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Heiser Body Co., Heisers Inc., Heiser Radiator & Fender Works
Motor Sheet Metal Works, 1908-1918; Auto Sheet Metal Factory, 1918-1922; Heiser Radiator & Fender Works, 1922-1925; Heisers Inc., 1925-1936; Geo. Heiser Body Co., 1939-present; Seattle, Washington
Associated Firms
Kenworth, Pacific Car & Foundry, Tricoach

Today Seattle, Washington's Geo. Heiser Body Co. is known as one of the Pacific Northwest's most successful truck body distributors. The firm's predecessor, Heisers, Inc., created some of the most memorable motor coach bodies of the late 1920s and 1930s. Designed by North Coach Lines' George W. Newell, these early deck-and-a-half intercity buses served as the inspiration for the 1954-1956 Greyhound Scenic Cruiser.  Heisers, Inc., was a successor to Seattle's Motor Sheet Metal Works, a firm founded in 1908 by a German immigrant named Heinkel.

Philip H. Heinkel was born on Jan. 9, 1847 in Dettingen, district of Reutlingen, Württemberg, Germany. After a public education he was apprenticed to a master tinsmith and upon reaching his majority spent several years as a journeyman metal smith. In October of 1867 he emigrated to the United States, locating in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he found a job waiting for him with Charles Hellmuth. His listings in the 1869-1873 Milwaukee, Wisconsin directories list him as follows:

“Philip H. Heinkel, tinsmith (Charles Hellmuth, 32 Division St.) bds. 499 E. Water St.”

After a decade of working in the sheet metal trade Heinkel relocated to nearby Madison, Dane County, Wisconsin where he established a cigar shop, which the 1879-1885 Madison directories list at 1403 Williamson St., Madison. His occupation is confirmed by the 1880 US Census which lists a Phillip Heinkel (b. 1848 in Württemberg, Germany) in Madison, Dane County, Wisconsin as owner of a cigar store. On April 13, 1881 Heinkel became a US Citizen and one month later (May 18, 1881) he married music teacher Josephine B. aka ‘Josie’ Bandler (b. July 22, 1859 in Madison, Wisconsin). Near the end of the decade the couple moved to Sioux City, Iowa, where Philip returned to the sheet metal trade, the 1893-1898 Sioux City directories listing his employer as ‘S.C. Cornice Works (prop. Wm. H. Burns), 412 Water St.’, his occupation ‘cornice maker’. In 1898 the couple relocated to Seattle, King, County, Washington where he found work in one of the city’s numerous sheet metal shops, the 1900 US Census listing him as a ‘metal worker’, the 1900 Seattle directory lists his occupation as ‘tinner’.

With the rising popularity of the automobile creating a need for skilled repairmen, Heinkel opened up a sheet metal shop specializing in the creation and repair of head and tail lamps, hoods, metal fenders, doors and radiators, his listing in the 1908-1913 Seattle directories being:

“Motor Sheet Metal Works (Philip H. Heinkel), Expert Auto Repairing a Specialty, Lamps, Radiators, Fenders, Etc. 601 E. Pike, Tel East 876”

The shop was a small one, the First Annual Report of the Industrial Insurance Dept., State of Washington, pub. 1912, listing only 2 employees:

“Motor Sheet Metal Works, Seattle; 2 employees”

Heinkel’s most skilled employee was one George Heiser, a talented automobile-minded young man whose family had moved to Seattle in 1901.

George Heiser was born in Wisconsin on October 14, 1897 to Henry (b.1855-d. Dec. 10, 1927) and Anna Elizabeth (Walsh - b. 1858-d. Mar. 14, 1934) Heiser. A skilled mason, Henry emigrated to Wisconsin from his native Germany in 1884, the same year he married Anna Elizabeth Walsh, another Germany national who had emigrated in 1881. The 1900 US Census lists the Heiser family at 303 Besley Place, Waukegan, Lake County, Illinois. John Ernest’s siblings included John Ernest (b. July 3, 1888 - d. May 29, 1926), Henry jr. (b. Mar. 1, 1890), Louisa (b.1893), Mildred (b.1894), Annie (b. 1895), Katherine (b. 1896), George (b. Oct. 14, 1897) and Mary & Lena (twins - b.1899) Heiser.

The Heiser family relocated to Seattle in 1901 to take advantage of the building boom in the Pacific Northwest, their first listing in the Seattle directory being in 1902:

“Henry Heiser (brick mason) res. 1013 26th Ave.”

The family later moved to 913 26th Ave. and in 1905 Henry Heiser jr. became a bottler’s apprentice. The 1910 directory lists him as a machinist and by 1912 the directory indicates he had taken a position with the Metz automobile distributor as a foreman and chauffeur. Coincidentally Henry Jr. had an apartment at 920 E. Pike St., which was one block down the street from his brother George’s employer, which happened to be one Philip H. Heinkel, their listings in the 1914-1917 Seattle directories being:

“Motor Sheet Metal Works (Philip H. Heinkel), Expert Auto Repairing a Specialty, Lamps, Radiators, Fenders, Etc. 601 E. Pike, Tel East 876”

“Geo. Heiser, sheet metal worker, r. 927 26th Ave.”

Philip and Josie Heinkel had no children, and in 1917 he retired at the age of 65, turning over his tools, stock and good will to the shop’s foreman, George Heiser, who in partnership with his older brother John E. Heiser, established the similarly-named Auto Sheet Metal Factory 1 block away at 1015 E. Union St., Seattle. (Philip Heinkel passed away on February 24, 1924 at the age of 77, and his widow Josie died on November 13, 1957 in Riverside, California.)

George’s draft registration, dated September 12, 1918, states he was employed as a ‘sheet metal worker’ by the ‘Auto Sheet Metal Factory, 1015 E. Union st., Seattle.’ As John was the more experienced businessman, he served as president, with George taking on the role of vice president and superintendent, their listing in the 1918 Seattle directory follows:

“Auto Sheet Metal Factory (J.E. Heiser), General Automobile Repairing, Making and Repairing of Bus Bodies, Lamps, Oil Pans, Horns, Mufflers, Fenders, Radiators, Auto Hoods; 1015 E. Union, Tel. East 593.”

“John E. Heiser (Louise H.), Auto Sheet Metal Factory, h. 45-2700 4th Ave.”

“Geo. Heiser, metal worker, r. 923 26th Ave.”

On January 19, 1921 George Heiser married Carolena Gandler (b. 1896-d.1982 - the daughter of two German immigrants, Gottlieb and Mary Gandler) in Seattle. The union was blessed by the birth of a son, George Gandler Heiser (aka George Jr.) in 1928.

In 1922 the Auto Sheet Metal Factory was reorganized as Heiser Radiator & Fender Works with George as president and manager, and John vice-president - the name change instituted as the repair and replacement of automobile radiators and fenders were its main line of work. Throughout its history Heiser’s customers were mostly local, although they occasionally appeared in the national trades, such as the December 1, 1922 issue of Motor West:

“Heiser Radiator & Fender Works, formerly Seattle Auto Sheet Iron Works, J. E. and George Heiser managers, will distribute U. S. Cartridge radiator cores in Washington, British Columbia and Alaska.”

In the early 1920s Heiser began to manufacture small numbers of motor coach bodies for local and regional transit lines, their listing in the 1922-26 Seattle directories stating:

“Heiser Radiator & Fender Works (Geo. Heiser Pres.-Mgr.; J.E. Heiser, V-Pres.), General Automobile Repairing, Making and Repairing of Bus Bodies, Lamps, Oil Pans, Horns, Mufflers, Fenders, Radiators, Auto Hoods; 1015 E. Union, Tel. East 0593.”

John E. Heiser, Heiser Radiator & Fender Works vice-president, passed away unexpectedly on May 29, 1926 at the age of 38 at which time the firm was reorganized as Heisers, Inc., with George Heiser as president and his wife Carolena, vice-president, their listing in the 1927 Seattle directory being:

“Heisers Inc. (Geo. Heiser Pres.-Mgr.), Automobile Repairing, Bodies, Tops, Painting, Radiators, Fenders, Springs; 1406 10th Ave., cor. E. Union, Tel. East 0770.”

At much the same time Heisers acquired the services of a talented body engineer named Harry W. Museil, who was a member of the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers), their listing in the following year’s directory playing up their custom body fabrication services:

“Heisers Inc. (Geo. Heiser Pres.), Custom Body Builders for Autos and Stages, Complete Auto Wreck Repairers, 1406 10th Ave., cor. E. Union, Tel. East 0770.”

