The Pickwick Story is continued from
The third version appeared in the September 2, 1928 Avalanche-Journal (Lubbock, Texas):
“Worlds First Motor Stage Sleeper Completed
“The final and highest plane of motor bus construction
has been reached as the Pickwick Stages System presents the "Nitecoach,"
with comfortable sleeping quarters for 26 people.
“This spectacular car, with its 13 compartments,
complete dining service, lavatory and many other unusual features has just
been exhibited for the first time at the Pacific Southwest Exposition at
Long Beach, California, and is providing one of the biggest attractions at
this world showplace.
“Twenty-thousand people crowded the court in which the
car was christened by Clara Bow, vivacious screen star, and every day since
this event, an average of 3,500 people have passed through the unusual
“The spectacular ‘Nitecoach’ looks like nothing else
awheel or afloat. At first glance it appears to visitors like a gleaming
blue and gray submarine on bulging balloon tires, for it is gracefully
streamlined and is equipped with portholes as well as big observation
windows. There is no hood as on the ordinary stage, the portion of the body
containing the driver’s compartment being built directly over the motor.
From tapered prow to rear observation deck, the Nitecoach is as graceful as
“Comfort Day and Night for 26 Passengers
“But the big surprise is to find that this compact
vehicle, no larger than other deluxe cars, has sleeping room for 26 adults,
with comfortable sleeping space during the day as well! The entrance is an
arched doorway near the front of the car, opening immediately on a compact
kitchen which is part of the regular equipment. This section opens into a
high-roofed center aisle running the length of the car, on either side of
which are ranged the thirteen compartments on the upper and lower deck.
“The mystery of where so many passengers can find both
seating and sleeping accommodations is cleared up when the car is examined.
By a most ingenious arrangement, the upper and lower compartments are made
to interlock, reducing the height of the car to only a few inches above the
ordinary single-deck stage. The center aisle is located halfway between the
floors of upper and lower decks, so that it is but a short step down or up
to either level.
“Head room of center aisle is enough for a giant -
seven feet from floor to ceiling - and the aisle is 22 inches wide. Heavy
sliding curtains give privacy to each compartment at night. With curtains
drawn aside, each compartment is revealed as a little stateroom, with two
deep cushioned chairs facing each other and a wide three-paneled window
extending its full length. These windows, all moveable, have both shade and
“That these compartments are deserving to be called
staterooms is shown by the following features: In each there is a built-in
thermos jug of ice water and a gleaming nickel wash basin with running
water. Two sliding drawers, measuring fourteen by seventeen inches, are for
clothing and personal effects. There is space where a suitcase may be
stored, making it completely accessible at all times. It is almost
impossible, until one has seen the car, to imagine where all this space in
each compartment can be.
“A white-clad porter demonstrates the most interesting
feature of the ‘Nitecoach’ by making up the berths in a compartment. He
deftly swings up the back of each seat, which is hinged at the top, until
lower ends join, thus forming a single bed 24 inches wide. This makes the
upper berth. From under the seats the porter produces a mattress and lays it
over the cushioned seat backs, adding linen and blankets to make a snug and
inviting bed. The lower berth is just as easily made up. The lower portion
of each seat is in two sections, which are arranged along the floor to form
a continuous cushion. With the addition of mattress, sheets, blankets and
pillow, this also becomes a comfortable bed. The length of each birth is
ample, being six feet four inches. While berths are being made up by the porter,
passengers find comfortable extra seats at both front and rear of the car.
Including the small folding seat in each dressing room, the Nitecoach has a
total seating capacity of forty-dour, although twenty-six is considered a
“Dressing Rooms Have Full Head Room
“The interlocking feature of compartments allows a
private dressing room for each, directly adjoining. This space is six feet
four inches high, permitting occupants of the compartment to stand upright
while dressing. It is a little over three feet long, and while only 18
inches wide, the berth space gives additional room to make dressing easy. A
plate glass mirror above the wash basin is an additional convenience. The
dressing room is curtained off from the aisle and is provided with a folding
“Five electric lights in each compartment give plenty
of illumination. There is one light at the head and one at the foot of each
bed, as well as one in the dressing room, all controlled by individual
switches. The aisle is also indirectly lighted at night.
