Silver Eagles, Model
Setra-S, by Kassbohrer (Germany)
1960-1961 New Silver Eagle Model
01 by La Brugeoise of Belgium
1962-1968 New Silver Eagle Model
01 by Bus & Car, N.V. of Belgium
The first Eagles were built in
Germany by Kassbohrer during 1956 and 1957 as ordered by Continental
Trailways. Built with luxury features, these 51 buses were identified as
Golden Eagles. The first Silver Eagles were built in 1958 and 1959
without the Golden Eagle amenities and were selected as the standard bus
of the Trailways fleet.
Eagles built during 1960 and 1961 by Kassbohrer were the first to
be identified as Model 01 Eagles. After 1961 Kassbohrer declined to
build additional Eagles because of other business and Trailways was
forced to find another supplier.
In 1962 Continental established its own factory in Belgium, with
the help of a Belgium partner, La Brugeoise, giving it the name Bus &
Car, N.V. The first Bus & Car Eagles were similar to the earlier models
except for the introduction of a wraparound mesh grill which remained an
Eagle spotting feature until 1969.
Many U.S. parts were imported for assembly in Belgium, including
Detroit Diesel engines and transmissions. Of the many running changes to
the Model 01 during its lifetime, most were first seen in the 1964
models. Some were just appearance changes, but others were engineering,
such as an air-operated parking brake and new air intakes for the
engine. Most appearance features remained the same from 1965 through
1967 except that the silver siding and lightning bolt trim was raised to
the window level.
A large number of internal changes were made in 1968 to create the
Model 5 Production History
- 1968 - 1976 by Bus & Car, NV,
1974 - 1980 by Eagle International, Inc., Brownsville, Texas
The first Model 05 Eagles appeared
very similar to the Model 01, including the rounded end cap over the
windshield, but the defining difference was the reversal in positions of
the driving axle with the tag. The main rear axle was placed behind the
tag to increase the space for underfloor luggage; this change had the
disadvantage of slightly increasing the turn radius. Other visible
external differences are a backup light that replaced the center
taillamp in the vertical cluster on each side, an amber marker lamp
added just above the fourth passenger window from the front, and the
change from four baggage compartment doors to three.
The 1969 Model 05 adopted the new-look appearance generally
associated with the Model 05. The angular upper body part, flush marker
lamps and squared bumpers remained as Eagle designators until the Model
10 was introduced in 1980. No visible changes were made to the 05 Eagles
until 1974 when the lightening bolt was removed from the sides and
replaced with silver siding of uniform height from front to rear.
The last Golden Eagles, a short run of 12 buses, were produced in
1971 as enhanced versions of the Model 05.
The large Silver Eagle insignia on the coach sides and the raised
letters identifying the bus line were changed from raised assemblies to
decals in 1975. The last Eagles for the American market were built by
Bus & Car in 1976, the same year that Silver Eagle decals were deleted
from Brownsville production and the buses were then identified as
Eagles, dropping "Silver." The 1976 buses received square turn
indicators in each of four positions.
In 1977, the side-mounted turn signals were eliminated. The front
signals were changed to round lenses in the following year.
The Belgian plant continued to produce Eagles for two years after
Brownsville deliveries began, building 20 Model 05s for South Africa, 24
for Australia, and others for Ireland and England, all right-hand
drives. During this time, the Belgian plant was sold to MOL, N.V., a
Belgian producer of trailers and heavy trucks. MOL retains the Eagle
name and emblem for use in the European market.
All but two of the 1969-1971 Golden Eagles were rebuilt into
regular Model 05 Eagles at Brownsville and some Trailways shops during
the late 1970s. Some were converted into combination freight/passenger
buses, of which about 30 were operating on selected Trailways routes in
Late in 1979, some of the Model 10 features began to appear on what
were still designated the Model 05. One-piece windows replaced the more
complicated windows with the small opening vents at the top which had
been on all Eagles up to that time. Roof hatches were installed as
emergency exits and the rear window emergency exit was eliminated.
The last Model 05s, built in 1980, were externally identical to the
Model 10 including Model 10 front and rear crowns but had none of the
mechanical changes to be introduced on the Model 10.
Model 10 Production History
1980-1987 2,217 produced
The most obvious spotting mark of
the Model 10 is the sloping front end cap over the windshield, replacing
the angular hatch of the Model 05. But this mark can be misleading
because many older Model 05s have had the new cap retrofitted. The Model
10 also eliminated the rear windows found on the 05 with a smooth
one-piece rear end cap.
Exclusively on the Model 10 is the new Detroit Diesel 6V-92TA
turbo-charged engine, providing better fuel economy and power, which
could be identified by the large, single rectangular exhaust pipe and by
the air scoop mounted just below the last passenger window on the right
until the scoop was dropped from later models. Some customers of the
Model 10 have chosen the earlier Detroit Diesel 8V-71 engine which can
be spotted from the dual exhaust pipe.
Another Model 10 feature is a spectacular instrumental panel with
aerospace technology and styling.
Eagles of 1981 and later are identified by the taller driver’s
window and passenger entrance door, the tops of which match the top of
In 1982 Trailways opened a second plant to manufacture a new
two-axle suburban Model 10 at Harlingen, Texas, creating Trailways
Manufacturing, Inc. The original Brownsville, Texas plant remained under
Eagle Intrernational. Trailways placed 19 suburbans in Atlantic City
service. Although several other operators experimented with the
suburbans, the fact that the axle loading exceeded the legal limit in
most states inhibited the popularity of this model.
Underfloor luggage space did not increase when the tag axle was
dropped to create the suburban because the space was filled, in most
units, with additional air conditioning equipment.
In 1985, the Model 10 drive train was redesigned to eliminate the
mitre box, allowing the engine to be set farther to the rear, improving
accessibility for maintenance. The weight shift caused by this change
made the two-axle version even less practical so the suburban was
discontinued and the Harlingen plant was closed.
Other special versions produced were the empty shell model for
conversion to custom motor homes and right-hand drive models for
operation in Australia and other countries.
The Model 10 remained in production after the 102-inch wide Model
15 was introduced in 1985. Most sales switched to the wider Model 15 but
some demand remained for the Model 10 to be used in East Coast tight
spots such as New York’s Holland Tunnel. The last Model 10 was delivered
in November, 1987 as future orders for a 96-inch Eagle were to be filled
with the new Model 20.
Model 15 Production History
The first production 102-inch
Eagle for general sales was introduced at the ABA meeting in Reno in
October, 1985. Advertised as the Golden Eagle II, it has become
known as the Model 15.
The Model 15 is identified by its higher windshield and
redesigned front cap with a one-piece skyview window. The side
windows are larger than on the Model 10 and the first right-hand and
left-hand windows from the front were made square for
interchangeability. Rectangular headlights replaced the round
headlights of the Model 10.
In 1986 changes were made to the destination sign and the
outside mirrors in response to operator requests.
Because of the popularity of the Model 15 as a shell for custom
motorhomes and entertainer dressing rooms, a new version with a
taller roof was introduced in 1987, permitting a completely level
floor from front to back.
Model 20 Production History
Although the 102-inch Model 15
accounted for most Eagle sales, some demand continued for narrower
coaches so the Model 10 was restyled to look like the Model 15 and
identified as the Model 20. The first Model 20 Eagles were built in
December, 1987. Because of the narrower engine compartment, the Model 20
was offered only with the 6V engine.