In 1928 Heisers won a contract to construct a series of deck-and-a-half motor coach bodies for Seattle's North Coast Transportation Co. The coach was designed by North Coast Lines' George W. Newell (b. June 4, 1868 - d. May 8, 1948) and Edwin M. Swift (b. Jan. 13, 1867 - d. Jul 29, 1948). The unique layout spawned several series of 'Newell-type' coaches, which  found favor with small numbers of east and west coast operators a full two decades prior to Greyhound's Scenicruiser.

North Coast Transportation Co.'s chief engineer, Edwin Merritt Swift, was born in Missouri on January 13, 1867 to Albert and Ann J. (Ray) Swift. Siblings included Lillie, Ida L, Frank E., and Nina R. Swift. He grew up in Brownsdale, Mower County, Minnesota and his older brother Frank worked for the Minneapolis and Sault Ste. Marie Railroad while Edwin worked for the Seattle & Everett Traction Co. On September 4, 1901 Edwin married Jessie Mary Evelyn Casseday and to the blessed union were born two children: Evelyn Merrit (b.1904-d.1990) and Frank (b.1906-d.1919) Swift. The 1910 US Census lists his occupation as ‘barn foreman’ for ‘street car co.’, the 1920 census lists him as ‘mechanic’ for ‘Interurban Railway,’ and the 1930 census lists him as ‘master mechanic’ for ‘Stage and Interurban Railway.’

North Coast Transportation Co.'s manager, George Washington Newell, was born on June 4, 1868 at Clark's Harbour, Cape Sable Island, Shelburne, Nova Scotia, Canada to Lewis Z. and Lucinda (Kenny) Newell. After a public education, which ended with the sixth grade, he assisted his father in the family business. In 1890 he married Lasuva ‘Laura’ Jane Smith (b. Nov. 1869), the newlyweds emigrating to the United States where he had taken a position as a gripman with the Seattle Street Railway. To the blessed union was born 5 children: Georgianna L. & Caroline W. (aka Georgie and Kate; twins b. January 1892), Robert L. (b. August 1898 in Mass.), Laura E. (b.1902 in Mass.), and Richard B. (b. Sept. 10, 1906 in Wash. - d. Jan 1, 1981) Newell. The 1892 Washington State and Territorial Census lists George and his bride, their newborn twins Georgie & Kate, and his mother Lucinda as residents of Seattle (7th Ward), King County, Washington. Sometime prior to 1898 George W. Newell took a position with the street railway of Medford, Mass. The 1900 US Census lists the Newell family in Medford (2nd Ward), Middlesex County, Massachusetts, his occupation ‘car starter’ with ‘electric railroad’.

Newell returned to Seattle in 1903, first taking a position as a car inspector and in 1905 as superintendent with the Seattle Electric Co., the city’s oldest street railway operator, having been formed in 1888. In 1907 Newell took a position as superintendent with the Everett Interurban Railway, which was managed by Boston-based Stone & Webster*. The 1910 US Census lists the Newell family back in Seattle (13th Ward), his occupation being ‘superintendent’ of a ‘Street Railway’.

(*Founded in 1890 by two electrical engineers, Charles Stone and Edwin Webster, Stone & Webster, 147 Milk St., Boston, Mass., were a well-known electrical consulting firm that specialized in the construction, acquisition and management of electric - and later nuclear - utilities.)

Founded in 1905 by Fred E. Sander, the Seattle-Everett Interurban Railway Co. was a reorganization of the Seattle-Tacoma Railway and Everett and Interurban Railway Co.s which dated to the early 1890s. Between 1905 and 1908 the management of - and a controlling interest in - Sander’s rail operations were taken by Stone and Webster, who reorganized it as the Seattle-Everett Traction Co. in 1909. One year later the Seattle-Everett Traction Co. became a subsidiary of the Stone & Webster-controlled Puget Sound Traction Light and Power Company which in 1912 was renamed the Pacific Northwest Traction Co. In 1930 Stone & Webster’s Seattle operations were reorganized as the North Coast Transportation Co.

The 1920 US Census lists the Newell family in the northern Seattle suburb of Everett, Snohomish County, Washington, George’s occupation being ‘manager’ of an ‘electric railway’. His daughter Kate is also listed as working for an electric railway as an ‘office girl’. The two Newell boys, Robert L. and Richard L., were attending the University of Washington at the time.

The prototype Newell-Swift deck-and-a-half coach was constructed at the North Coast Lines shop in Everett on a drop-frame Fageol bus chassis powered by a 6-cylinder Hall-Scott engine. The coach proved popular when it entered service in 1927 and additional examples were constructed using Yellow Truck & Coach, Fageol and Kenworth chassis, albeit in the Seattle shops of Heisers Inc. The design was continually improved and a number of individuals made contributions to the project, foremost among them being Newell’s two sons, Richard B. and Robert L. Newell, and Harry W. Musiel, Heisers’ chief engineer.

Strictly speaking, The Newell-Swift coach was not the first deck-a-and-a-half constructed, that distinction goes to Dwight E. Austin’s Pierce-Arrow Pickwick Parlor-Buffet observation coaches, which first hit the road in 1925. Austin, a talented Los Angeles-based engineer, designed a number of similarly-configured ‘observation coaches’ for the Pickwick Lines during the late 1920s although his main claim to fame were the double-decked Pickwick Night Coaches which plied the western seaboard during the late '20s and early '30s. For more information on Austin, take a look at his biography which is located here.

Swift and Newell made their patent application for a ‘passenger coach’ on September 17, 1925, and on August 17, 1926 were awarded US Patent No. 1596212.  The patent is located in appendix 1, at the bottom of this page.

Although Pickwick had already placed Austin’s deck-and-a-half coach in service by the time of Newell & Swift’s patent application, Austin didn’t apply for a patent on his ‘automobile stage body’ until May 7, 1927 and wasn’t awarded his patent (US. Patent No. 1902607) until March 21, 1933. As Newell and Swift were the first to receive a patent, all deck-and-a-half coaches from that point on were referred to as Newell-type or Newell-Swift motor coaches.

Newell-type coaches destined for East Coast operators were constructed by the *American Car & Foundry Company’s Twin Coach subsidiary in Kent, Ohio using coachwork supplied Cleveland's Kuhlman Car Co., the April 23, 1927 issue of Automotive Industries reporting:

“The American Car & Foundry Co. has recently added a new body model to its 230 in. wheelbase mechanical drive chassis line. This model, designated as a Newell type, while frequently found out West, has not until now been introduced in the East. The body has seating capacity for 29 passengers and is characterized by a raised observation section at the rear. Beneath this is a baggage compartment of about 85 cu. ft. capacity, occupying about one-third of the floor space of the coach. Entrance to the observation section is through the front part of the coach, a stairway being provided between the rear seats of the lower deck. This model is adapted chiefly for long cross-country runs.”

(*At the time Seattle's Pacific Car & Foundry was a subsidiary of A.C.F.)

The Newell-Type A.C.F. coach debuted at the 1927 convention of the Motor Bus Division American Automobile Association/National Association of Motor Bus Operators, held June 18, 19 and 20, 1927 in Chicago, Illinois.

“A series of developments progressing for some time at the Berkeley, Calif., and Detroit plants of the A.C.F. culminated in the production of a new 38-passenger Newell type bus and a revamping of the ‘Metropolitan’ type.

“The power plant is a Hall-Scott having a 5-in. bore and 6-in. stroke. It develops a maximum of 175 horsepower at 2,000 r. p. m., a moderate speed as present engines go. The clutch is a double-plate unit used in conjunction with a specially designed three speed forward gearset. Two independent sets of brakes are provided, the service brakes being air operated on all four wheels. Large dimension springs which are practically flat under load are used. Rear springs are 64 x 5 in. while those in front 43 x 3 ½. To insure full control of front springs both Gruss air springs and Houdaille double-acting hydraulic shock absorbers are used.

“Series 175 is furnished either in 264-in. or 240-in. wheelbase. At present only the Newell type body is being built, but other parlor bodies shortly will be available. Another California design at the show was the Pickwick ‘Nitecoach.’ This vehicle has a number of modifications over the original model announced a year ago. Most of these, however, are along lines that make for greater passenger comfort; fundamentally the design is unchanged.

“The present unit has sleeping capacity for 28, as against 26 in the former model. An important contribution to easy riding is a new spring design in which two main leaves are double-shackled at each end. The entire coach is of duralumin, with the exception of side pillars and main lower frame channels which are pressed steel.”