“Ventilation and heating are given much attention. When
berths are made up a night, the wide center windows are locked shut, for
safety, but the two smaller windows in each compartment can be opened at the
will of the occupants. In addition, there are portholes all around the car,
which give perfect ventilation, aided by electric fans. In cold weather
fresh fan-circulated warm air is forced through the car.
“Steward Prepares, Serves Hot Meals.
“In the compact kitchen in the front of the car a
steward prepares hot meals on order at any time of the day. They are served
on large trays to passengers in their compartments. The chef's culinary
equipment is ample, consisting of a sizeable range, refrigerator, coffee
percolator, food containers, space for all cooking utensils and tableware.
Aisle space at the entrance of the car gives plenty of elbow room in the
kitchen while the car is in motion and the door closed.
“Lavatory is located at the rear of the car, and is
complete in every way. Chemical tanks take care of all the waste until
division points are reached on cross-country runs.
“The Nitecoach carries a crew of three - a driver, a
steward and a porter - assuring prompt service for all needs of passengers.
“Strength and Beauty Combined
“The construction features of the Nitecoach are next in
interest after curiosity about sleeping arrangements has been satisfied. The
Nitecoach is different in construction from any previous type of motor stage.
The car has no chassis, as the word is generally understood, the frame and body being built as a unit.
For additional strength they are riveted together, not bolted. The heavy
frame of I-beam steel is seen on the outside of the car, extending clear
around as a graceful band and belt line. Passengers on the lower deck are
inside this sturdy barrier, practically impregnable to outside shock.
“The proportions of the new car are imposing, but do
not exceed those of the ordinary large motor stage. The Nitecoach measures
thirty-four feet four inches long, ten feet three inches high and eight feet
wide. The weight is about 14,000 pounds, actually less than that of some
ears now satisfactorily operating on the highways.
“Almost every unit in the new Pickwick car is now
produced in the Pickwick shops. The motor in the Nitecoach is an
exclusive-Pickwick design and construction. It develops over 110 horsepower,
which is ample for sustained power over all kinds of highways. The
differential, transmission and other important units are also the products
of this company's big plant.”
The following article from the September 25, 1928 Hayward Review (Hayward,
California) is significant only for the fact that it states that 45 Nite
Coaches were “soon to be in operation”:
“New York to San Francisco Boat Carries 25 people. Meals Served, and Sleeping done en route.
“$60,000 "Nite - Coach" Inspected by Hundreds here today
“The ‘Alsacia’, juggernaut of the highways that at a
terrific rate is to eat up the miles and miles of bituminous and concrete
ribbon between Hayward and New York city - one of a flock of 45 that are
soon to be in operation - arrived in this city this afternoon and for an
hour or two stood in front of the Auto Cigar Store and Pickwick stage
station and almost bid the Villa hotel.
“This is the first ‘Nite coach’ of the Pickwick Stage
company, and it was brought here as an advertising stunt incident to the
opening of the new Pickwick hotel at Fifth and Mission streets, San
Francisco, Saturday night. This is to be a big tent in the metropolis, and
there is to be a tremendous program, to which the public is invited. The
Pickwick people are now the owners of KTAB which is to be operated from the
new hotel, and it is said that 75 loud speakers will be provided for the
crowd next Saturday.
“A Formidable Coach
“The ‘Alsacia’ is a two-deck affair that looks like a
combination of battleship, desert armored car, World War tank, and a Pullman
sleeper. It is the commercial auto deluxe, is designed to furnish all that the crack railroad flyers
furnish, make night trips as comfortable as a palace car, and day rides more
comfortable than sitting in a hotel lobby's big leather chair. It is twenty
to thirty feet long, as wide as a roadway will stand and give other cars
room to pass, and it is provided with every available convenience, night and
day for twenty-six passengers. Meals are served en route, there is an
observation section - though the whole car is largely glass - lavatory
convenience is there, drinking fountain with ice water, the beds look like
Pullman offering, and, apparently nothing is lacking - not even the colored
porter. The big car rolled in here with a chauffeur, a porter and electrician
looking after the big bus, together with three others deadheads, so to speak.
“These were M. S. Wren, brother of the head of the
Pickwick corporation; T. R. McCreedy, the Oakland agent, and a Dr. Hayes. The ‘Alsacia’'
is reputed to have cost $60,000, and it looks like there is that much steel
and glass about the big boat, not counting the inside trimmings. Hundreds of
people went through the machine here, and aside from the fact that men like
Bill Knightly and Dave Roberts have to grease their hips in going through
the aisle in the center of the coach, there was little difference in the
trip from that down the aisle of the Twentieth Century
Limited. It looks like s way that a whole lot of people are going to travel
henceforth and forever more - before they finally take to the airplane.”
A late 1928 issue of Autobody announced the completion of the firm's new
“Pickwick Motor Coach Works Ltd., has moved into its
new factory at 114th Street and Redondo Boulevard.
“Its new factory at 114th Street and Redondo Boulevard
in El Segundo, about 13 miles from the center of Los Angeles and about 500
ft. from the Los Angles Municipal Airport. The company will produce besides Nitecoaches,
two bodies of similar character arranged for day operations;
these will comprise a 50-passenger parlor car and a 72-passenger
city-service job. These day coaches will be sold, but the sleeping coaches
will be leased or operated by the Nitecoach Corporation.”
On March 29, 1929, Pickwick entered the air transportation business by
inaugurating an airline service between Los Angeles and San Diego. 10-passenger
tri-motored Bach 3-CT-6 Air Yachts were used, making two trips
daily. The fare was $9.75 one-way or $19.00 round trip.
On May 12, 1929, a similar daily service was inaugurated between Los Angeles and
San Francisco costing $32.50 one-way and $58.50 round trip. The Bach 3-CT-6 left Glendale's
Central Air Terminal at 8:30 a.m. arriving at San Francisco's Mills Field at 11:45 a.m. The
plane made the return trip to Los Angeles mid-afternoon, arriving at Grand
Central at 6:45 p.m.
During 1929 Pickwick-Greyhound advertised an ambitious Pacific to
Atlantic in 2 Days service that utilized Pickwick Airway's Bach Air Yachts
and Pickwick-Greyhound's Nite Coaches. The service was first announced to
the public at the at the National Aeronautical Exposition, which was held at
Mines Field, Los Angeles in October of 1928. The October 10, 1928 Eugene Guard
“Coach, Plane Combined For Quick Travel.
“Los Angeles to Chicago in a day and two nights, with
restful sleeping hours aboard the palatial motor sleeper – thrilling
daylight hours in a tri-motored Bach Air Yacht. Such is the program outlined
by the Pickwick Airways, Incorporated, to be pout into effect as quickly as
its fleet of planes can be completed. The first definite announcement of
this plan was made by Charles F. Wren, president of the Pickwick stages
system, and organizer of the new air company – coincident with the display
of the Nite Coach and ten-passenger place at the national Aeronautical
exposition, Mines field, Los Angeles.
“Operation of the Pickwick airways will begin with
twice-daily schedules between San Diego, Los Angles and San Francisco, to be
followed immediately by a daily California to Chicago schedule, with direct
air connections at Chicago for New York and Atlantic coast cities. The first
planes, now under construction, are expected to take the air before the end
of the year. While similar combinations of cross-continent air-and-land
travel have been projected, the Pickwick organization has taken the first
definite steps toward it realization, with a large fleet of air cruisers
ordered and being built by the Bach Aircraft company of Venice.