The Motor Transport Section of the August 27, 1927 issue of Railway Age provided a detailed description of A.C.F.’s Newell-type coach:

“A.C.F. Observation Parlor Coach

“In the ordinary type of coach with all of the passengers seated in one compartment, it is natural for the first people in the coach to select the seats near the operator because of the better view of the countryside through the window. When the coach is full, it often happens that the passengers going a short distance which tends to delay the discharging and loading of passengers. In order to help eliminate this situation the American Car & Foundry Motor Company, 30 Church street, New York, has recently placed on the market the Newell observation parlor coach with a seating capacity for 29 passengers, exclusive of the driver — 12 passengers in the lower compartment and 17 in the observation compartment. With this seating arrangement the passengers going a long distance take seats in the observation compartment, while the short-haul passengers will find seats in the compartment nearest the exit. The coach is arranged for one- man operation using the right front door for both entrance and exit.

“The Model C4 body is carried on the Model 508-25 chassis that has a wheelbase of 230 in. The body and chassis are built of materials and to the rigid specifications commonly used for the construction of A.C.F. Motor coach equipment. The body framing is constructed of white ash reinforced with steel angles and plates which make for a rigid body. The cowl consists of a pressed steel frame, welded and riveted together. A heavy ribbed aluminum casting is bolted in to obtain the proper body curves. All window panels are made of No. 20 gage pressed steel and all other lower panels with No. 16 gage aluminum. The roof is of the ‘soft’ type free from rumbles. The yellow pine floor is covered with 3/16 in. gray cork filled linoleum laid on cement. “The interior lighting consists of four dome lights in the lower ceiling and six in the observation compartment ceiling. All dome lights are 21 c.p. with frosted diffusing lenses. There is one ventilator in the lower compartment and two in the observation compartment roof. Exhaust from the engine may be diverted for heating purposes by a suitable valve through 1 ¾ in seamless steel tubing extending above both sides of the body under the outer seats in both the lower and observation compartments and across the observation compartment under the transverse seat at the rear.

“The space under the observation compartment is used for carrying luggage and express matter. This space is clean, dry and easily accessible. The total space is 140 cu. ft. or nearly 5 cu. ft. per passenger. The floor area is 53 sq. ft., or 1.8 sq. ft. per passenger. A double door having a clear opening 28 in. high by 33 in. wide is located on the right side to the rear of the wheel housing. Ahead of the wheel housing on the right and left side is a single door 23 in. high by 19 in. wide.”

A group of 15 Newell-type A.C.F. coaches were mentioned in the ‘Orders for Equipment’ column of the September 24, 1927 issue of Railway Age:

“The New England Transportation Company has ordered from the American Car & Foundry Motor Company 15 Newell type deck-and-a-half parlor coaches.“

The September 24, 1927 issue of Railway Age provided further information on the order:

“Line with a Bus Route

“The New England Transportation Company, highway subsidiary of the New York, New Haven & Hartford, begins the operation of observation parlor buses between New York and Boston on October 1. The route followed - via Stamford, Conn., New Haven and New London and Providence, R.I. - parallels the railroad’s main line between the two terminals. The highway coaches used in the service are the 'Newell' type, with the rear portion elevated to give maximum observation facilities to all passengers. Two schedules, one day and one night, are operated. The fare is $6.50 for the day trip and $5 at night, whereas a railroad ticket costs $8.26. Mileage is 240 as compared with 229 by rail.”

Growing up in a mechanically-minded household, George's son Richard B. Newell attended the University of Washington, graduating in 1921 with a degree in mechanical engineering, at which time he took a position with the Hall-Scott Motor Car Co., of Berkeley, California. In late 1928 the SAE Journal announced that Richard B. Newell had gone to work for his father at North Coast Lines/Transportation Company:

“Richard B. Newell has relinquished his position as draftsman for the Hall-Scott Motor Car Co., of Berkeley, Calif., and is now a body draftsman with the North Coast Transportation Co., of Seattle, Wash.“

In 1930 Richard L. Newell went to work for North Coast Line’s body supplier, Heisers Inc., as a ‘body designer’, Motor Freight and Commercial Transportation reporting:

“Richard Newell has left the employ of the Pacific Northwest Traction Company, Seattle, Wash., which controls the North Coast Transportation Company to become body designer with Heisers, Inc., body builders for large equipment. This company has built the bodies for the fifteen new coaches which the North Coast Transportation Company is placing in operation this summer.”

The 1930 US Census lists the Newell family in the northern Seattle suburb of Everett, Snohomish County, Washington, George’s occupation being ‘general manager’ of the ‘North Coast Bus Line’. His daughter Kate is also listed as a ‘clerk’ for a ‘Power & Light’ utility, also included was his wife Laura’s mother, Caroline Smith. Robert L and Richard B. are no longer listed with their parents, Robert’s listing gives his occupation as ‘musician’ in an ‘orchestra’, Richard’s as ‘civil engineer’ for a ‘bus building co.’

The 1930 US Census listed the Heisers as follows:

“George G. (b. 1898 in Wisconsin) occupation: president of “auto & stage building company”, wife Carolina (Gandler b – b. 1896) two children, Geraldna (b. 1926) and George G. jr (b. 1929) Heiser. Lives with Carolina’s parents Gottlieb and Mary Gandler. Address 4606 Perkins Lane, Seattle, Kings County, Washington.”

A press photo dating from 1930 shows an old post-Gold-Rush stagecoach that Heisers had recently rebuilt, with the caption ‘Old Timey Stage Coach.’ The photo coincides with the rebodying of a used 1927 Fageol safety coach whose composite body was discarded and chassis shortened to meet a regulation that limited the length of a motor coach to 25 feet. The bus, which was owned and operated by the Auto Interurban Company of Spokane, Washington was used on the operator’s Spokane, Wash. to Wallace, Idaho to Metaline Falls, Wash. run into the late 1930s. It was restored in the late 1990s as a private parlor coach and fitted with period-correct wicker seating. Featured in the September-October 2001 issue of SIA #185 (Special Interest Autos), the unusual Fageol is currently part of the Museum of Bus Transportation display at the AACA Museum in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

During the 1920s most inter-city motor coaches were constructed using a sturdy screwed & glued wooden framework, covered by a sheet steel or aluminum sheating. Dwight Austin pioneered the use of semi-moncoque* metal-framed coaches a construction that Heisers adapted for its Newell coaches in 1930. One of the firm's first unit-bodied deck-and-a-half coaches was pictured in the December 1930 issue of Autobody with the following caption:

“All-Metal Frame for Newell-Type Observation Coach

“All-steel frame of a 30-passenger intercity coach of the Newell type, built by Heiser's Inc., of Seattle, for the North Coast Transportation Co.”

(*Semi-monocoque - or unitized-body - refers to a passenger vehicle constructed without a chassis, its components and passenger compartment being constructed using box sections, bulkheads and tubes to provide most of the strength of the vehicle, with the exterior panels adding relatively little to the overall strength or stiffness.)

The 1930 issue of Motor Freight and Bus Journal announced that Richard B. Newell had taken a position with Heiser's as a body designer:

“Richard Newell has left the employ of the Pacific Northwest Traction Company, Seattle, Wash., which controls the North Coast Transportation Company to become body designer with Heisers, Inc., body builders for large equipment. This company has built the bodies for the fifteen new coaches which the North Coast Transportation Company is placing in operation this summer.”

On September 12, 1931, Richard B. Newell married Julia Gertrude Smith (b. 1909 in Iowa), a 1931 graduate of Washington State University. The 1930-1935 Seattle directories list Richard B. Newell, designing engineer, Heisers Inc., and his father George Newell, mgr. North Coast Lines and North Coast Transportation Co., r. New Washington Hotel.

The September 1931 issue of Motor Freight and Bus Journal included a detailed article on Heisers' new semi-monocoque Newell-style motorcoaches:

“North Coast Lines Develop New Type Coach by George Newell, Manager, North Coast Lines

“A new type of motor coach which, we feel, embodies most of the “advanced” ideas on coach construction and possesses characteristics which render it especially fitted for long- haul transportation, has just been placed in service by the North Coast Lines. This coach is of the “deck-and-a-half” observation type, seats 32 passengers, and well fulfills the objectives of its designers and builders to make a coach that embraces such features as safe, rugged construction, low weight per passenger, good riding qualities, ample baggage and express space, easy accessibility to running gear, and distinct 'rider appeal.' The coach was built by Heiser's, Inc., Seattle, Wash.

“Lighter Per Passenger Seat

“These cars are considerably lighter per passenger seat than buses of the same seating capacity built on regular standard chassis of the best designs. The overall dimensions are: Height, 10 ft.; Width, 8 ft.; and length, 30 ft. 9 in. The front overhang is 71 in., rear is 87 in., and the wheelbase is 211 in. Owing to the position of the engine, there is a very large space-volume per passenger in the body interior and from no seat is there any appreciable feeling of crowding or restricted room. The headroom in the lower deck is 70 in., in the upper 68 ½ in. and the baggage compartment has a volume of about 200 cu. ft.

“Eliminate Chassis

“The conventional chassis has been eliminated in the construction the body being built up on a 12 in. Z-channel which also support the cross members to which the engine and spring supports are fastened. The body frame is rigidly built of steel channels and all joints are welded to provide additional strength and freedom from rattles. Duralumin has been used extensively for the body panels, and the floor well in the upper deck is made of this metal, by eliminating the chassis, a considerable saving in weight has been effected and at the same time the safety and structural advantages of all-steel construction retained.

“Remote Control of Engine, Transmission and Brakes

“Motive power is supplied by a 175 h.p. Sterling Petrel engine of standard design which is placed in a compartment under the front end of the upper deck and heat insulated from the rest of the body. It is suspended at three points (rubber cushioned), and can be readily dropped down into a pit for major repairs or replacement. The unusually large motive power capacity gives a quick pick up.

“For making minor repairs or adjustments the engine compartment can be entered through the doors provided and, inasmuch as there is no floor in the compartment, it is possible to stand up and work on the engine almost as conveniently as though it were set out on a rack on the garage floor. Operation of the engine, transmission and brakes is regulated through remote control apparatus. The radiator fan is belt driven from a shaft direct connected to the engine’s crankshaft.

“Running gear has been furnished by various manufacturers. A list of the more important parts shows: Hannum steering, Benz springs, Brown-Lipe transmission (4 forward speeds), Timken-Detroit axles, Guide Tilt-Ray head-lamps, Budd wheels and Westinghouse air brakes. The radiator is a V- shaped, cartridge core, and the hand brake a single disc brake mounted on the drive line directly ahead of the differential. Both were made at Heiser’s. A tubular cross member supports the rear end of the front springs and also serves as the compressed air reservoir.

“The interior of the coach is designed to meet the approval of even the most discriminating and fastidious travelers.”

Additional details were included in the ‘What’s New in the Bus Market’ column of the January 1932 issue of Bus Transportation:

“Heiser develops Two Deck-and-a-Half Models: One with Engine Amidship

“The Interstate Steel Coach with engine mounted amidship. This design accommodates 32 passengers, seven in the front compartment and 25 in the rear section.

“The entire frame is all-steel construction, the parts being formed on jigs and solidly riveted and welded together. Front pillars are ten-gage steel, 'boxed' to secure maximum strength. They are riveted to ends of sill and tied across the top by flanged plates which also serve as the exterior of the sign box.

“In describing its new 'Steel Coach' designs, Heiser's, Inc., Seattle, Wash., points out a number of features which make these designs particularly suited for service where loads are heavy and roads are rough. Two models, both of which are deck-and-a-half designs, are now being built. A 30-passenger unit mounted on a model 54 White chassis has the engine housed under a conventional hood while the 32-passenger Interstate unit is engineered by Heiser from the ground up. In this model the engine is placed amidship inside the body and the front end of the vehicle is clean except for the projecting radiator shell, the head-lamps and spotlights. To secure a streamline appearance in this design, the front of the coach pulls in and the wide front pillars are sloped back to give a V-type construction with a slanting windshield and ventilating windows in the sides.

“In a description furnished by Heiser the following high points are stressed. The 175-hp. Hall-Scott engine in the Interstate models is suspended in rubber and enclosed in a sealed and insulated compartment under the forward end of the rear section. Access to the engine compartment is by means of two pairs of doors, one on each side of the body. As there is no floor in the engine compartment, it is possible to stand alongside the engine and make repairs and adjustments with as much convenience as if the engine were mounted in a stand. The unit transmission is controlled by a special remote-control gearshift lever. The large-capacity ornamental radiator is of sufficient size to cool the engine without a fan during ordinary running conditions but when in dense traffic or climbing heavy grades, the fans are driven by electric motors which are mounted in a hooded compartment at the rear of the radiator.

“Design is not unnecessarily heavy despite structural strength and the large baggage and freight compartment. The body of the 30-passenger models when mounted on a White 54 chassis complete with all fittings, two spare tires, and fuel tanks, weighs 18,400 lb. The weight of the 32-passenger unit is given as 19,000 lb. The deck-and-a-half construction permits seating accommodations for 30 and 32 passengers respectively — thirteen in the front section and seventeen in the elevated compartment at the rear in the smaller design and seven in the front and twenty-five in the rear of the Interstate model.

“At right — Cross-sectional view of the steel coach, showing how top side members and bottom are rigidly tied together. Lower panels are eighteen-gauge steel body sheets. Upper panels are twenty-gage material

“Below — One of the new Heiser bodies mounted on White 54 chassis as used by Washington Motor Coach System. A total of 30 passengers are carried in new Heiser semi-double-decker, 'The Steel Coach.' Thirteen are carried in the front compartment and seventeen in elevated rear section. All seats are of the reclining chair type.

“At the same time there is nearly 300 cu.ft. of storage space for luggage and express in an easily accessible and weather-tight compartment immediately below the raised rear section. The fact that the various structural members are formed on jigs and solidly riveted and welded together results in a sturdy frame, which in service has shown remarkable freedom from rattles and rumbles. Arc welding predominates in this design, rivets being used only at points where welding is considered impractical. Outside panels are of duralumin riveted securely to the body shells, to the belt rail and to the pillars and when applied in this manner, the panel adds greatly to the strength of the body sides.

“Equipment Described

“In the body interior, the head lining in the front compartment is twenty-gage sheet aluminum except the center, where a Plymetl roof serves as finish. Head lining in the rear compartment is formed by the Haskelite roof with Plymetl in the corners. Mahogany strips form a finish between windows and along the sills. Below the sills and to a point within a short distance of the Duralumin kickboard finish is in imitation leather, with a galvanized sheet steel backing.

“A word with regard to the equipment : Seats are of the reclining type operated by hand lever; seat frames are pressed steel, and are exceptionally light but strong. The normal seat width over the sides is 37 in. There are no wheel housings, those in the rear compartment being eliminated by the raised section. With the midship engine mounting, single seats are placed alongside the wheel housing in the front. Upholstery is in several shades of genuine leather. The windows are screened by roller type Pullman curtains, installed under mohair valances.

“In the smaller model, ventilation is secured through three roof ventilators, placed one in the forward section and two in the observation rear, while in the larger model are three ventilators in the rear section. Heating is by means of a hot water system having individual finned-tubing radiators under each seat with the object of providing an abundant and uniform supply of heat under the most severe weather conditions. The boiler is built around the exhaust pipe and water is circulated by an electrically driven pump.

“In addition to the commodious baggage space under the upper raised section, metal racks are installed in the front section compartment for the storage of hats and small parcels.

“Principal dimensions of the four bus chassis are combined in the following table:”

Main Dimensions of the 2 Heiser deck-and-a-half designs

30 passenger
32 passenger
length over bumpers 375 in.
392 in.
width over posts at belt 95 in.
96 in.
height loaded*
119 in.
119 in.
*3.75 x 22 in. tires

For many years Heisers furnished composite-built trucks cabs for their Seattle neighbor, Kenworth, which was located at the intersection of Yale and Mercer streets. Although the firm had offered a bus chassis since 1922, the line didn't become a major part of their business until the early 1930s when the began looking for new products to keep their employees occupied. In August of 1932 they introduced a line of Kenworth transit coaches, hoping to attract orders from Northwest surface transist operators who were in the midst of replacing their aging trolleys with motor buses.

The first in the series, the Kenworth KHC-22 (Kenworth - Heiser - City, 22 passenger), hit the streets that fall sporting bodies supplied by Heisers. In September, 1933 a 33-passenger version, the KHC-33 (Kenworth - Heiser - City, 33 passenger) joined the smaller coach sporting a 225-inch chassis. Customers for the popular coaches included the Portland Traction Company of Portland, Oregon, and the Spokane United Railways, of Spokane, Washington. During the Depression motor coach sales accounted for as much as 30% of Kenworth sales.

In late 1932 Heisers, Inc. was called upon to construct the coachwork for an unusual Ford-powered trailer bus that had been designed and patented by George W. Yost*, manager of Seattle's Suburban Transit System. In 1915 Yost's father, Allen M. Yost, had established the Yost Auto Co. stages, a small surface transit operation founded by the  Ellington Bros. in 1913, serving Edmond, Richmond Beach and Seattle. George W. served as the Stage line’s manager, and in 1928 it merged with the Suburban Transit System, whose offices were located in Seattle at No. 310 Central Terminal Building. The 1930 US Census lists his occupation as ‘manager’ of a ‘transportation line’.