“The tentative route from Pacific to Atlantic, as
outlined by President Wren, is as follows: starting from Los Angeles in the
evening, travelers will find restful sleep in compartments of the 26
passenger Pickwick Nite Coach, awakening the following morning at the
aviation field of Phoenix, Arizona. A few minutes later one or more huge
passenger planes will soar from the field and head into the east, making
passenger stops at El Paso, Dallas, Tulsa, Springfield and Kansas City, with
the first day’s destination set at St Louis. The air trip from Phoenix to St
Louis will take about 14 hours, and will be made in full daylight, revealing
the colorful mountains and plains of the southwest and Midwest for more than
“At St. Louis the trip will be resumed by Nite Coach to
Chicago, arriving in the early morning hours, with passengers rested and
ready for a business day – or a further short hop to New York by
co-operating air lines.
“Business Time Saved
“It is pointed out that only one business day will be
lost in the trip to Chicago, and that if the journey is commenced on a
Saturday evening, no business hours are sacrificed.
“At San Francisco, planes of the Pickwick Airways will
make direct connections with those of the West Coast Air Transport company,
which has created one of America’s outstanding records of success and safety
in passenger transportation. Using the same type plane ordered by the
Pickwick Airways, the West Coast Air Company has maintained regular services
between San Francisco, Portland and Seattle, carrying capacity loads. A
notable featured in the record of this company is that several of its planes
have had 900 flying hours each – an equivalent of 90,000 miles, or more that
three times around the globe – and that they show no sign of wear or
weakening after covering this immense distance.
“Motor In Record Flight
“The Bach air yachts to be used by the Pickwick Airways
are powered with Pratt & Whitney ‘Hornet’ motors, developing as much as 600
horsepower. They recently acquired fame through Art Goebel’s amazing
non-stop flight across the continent, which lowered all previous records by
several hours. Goebel’s engine was of the ‘Wasp’ type.
“There are three of these motors – any two of which, or
the center one alone being capable of sustaining the ten-passenger plane in
continuous flight, while a long and safe gliding range is possible with all
motors quiet. Two pilots on duty at all times, a complete set of duplicated
controls, the absence of all exposed wired, and many other features combine
to make these air cruisers as safe as human ingenuity can devise. A safety
factor that also adds greatly to passenger comfort is the system of
hydraulic shock absorbers in the landing gear, which permits smooth landing
and take-off at all times.
“Great speed is possible with the Bach planes – 170
miles per hour or more- but the flying speed will be closer to 110 or 120
miles per hours, leaving a valuable reserve for emergency. Strength,
scientific speed lines, and safety features have won these planes high
praise and the recommendation of national air bodies for use in interstate
“A new idea in stowing baggage in is the utilization of
space in a rear compartment of the fuselage. Each air yacht is lined with
richly finished walnut woodwork, has comfortable air-cushioned arm chairs,
sliding observation windows, electric lights, an efficient heating system
and a well-appointed lavatory.”
On July 29, 1929, an additional Pickwick Airways service was initiated
between Los Angeles and Mexico City, and Mexico City, Mexico to Guatemala
City, Guatemala, a route formerly operated by the Latin-American Air
Transport Co. of Mexico City.
To help publicize the new service, the Pickwick Latin American Airways hired
female aviatrix Pancho Barnes (Mrs. Florence Lowe Barnes) to fly from Los Angeles to Mexico City
in February of 1930. On the five-day round trip Pancho stopped in
Tucson and Nogales, Arizona and Los Mochis, Mazatlan and Guadalajara, Mexico. Accompanying her as navigator
and interpreter was Marino Samaniego, movie star Ramon Novarro's brother. Pancho successfully reached Mexico City and was awarded an honorary Mexican pilot's license.