(*A small article in a 1934 issue of Bus Transportation claims the Heiser-built semi-trailer coach was designed by Floyd T. Jackson, however only Yost's name appears on the patent:

“Fuel and Oil Costs Cut in Half With Semi-Trailer, by Floyd T. Jackson Formerly Traffic Manager, Southland. A 26-passenger semitrailer designed by the author and built by Heiser's, Inc., Seattle.”)

As the Yost family owned a Ford dealership their stage line had easy access to Ford equipment, which was often used to transport passengers over the routes serviced by the Yost Auto Co. George W. Yost’s experience in the automobile and surface transport business made him somewhat of an authority on what type of equipment was most in demand and in late 1932 designed the Tri-coach for the Suburban Transportation System. Yost applied for a US Patent for the novel design on January 30, 1933, and the request was granted on July 3, 1934 at which time he was issued US Patent No.1964778 for a 'vehicle'. The patent can be found in appendix 2.

Constructed by Heisers, Inc., the original 'Tri-Coach' utilized a 98" short-wheelbase 1 1-2-ton 4-cylinder Ford cowl and chassis, with the 'fifth wheel' suspension mounted about 18 inches forward of the power axle. The driver's seat was inside of the passenger coach. The Tri-coach prototype was featured in a 1932 Standard Oil Bulletin:

“A Bus Conceived in Seattle

“Now in the service of the Suburban Transportation System, which operates busses between Edmonds, Richmond Beach, Lake Forest Park, Des Moines, Lake Burien, and Seattle, is a new type of motor-coach developed by that company, whose manager, George W. Yost, conceived it. As the accompanying illustrations show, it is of the truck-and-trailer type. Because of its comparatively light weight (7700 pounds), a four-cylinder Ford motor serves to give it ample speed and power.

“The truck is a standard Ford truck having a shortened wheel-base, its rear axle equipped with double wheels. Upon it is mounted a fifth-wheel, which supports the forward end of the passenger body, or trailer, in turn support toward the rear by a wide trailer axle that is equipped with brakes and dual rear wheels.

“Of the numerous advantages claimed for this motor-vehicle, our correspondent notes the following: its design permits a reduction in height; the elimination of all machinery from under the passenger section makes it possible to have a bus but one step off the ground, the low center of gravity thereby- achieved resulting in easier riding and reduced side-sway, as compared with busses having greater clearance. Also, it is asserted, there is an elimination of body twists, which is accomplished by the three-point suspension. This bus can complete a turn in a fifty-foot circle. The coach body, which is steam-heated, is of steel and aluminum, constructed by Heisers, Inc., of Seattle. Castings for the fifth wheel were manufactured by the Western Gear Works, also of Seattle, and the truck chassis was adapted to this special use by the Yost Auto Company, local Ford dealers. The weight and cost of this Seattle creation are asserted to be about half that of other busses of equal carrying capacity. It was planned and built with the idea of producing a bus that will render satisfactory service with a reduction of cost in operation. If, after an extended try-out in actual service, it meets the expectations of the designer and operators, others like it may replace those that constitute the present fleet of the Suburban Transportation System.

“It is operated exclusively on Standard Oil products, and its ten wheels, not including the fifth, appear to be a sweet potential market for Atlas tires.”

The Tri-coach was not the first trailer-bus of its type, back in 1929 aviator Glenn H. Curtiss had designed and constructed a series of nearly identical 5th wheel trailer buses that were put into service by the Transportation Co., Dallas, Texas and the Miami Beach Transportation Co. in Miami, Florida. In 1934 the Highland Body Co. of Cincinatti, Ohio offered their own take on the semi-trailer bus called the 'Highland Acticulated Coach' using equipment supplied by Trailmobile.

Buses were not Heiser's only product, the August 1, 1932 edition of the semi-monthly newsletter of the Division of Horticultural Crops and Diseases, Bureau of Plant industry, Unites States Department of Agriculture reporte on the firm's refrigerated truck bodies:

“Fruit and Vegetable Handling, Transportation and Storage Investigations

“H.C. Diehl, Seattle Wash.

“The low temperature freezing box, designed with the cooperation of Heisers, Inc., refrigerated truck body builders in Seattle, is now in operation. . . Without any difficulty, a temperature as low as -85 degree F, was obtained and maintained for hours, and other very low temperatures were easily obtained by changing the quantities of the CO2 (solid) in the refrigerating chambers and by adding different quantities of warm denatured alcohol to the liquid in the refrigerant chamber in which the cans of fruit are immersed during freezing.”

Yost’s Ford semi-trailer coach was also featured in the ‘What’s New In The Bus Market’ section of the February 1933 issue of Bus Transportation:

“Look! A Semi Trailer Coach

“Powered by a Standard four-cylinder Ford Truck which was shortened to a 98” wheelbase, a semi-trailer bus is being operated experimentally in service on the lines of the Suburban Transportation System, Seattle, Wash., George W. Yost, general manager of this organization is the inventor of this new type of coach and the body firm, Heisers, Inc., are the creators of this special all-metal body. The semi-trailer seats 26 passengers with full standing headroom for 20 more.”

In 1934 an improved Tri-Coach, constructed by Heisers and powered by a flathead Ford V-8 was put into operation. The bus was featured on a circa 1934-35 Ford postcard advertising it as a V-8 Semi-Trailer Coach. The back of the postcard stated it had seating for twenty-six with room for twenty standees:

“A wide choice of Body Types and Equipment adopt the Ford to ANY use... Ford V-8 costs 4 1-4 cents a mile... average fleet cost 9 1-4 cents a mile.”

Yost's semi-trailer coach proved so successful that by the end of the year the Suburban Transportation System elected to replace its conventional motor coaches with Tri-Coaches, acquiring 3 more in 1935, 3 more in 1936, and 4 more in 1937.

It's possible that Portland, Oregon's Wentworth & Irwin may have constructed a few Tri-coaches under license based on surviving pictures, one of which depicts a Tri-coach in service of the Vancouver-based British Columbia Electric Railway and another that shows a Suburban Transportation System unit with a Wentwin logo in the corner of the photo.

Due to pressure from larger motor coach operators and manufacturers the Washington State Legislature passed a new traffic code in 1937 which made it illegal to carry passengers for hire in a trailer in the State. Suburban Transportation System fought the new legislation, claiming its Tri-Coaches were not 'trailer buses', however they agreed not to build any more Tri-Coaches and the 12 coaches currently in service were 'grandfathered in' and remained in use into the early 1940s.

Heisers' listings in the 1933-34 Seattle directories follows:

“Heisers Inc. (Geo. Heiser Pres.-Mgr.), Custom Body Builders for Autos and Stages, Complete Auto Wreck Repairers, 1406 10th Ave., cor. E. Union, Tel. East 0770.”

“Geo. Heiser (Carolena; pres.-mgr., Heisers Inc.) h. 4606 Perkins Lane.”

The November 4, 1933 issue of the Bothwell Sentinel announced that a new Heiser-bodied Kenworth - most likely a KHC-22 - was about to enter service:

“New Seattle-Built Bus Will Go Into Service Here Soon

“According to Tom Oughton, one of the owners of the Bothell-Seattle-Renton Bus Line, a new bus will be put into service on the company’s line about November 11.

“The new car is under construction at the plant of Heisers, Inc. in Seattle.

“It is the latest thing out for short run transportation and will seat 25 passengers. It is powered with a six-cylinder 90 horse Kenworth factory special motor. The water heating system which is also being installed and the four-wheel hydraulic brakes will make it one of the most comfortable buses in the Northwest.

“The other cars are being reconditioned as fast as possible, but in time will be replaced by buses on the order of the new one.

“It is also hinted that due to the heavy passenger list on one or two of the evening runs between Seattle and Bothell, the company expects to run an extra car.”

It was through his dealings with Heisers that George W. Yost became acquainted with his future business partner Richard B. Newell, who was working at Heiser's as a body designer and engineer. His father, George W. Newell, was also well-known to Yost, as the senior Newell ran the North Coast Transportation Co., Seattle's largest interurban rail and bus service. While working for Heisers Richard B. Newell contributed to the design, engineering and construction of two distinct series of Newell-type observation coaches for the North Coast Lines. The first consisted of the two semi-monocoque all-metal coaches mentioned above that debute in the inter of 1931-32; the second were their noticeably streamlined replacements, the KHO-33 which were constructed in three variations from late 1934 into 1938.