Coincidentally, another female pilot named Mildred Morgan had completed a
similar journey two weeks earlier. During 1930 and 1931 Morgan was sometimes
employed by Radio Station KTM, Pickwick Broadcasting's Santa Monica radio
station and the two womens' flights may have been part of a larger publicity
stunt that remains as yet undiscovered. However, the aviatrix' flights were
of historical importance as both claimed to be the first female pilot to fly
from Los Angles to Mexico City. With the arrival of the Depression and the failure by the company
to land a U.S. mail contract, Pickwick Latin American Airways went out of
business later that spring as did the related Pickwick Airways.
In 1930 Pickwick-Greyhound opened a $600,000 six-story hotel/terminal in Salt Lake City which was followed by a colossal $3,500,000 hotel and
bus terminal in
Kansas City, Missouri.
In June 1929 the Pickwick Corporation entered into a
merger agreement with the Minnesota-based Northland Transportation Company
(aka Greyhound) forming a cohesive transportation system that covered the
Western half on the United States, all the way from the Pacific Coast to the
Pacific Greyhound Lines, Inc. was organized under the
laws of California on April 12, 1930, as a consolidation of the following
motor bus lines: California Transit Company (aka Yelloway), Pickwick Stage
System, southern Pacific Motor Transport Co., Oregon Stages, Inc., Peninsula
Rapid Transit Co., Pacific Auto Stages, Golden Gate Stages, Calistoga &
Clear Lake Stage Co., Pacific Coast Motor Coach Co., Kern County
Transportation Corp., Coast Auto Lines, Inc., Sierra Nevada Stages, Pacific
Stages Inc., and Boyd Stage Line.
Pacific Greyhound operated an interstate motor coach
system from Portland, Ore. to San Diego, Cal. with 406 motor coaches, and a
yearly mileage of approximately 20 million coach miles. The firm's officers
and directors were as follows:
Officers – T.B. Wilson, Pres.; C.E. Wickman, W.E.
Travis, C.R. Harding, R.W. Lemen, H.C. Lucas, Vice-Pres.; M. McKinstry, Sec.
and Treas.; F.W. Ackerman, Aud.; L.D. Jones, Gen Mgr.
Directors — W.G. Filer, C.R. Harding, L.C. Gilman, W.E.
Travis, G.W. Traer, Jr., F.W. Webster, C.E. Wickman, T.B. Wilson, C.F. Wren.
Head Office — 9 Main St., San Francisco.
Greyhound’s Western States operation was eventually
divided into 3 companies, Pacific Greyhound Lines, Pickwick-Greyhound Lines
Inc., and Southland Greyhound Lines, Inc.
Wren’s Pickwick Corporation held major interests in
both the Pickwick-Greyhound and Pacific Greyhound Lines. The merged
operations represented a rolling stock of 1,400 buses, which covered a total
of 190,000 miles of highway each day. Greyhound covered 28,000 miles of
Western U.S. highway, carrying 10,000,000 passengers annually resulting in a
total of 73,000,000 bus miles per year.
Twenty-one Pickwick-Greyhound passengers were killed on April 12, 1930
when a Santa Fe mail collided with the vehicle at a rail crossing in Isleta,
New Mexico. The Associated Press wire service reported:
“19 PASSENGERS KILLED AS TRAIN SIDESWIPES BUS
“7 Survive Worst Accident in History of Western Bus Transportation
“DRIVER AMONG VICTIMS
“Impact of Crash Terrific; Parts of Bus and 2 Bodies Carried 1/2 Mile
“Isleta, N. M., April 11, 1930— (A.P.)— A fast Santa Fe mail train today
crushed a Pickwick Greyhound motor stage, killing 19 persons, 18 passengers
on the bus, and the driver.
“The accident was the worst in the history of Western bus transportation.
The train sideswiped the stage as the driver tried frantically to swing it
clear of the oncoming locomotive and the terrific impact so mangled the
bodies of the victims that late today identification of three had not been
made. Eight persons were injured seriously.