The latter series, all of which were constructed for North Coach Lines, featured the same streamlined all-metal semi-monocoque deck-and-a-half passenger compartment behind the driver, the only difference being their layout. Most examples featured a streamliend front end and an amidships-mounted Hall-Scott Petral 6-cylinder engine residing below the upper deck. These were built in two series - the 600 series featured a radiator mounted behind a grill at the front of the coach while the 700 series were equipped without a grill, the engine drawing its air from air intakes and radiators located in the lower side panels of the coach adjacent to the amidships-mounted Hall-Scott 6-cylinder. The side panel-mounted cooling system was developed and patented by Kenworth engineer John G. Holstrom, who included a nice side view of the KHO-33 coach on the application. Supposedly two (2) 600 series (front-cooled) were constructed and ten (10) 700 series (side-cooled), the latter in two different lengths and wheelbases. Most all remained in use through the Second World War, two of which were photographed dropping off passengers at Camp Harmony, a Japanese Interment Camp located in Puyallup, Washington. A third variation deleted the central-mounted Hall Scott in favor of a conventional front-mounted Hall-Scott with its requisite grill, radiator, hood, cowl and front fenders. Several were built, with surviving pictures having been identified as being fitted with either Kenworth or A.C.F. front-end badging and sheet metal. The drivetrain, steering and suspension components for all of the coaches were engineered and assembled by Kenworth. The coachwork was constructed over a four-year period first by Heisers, Inc. (1934-1936), then by Pacific Car & Foundry who completed the last three coaches during 1937 and 1938 at their plant in Renton, Washington.  The latter coaches are sometimes referred to as being constructed by the Pacific-Tricoach division of Pacific Car & Foundry, however the design and engineering were completed at Heisers. Fortunately one 700 series coach survives, albeit unrestored, and in rather shabby condition, in the collection of the Washington State Railroads Historical Society, which is currently headquartered in Pasco, Washington.

The streamlined North Coast Lines KHO deck-and-a-half coaches detailed above were introduced to the trade in the June 1934 issue of Metropolitan:

“The Bus Goes Modern

“Streamlined Observation Deck Bus of the North Coast Transportation Company

“Lighter-Weight, Low Floor Height, Pancake Engine Under Chassis, an Streamlining In New Observation Coach

“In the far Northwest where the deck-and-a-half or observation deck bus has been developed to a high degree of perfection, the North Coast Transportation Company has placed in service a coach of this type which has undergone radical changes in design and equipment.

“Approaching the new coach from the front reveals that the customary hood has disappeared in the dash which slopes back in streamline effect into the general design of the body. This is made possible by the use of a Hall-Scott, 180 h.p. ‘Pancake’ motor which is slung low under the middle of the Kenworth chassis. The driver through this arrangement sits at the extreme front of the coach, permitting maximum passenger capacity. Due to the elimination of the chassis frame, the coach is 16 in. lower than the standard deck-and-a-half coaches, and it is approximately 3,000 lbs. lighter, although the body is of all-steel construction. Another interesting feature is the fact that its maximum height is the same as the average single deck coach and, while it is no longer from tip to tip than the average coach, it accommodates 32 passengers and carries a much greater load of baggage and express largely because of its streamline design and location of the engine beneath the chassis. Extra baggage and express space is made available in the streamline tail of the coach and along the right side.

“Another advantage of the low height is that there is only one step which is but 13 in. above the ground. This feature afford greater comfort and convenience to passengers in boarding and leaving the coach which is especially appreciated by elderly persons and children. The coach is 32 ft. long and 96 in. wide, but it has 4 in. more width inside than the coaches formerly using the drop type window. This additional space is gained through the use of metal sash and a raised type window in the lower section which permits thinner body walls. In the upper portion of the coach, the forward one-third of the window is made to slide, while the rear two-thirds is stationary. This innovation permits the occupant of each seat to choose whatever ventilation desired without creating a draft for anyone else.

“In winter the coach will be heated by steam generated in a special boiler arrangement from the exhaust, which is under perfect control at all times from the driver’s seat where an air valve regulates it operation.

“Air Clutch and Electro-Pneumatic Gear Shift

“Another innovation of the bus is the air clutch and an electro-pneumatic gear shift recently developed by E.M. Swift, superintendent of equipment of the North Coast Transportation Company, which is considered one of the greatest advances in mechanical control. Worked entirely by air and electricity, the gears are shifted silently and instantly. The gear shift lever is located on the dash, and consists of a small rod the size of a lead pencil. This is set by the operator merely with the flick of his finger, and does not act until the clutch pedal is operated. The entire mechanical control is contained in a small steel box about 4 in. square which is foolproof and accident-proof.

“It is not an untried experiment as the new control has been in satisfactory operation for several months on another coach operated by this company. Driver fatigue has been greatly lessened by the use of this control.

“The color scheme of the exterior is black and aluminum, harmonizing with the red, black and white insignia of the company. Seats are upholstered in blue and beige mohair of excellent quality, and are equipped with super comfortable head rests. Other equipment of interest on the new coach includes non-shatterable wind shields, fan type roof ventilators, and individual pillar lamps with mirrors. The new vehicle was built by Heiser’s, Inc., whose engineers worked closely with the North Coast Company designing the coach.”

An article on the KHO series coaches also appeared in the June 1934 issue of Bus Transportation:

“Streamline 21-passenger coaches of this type are being built to specifications developed by Washington Motor Coach System.

“Two of the largest companies in the Northwest have developed streamline equipment, built to their own specifications, which incorporates several new features and is the last word in bus equipment in the Northwest territory. These are the heavy duty, streamlined, Newell-Swift type coach, of 32-passenger capacity, developed for the North Coast Transportation Company, and the lighter 220 series streamline coaches of 21 passenger capacity developed for Washington Motor Coach System.

“Specifications of the North Coach job include: length 32 ft.; width, 96 in.; height 104 1/2 in., this being 16 1/2 in. lower than the previous observation deck and a half type; seating capacity. 32 passengers, 11 downstairs and 21 in upper section; weight 17,000 lb., which is 3,000 lb. lighter than some types of conventional buses of similar capacity. George Newell, general manager, and E.M. Swift, superintendent of equipment, created the new design, the streamlining being among the most radical yet adopted on equipment of this size. A Hall-Scott 180 hp. 'pancake' engine furnishes power and is slung low under the body, about 8 ft. forward of the rear axle. Kenworth Motor Truck Corporation assembled the propulsion units and Heiser, Inc., constructed the body, which is of light steel. An innovation in the front section of the upper compartment is sliding windows which permit the occupant of each seat to enjoy a private breeze without annoying anyone else. An air-clutch and an electro-pneumatic gear shift are new developments. Worked entirely by air and electricity, the gears are shifted silently and instantly through a gear shift lever located on the dash, consisting of a small rod the size of a lead pencil. This is set by the operator merely with the flick of his finger, and does not act until the clutch pedal is operated. The entire mechanical control is contained in a small steel box about 4 in. square and it is said to be fool proof and accident proof.

“A bus of this type, on a recent test run, demonstrated a 20 per cent saving in gasoline consumption as compared with old-style buses of similar capacity. Streamlining and a lower center of gravity provide a smooth ride.

“Major specifications of the 220 series developed for Washington Motor Coach Systems are: Chassis, Model 701 White. Wheelbase-197 in. Engine, Model 8-A-high compression heads. Transmission-constant mesh helical gear third, with constant mesh helical gear overdrive. Rear Axle-standard White, ratio 5.88 to 1. Tires, 7.50-20, duals in the rear. Electrical systems-Leece-Neville 12 volt, heavy duty generator and dual coils and condensers. Gas system-Two 45 gal. tanks with dual fuel pumps. Brakes, four wheel hydraulic.

“The body is of all steel construction streamlined. Double seats are reclining, on 36 in. centers, allowing maximum leg room. Upholstery is in mohair, with head rests. There is a center seat arm that can be raised entirely out of the way between the two seat backs. Windows are of the raise type fitted for double windows for winter use. Body is completely insulated to eliminate noises and exclude cold. Two large Tropic Aire heaters are used, one front and one rear. A baggage compartment is provided in rear for large or heavy pieces of express or baggage in addition to large suitcases.”

The design of the Kenworth KHO-33 was not patented although it is believed to have been a collaboration between North Coast Transportation's George W. Newell and Edwin M. Swift, Heisers' Harry W. Museil, Earl B. Staley and Richard B. Newell (George's son), and Kenworth's John G. Holstrom - Kenworth was repsonible for the suspension and drivetrain engineering - hence the K prefix in the nomenclature. The only patents issued in relation to the project went to Edwin M. Swift and John G. Holstrom. Swift applied for a patent on its electropneumatic gearshift on March 22, 1934 , for which he was awarded US. Patent No. 2035678 on March 31, 1936, assigning a one half interest to George Newell.  Holstrom was awarded a patent for the vehicle’s engine cooling system: US Patent No. 2165795, radiation of heat from centermounted horizontal engines, filed on March 7, 1938, issued to John G. Holstrom on July 11, 1939 and assigned to Kenworth Motor Truck Corp. Holstrom's patent application included a nice side view of a KHO coach.

The June 29, 1934 edition of the Chehalis (Wash.) Bee-Nugget included a picture of a  KHO-33 with the following caption:

“Streamline design is the dominant factor in 1934 transportation construction and this is reflected in the six new stages now being built and placed in service by the North Coast Lines operating between Vancouver, B.C. and Portland, Ore. and connecting with the Greyhound Lines, the Union Pacific Stages and the Washington Motor Coach System for all California and eastern points.

“These new stream line stages were designed and built in Seattle. They have 32 plus upholstered chairs with linen covered head rests, individual lamps; window drapes and improved ventilating and heating facilities. They are powered by Hall-Scott 175 horsepower horizontal motors mounted mid-stage; have air brakes, air clutch and electro pneumatic gear shifts. Construction is such that there is ample enclosed space for baggage of all passengers, and express which is also handled.”

Heisers' chief engineer, Harry W. Musiel, presented a paper on streamlining at the November 10, 1934 meeting of the Northwest branch of the Society of Automobile Engineers (SAE),  SAE Journal reporting:

“Gas mileage has been increased 15 per cent and upward. Streamlining applied to motor vehicles was the topic discussed at a meeting of the Northwest Section, Nov. 10, with Mr. Musiel, chief engineer, Heiser's, Inc., presenting the paper. Results actually accomplished by the new type modified and full-streamline buses recently made by his firm figured in the statement of facts. The mathematics of streamlining, the speaker declared, were very complicated and not essential to produce practical results. Curves and contours must be gentle and art plays a more important than mathematical analysis in bringing this about.”

The June 5, 1935 issue of the Centralia Daily Chronicle mentioned a recent tank truck constructed by Hesiers:

“New Design For General Trucks.

“New airline design has been adopted for General Petroleum Corporation’s truck equipment. This model was designed by General Petroleum and was constructed at the plant of Heisers, Inc. of Seattle, and is mounted on a General Motor chassis. H.A. Baugh, manager of the operating department of General’s Washington division, is seen here sending the truck out on its first assignment.”

The November 22, 1935 edition of the Chehalis (Wash.) Bee-Nugget states that North Coast Lines had placed two Kenworth KHOs in service on its Vancouver to Portland run:

“New Stage On Display

“With the same spirit of progressiveness, which automotive concerns throughout the country have show in placing their new models on the market, North Coast Lines have just completed two of the 1936 design stages for their run between Vancouver B.B. and Portland. One of these cars was in Chehalis last week and many persons had the opportunity of inspection.

“The bodies are streamline in design painted black and silver top and silver stripe on which are painted in red the names of various cities throughout the United States which are reached by North Coast Lines and their connections, the Greyhound Lines, Union Pacific Stages and Washington Motor Coach System. The streamline front of the car has no radiators and is painted black and silver extending across from below the windshield, and curved to a point at the lower front. The car seats 32 passengers. The interior is finished in gray and is comfortably furnished with blue plus covered chairs with white linen head rests, individual lamps, steam heat, ventilating fans, etc.

“The power plant is the horizontal or ‘pancake’ type motor developing 135 horsepower mounted mid-stage in a separate compartment just forward of the large baggage and express compartments at the rear of the car and under the upper deck near the rear.”.

As construction of the massive, complex and expensive Kenworth-Heiser streamliners dragged on in the shops of Heisers Inc., an extraordinary strain was placed upon its meager finances and in late 1935 Hesiers, Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection.

As it happens Pacific Car & Foundry's Paul Pigott was eager to get into the bus building business and in March of 1936 he agreed to purchase Heisers, Inc.'s bus-building assets and intellectual property for $23,000. The deal made it the largest manufacturer of motor coaches in the Pacific northwest. It also gave Pigott all of the the parts, tooling and engineering drawings needed to complete the remaining KHO coaches then under construction for the North Coast Lines. The acquisition was announced to its shareholders in their 1936 annual report which stated:“The field for the manufacture and sale of motor coaches seems to be enlarging...”

When Heiser's had become insolvent, it executed an assignment of its assets for the benefit of creditors to the Seattle Association of Credit Men. Pacific Car's purchase was from the credit association. The contract provided that the association was to realize 50 percent of the profits from Pacific Car's new motor coach division until the end of 1939.

Pacific Car put its new motor coach division in a disused facility at its Renton, Washington plant, and commenced construction of the remaining Kenworth-Heiser KHO motorcoaches using a number of former Heisers employees. They also did a brisk business in school bus bodies, most of which were built on chassis supplied by their Seattle neighbor, Kenworth.

For many years Kenworth's composite truck cabs had been supplied by Heisers, and after the bankruptcy the truckmaker organized its own cab department using a number of former Heisers craftsmen.

Richard B. Newell, Heisers’ body designer at the time of the bankruptcy, did not move to Pacific Car, electing to establish his own coachworks in association with George W. Yost, manager of Seattle’s Suburban Transportation System, and his brother Robert L. Newell, who had been selling bus and truck bodies throughout the Pacific Northwest for Portland, Oregon’s , Wentworth & Irwin.

Tricoach Corp.’s authorized capital was $50,000, composed of 1,000 shares of $50.00 par value stock. Yost, the principal shareholder, held 150 shares, while the Newell brothers held 5 shares each. Robert Newell served as president and sales manager; Richard, vice-president, treasurer and chief engineer; and Yost, secretary. The firm leased a factory located at the corner of Roy and  6th Ave. North (703-705 6th Ave. N., aka 570 Roy St.) which is currently the home of the Ruins party house.

Although it was legislated out of existence in its home state the firm constructed a small number of Yost's patented Tri-coach semi-trailer units for the B.C. Electric Railway of Vancouver, British Columbia.

Central Canadian Greyhound Lines listed a few conventional Kenworth-chassised Tricoach-bodied coaches in their late 1930s roster, most of which had been purchased used from Alberta's Trans Continental Coach and Midland Bus Lines Ltd., their original purchasers

Tricoach's most popular units were their convertible top sightseeing coaches, which were used by tour operators in Washington, Oregon and even Alaska - the Fairbanks-Valdez Bus Line used two 21-passenger 1937 Ford chassised, steel bodied  Tricoach sightseeing buses on a summer-only run from Fairbanks to Valdez. Similar coaches were constructed on Kenworth chassis, one of which survives today. The latter coach wasone of five that transported guests from Seattle's Olympic Hotel and Tacoma's Winthrop Hotel to Mount Rainier from 1937 to 1962. A fleet of 10 Kenworth-Tricoach transit buses equipped with 6-cylinder Leyland Diesel engines were sold to New Westminster, a southern suburb of Vancouver, British Columbia in 1938.

For the next two years Tricoach competed effectively against their giant cross-town rival. Although North Coast Transportation was headed by the Newell brothers' father, he split his contracts for new equipment between both firms - if he needed 6 buses, 3 would come from Tricoach and three from Pacific Car & Foundry. While Tricoach was able to deliver their coaches and make a profit, Pacific Car did not, and this enfuriated Paul Pigott to no end.When news broke that the City of Seattle was planning to replace its existing trolley lines with Diesel buses and trolley coaches, Pacific Car & Foundry's Paul Pigott arranged a meeting with the Newell brothers, to see if they were interested in coming to work for him.

On August 8,1938 Pigott offered the Newell brothers a potentially lucrative opportunity to join Pacific Car and Foundry Co. as managers of a new bus-building subsidiary, Pacific-Tricoach, which would supercede the former Heisers bus-building operations in Renton.

Tricoach's board - essentially Yost and his wife - and shareholders approved the deal, which stipulated that they (the Yosts and the Newell bros.) could not compete against Pacific Car in the bus-building business for the next seven and a half years (the deal expired in 1945). The creation of the Pacific-Tricoach division of Pacific Car & Foundry Co. was announced in the 1939 issue of the SAE Journal:

“Richard L. Newell, formerly chief engineer of the Tricoach Corp., Seattle, Wash., is now chief engineer of the Pacific-Tricoach Division of the Pacific Car & Foundry.”

The Newells whould be in charge of the division which used Tricoach's exisiting equipment which was leased from the Yosts. The brothers started at a monthly salary of $250 a month, plus a share of the division's profits. Pacific Car's only obligation was to supply them with financing and facilities, it was left to the Newells to turn that profit.

With it's Pacific-Tricoach brand school buses and Kenworth-Heiser intercity coaches Pacific Car & Foundry enjoyed a near-monopoly in the Pacific Northwest bus-building field, his only competitor being Portland, Oregon's Wentworth & Irwin. Despite that fact Pacific-Tricoach failed to ear a profit during its first two years in business, but a large order received in late 1939 put the firm into the black. The contract was the result of a $10.2 million dollar Federal loan awarded to the City of Seattle to pay off its loans to Stone & Webster and to help finance an all-new fleet of diesel buses and trackless trolleys.

In November of 1939 Pacific Car's Renton plant commenced construction on the Seattle Transit System's order for 102 Kenworth-based motor buses and 99 ACF-Brill-based trackless trolleys for the Seattle Transit System. Pacific-Tricoach won the contract to produce the vehicle’s coachwork and on April 28, 1940 the first batch of trolleybuses hit the streets, the last streetcar was retired, one year later on April 13, 1941.

The June 4, 1940 issue of the Fairbanks, Alaska Miner mentioned that the Northland Stages had ordered a Tricoach-bodied Dodge:

“New Dodge Trucks and Buses Arrive For Alaska Use

“Due in soon is a new 20-passenger Dodge bus for the Northland Stages… The bus has a Tricoach body mounted on a one-half-ton chassis, and is equipped with the latest type seats and other comforts for the passengers.”

Although Heisers Inc. sold off its bus-building assets, George Heiser retained the 1015 E. Union St. property which after his untimely death on May 13, 1938 (aged 40) passed to his widow Carolena who resolved to get back into the body-building business. In 1939 she organized a new firm bearing her late husband's name, the Geo. Heiser Body Co. The new operation left the serious building of motor coaches to their cross-town rivals, and concentrated on the construction, installation and refurbishment of commercial truck bodies, its listing in the 1940 Seattle directory follows:

“Geo. Heiser Body Co. (Mrs. Carolena Heiser) auto body mfrs., 1015 E. Union.”

“Carolina L. Heiser, (wid. Geo)(Geo. Heiser Body Co.) h. 4606 Perkins La.”

The 1940 US Census continues to list George Newell in the northern Seattle suburb of Everett, Snohomish County, Washington, by this time the 74-yo inventor had retired. Robert L.’s occupation is listed as ‘Dept. Mgr.’ at an ‘Auto Bus Mfr.’ having married his wife Ora (b.1908) in 1930, the blessed union resulting in the birth of two children, Marjorie (b.1931) and Robert J. (b.1938) Newell. Richard B.’s occupation is listed as ‘mechanical engineer’ in the ‘transportation’ industry, the census also including his wife Julia G. and their two children, Richard (b.1933) and Sally Lynn (b.1938) Newell.

Pacific Car served as a subcontractor to Boeing in the buildup to the Second World War, constructing wing subassemblies for the B-17 and B-29 bombers. They also constructed dry docks and steel tugboats during the War at the Everett Pacific Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company. Other War contracts included ammunition cases, 6x6 trucks for tank retrieval, M-55 self-powered Howitzers and 926 Sherman tanks.

Flush with cash from their lucrative wartime projects, Pacific Car & Foundry acquired their Seattle neighbor, the Kenworth Motor Truck Co., in 1945 - an arrangement that proved beneficial for both parties. The Newell brothers' contract with Pigott expired at the close of the war at which time they left the employ of Pacific Car and re-established themselves as the Tricoach Company, Inc., relocating to 2730 Fourth Ave. South, Seattle where they embarked upon the sales and distribution of Kenworth school and transit coaches.

The following article on the Geo. Heiser Body Co. appeared in a 1946 issue of Western Trucking:

“Seattle Body Plant, Run By A Woman, Triples Size

“Under the guiding hand of a woman for the past eight years, the Heiser Body Works of Seattle just has completed an expansion program which triples the size of its plants and doubles the size of its working force. The Heiser company, which has had its ups and downs in the past 20 years, was founded in 1925 by George Heiser as Heiser's Inc. Under a gradual expansion program, Heiser built the company up to a point where the Heiser name was well known all over the United States in the truck and bus field.

“Come the lean years of the early thirties, and the business collapsed. Heiser went back to his original small plant and started over.

“George Heiser died in May, 1938, and Mrs. Heiser ‘took over,’ determined to keep the business going — though she had little idea what it was all about. ‘I just had to learn the business,’ she said. That she has done well, the newest expansion program testifies. Mrs. Heiser gives faithful, long-time employees most of the credit, however. She's not an engineer, she says, and has little to do with actual designing of truck bodies — though she does make suggestions, particularly on painting. The company's new plant at 1300 Dearnborn St., Seattle, is devoted entirely to body building and repair. There the company is equipped for the largest jobs.

“The new plant has 20,000 square feet of floor space, double the size of the old building at East Union Street, Seattle.

“The Union Street plant has been turned into a paint shop exclusively.

“As soon as conditions permit and materials are available, Mrs. Heiser plans to build a paint shop adjoining the Dearborn Street plant on property she has already acquired. Then, probably, the old plant will be abandoned.

“The Heiser company now concentrates on specialized body construction. Under the guidance of George Heiser, it built all types of large trucks and buses. Now, Mrs. Heiser points out their field is limited to such types as refrigerated equipment, bakery trucks, frozen-food transports, etc.

“Mrs. Heiser’s right-hand man on the business end of things is F. L. McKinstry, superintendent, who has been with the company 17 years. His assistant, who joined the firm a year ago, is William E. Murphy.”

The firm's listings in the 1948 Seattle directory follows:

“Geo. Heiser Body Co. (Mrs. Carolina Heiser) truck body mfrs., 1300 Dearborn, tel. Prospect 7337.”

“Carolina L. Heiser, (wid. Geo)(Geo. Heiser Body Co.) h. 4606 Perkins La.”

“George G. Heiser, student, 4606 Perkins La.”

The 1954 Seattle directory indicate that George G. Heiser Jr. had joined the family business as plant manager:

“Geo. Heiser Body Co. (Mrs. Carolina Heiser) truck body mfrs., 1300 Dearborn.”

“Carolina Heiser, Mrs. (Geo. Heiser Body Co.) h. 4606 Perkins La.”

“George G. Heiser (Joyce E.) plant manager, Geo. Heiser Body, h.3712 W. Armour”

In 1954 The Geo. Heiser Body Co. constructed a bookmobile for the Thurston-Mason Intercounty Library Board of Olympia, Washington.

A 1956 issue of Bus Transportation reminded its readers that Newell's deck-and-a-half coaches pre-dated the mid-50s Scenic Cruisers by two-and-a-half decades:

“Looking Back: An Early Deck and a Half

“As a way of showing 'there's nothing new under the sun' here's the prototype of today's deck and a half bus. Termed then Newell coaches, after the inventor of the body style, George Newell, the buses featured lots of legroom and a fine view of the road. This particular bus body was mounted on a Fageol chassis… was operated, as the sign says, by the Pacific Northwest Traction Co. Newell, who worked for Northcoast Transportation Co., saw his design grew in popularity on the West Coast. The design got nowhere on a national basis until relatively recently.”

According to its website the Geo. Heiser Body Co., Inc. remains a well established truck equipment distributor and dealer with customers in Washington State, the Pacific Northwest, and Canada. Founded in 1939 George Heiser III now leads the company as its president:

“We are a major distributor and dealer of an extensive line of truck equipment, bodies (Supreme Industries) and replacement parts, repairs and painting services. Primary product sales include dry freight, refrigerated, and curtain van bodies, flatbeds, and liftgates.

“With the largest commercial painting facility in Washington State, we can paint commercial vehicles of any size, including concrete pumps, cranes, buses and trailers.”

©2014 Mark Theobald for








Bud Juneau - Safety Coach, Fageol’s Innovative, Trendsetting Coach of 1927, Special Interest Autos No. #185, September-October 2001 issue

The Kenworth Tradition, 1973, Seattle, the Kenworth Motor Truck Company.

Doug Siefkes - Kenworth: The First 75 Years, pub. 1998

Rice, Gini, Relics of the Road, Vol. II, Keen Kenworths, 1915-1955, 1971, Lake Grove OR, Truck Traks.

Bagley, Clarence B., History of King County, Vol. I, 1929, Chicago, S. J. Clarke Publishing Co.

Pacific Northwest Traction Company--North Coast Lines, Interurbans Press Special No. No. 7, Vol. 7 No. 1, June, 1949, Los Angeles, Interurbans.

Cheri Ryan, Kevin K. Stadler - Seattle-Everett Interurban Railway, pub. 2010

Ira L. Swett - Pacific Northwest Traction Company (North Coast Lines) Interurbans Special No. 7, pub. 1960

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