“Demolished by the collision, the bus was ignited by flames which licked
over it from the gasoline tank and the bodies of the victims were robbed of
clothing by the fire which, in some instances charred the flesh itself. Two
bodies and parts of the bus were carried half a mile by the speeding train.
“Neither the Pickwick Greyhound office at Los Angeles, from which the bus
departed at 11:59 p. m., Wednesday, Eastbound for Denver, nor the bus driver
carried identification for the passengers. The names of the victims were
obtained from bits of personal effects which escaped the ravages of the
“The engineer of the train, C.C. Davis, said when he realized the crash
was unavoidable, he clapped on the - brakes and had slowed down to 38 miles
an hour when his locomotive struck the stage. The train was partly derailed.
Tourists and Indians from the near-by pueblo were the first to arrive on the
scene. Ambulances arrived from Albuquerque and other nearby communities a
half hour after the crash.
“‘Apparently the bus driver attempted to turn parallel with the track
when he saw he could not beat the train to the crossing,’ said Davis, the
engineer. ‘The locomotive sideswiped the bus and carried parts of it a half
“Homer Stein, of San Francisco, and Conrad Heubers of Los Angeles,
credited their escape to the fact that they were on the side of the bus
opposite to that struck by the locomotive. Both said the driver, F. D.
Williams of Albuquerque failed to stop, and merely slowed down at the
crossing. Williams, a relief driver between Gallup and Albuquerque, was
among those killed.”
2 passengers died soon after the crash bringing the death total to 21. Crash
investigators discovered that a woman passenger was sitting on F.D.
Williams’ lap at the time of the crash. Although the crash did not involve a
Nite Coach, the publicity reflected poorly on Pickwick's Los Angeles
In early 1930 Austin debuted the 53-passenger Pickwick Duplex Day Coach,
which was largely an improved version of his 1928 Nite Coach Sleeper
designed for standard intercity service. Historically the forerunner of
General Motors' Scenicruiser, the Duplex was of semi-monocoque steel and
According to Autobody the principal structural members were 7-inch steel
channels which extended along the lower outside edge of the coach tied
together by 14 cross members of 4-inch seamless steel tubing forming a foundation to which the body framing
and chassis were affixed. The heavy outside channels along the vehicles
circumference also served as a guard rail, protecting the occupants of the
coach from intrusion in the case of a collision.
Three additional steel and Duralumin channels ran along the entire length
of the coach providing the upper and lower framework of the passenger
windows which were fitted between pressed steel uprights that connected the
7-in. steel channel with the Duralumin upper framework. The vehicle's
exterior was made up of double-walled Duralumin panels filled with Thermosote, a
tar-impregnated wood fibre insulation.
The coach has a central aisle intermediate the two decks; single steps
lead up and down into the 4-place compartments. Headroom over the center
aisle was 85 inches except over the baggage compartment where it was reduced
to 72 inches. The roof was composed of a central Duralumin backbone and
framework covered by insulating board and a heavy nitrite-coated canvas
As on the Nite Coach, the Duplex' front-mounted engine was built into a
removable carrier frame which was fitted with either a Sterling Petrel or
Hall-Scott 6-cylinder gasoline engines of between 150 and 175 h.p. Equipped with powerful air brakes,
power was delivered to the rear wheels via a driveshaft that rode inside a
20 inch wide central isle which was made up of heavy 1/8 inch Duralumin
plate. From the center aisle, steel uprights ran up to the roof forming a
central framework to which the various compartment partitions and braces
were attached. The resulting steel and Duralumin honeycomb resulted in a
durable two story coach weighing little more than a standard single deck
33-passenger coach. The windows were made from shatterproof glass framed by
composite Duralumin and Bakelite frames.
It is believed that a total of 40 Duplex coaches were
built by Pickwick between 1930 and 1932. Eleven Duplex coaches were
delivered to Pickwick-Greyhound’s Missouri operation in June and July of
1930, five with Sterling engines and six with Hall-Scott power. Three were
assigned to the Denver-Salt Lake City run while the remaining eight saw
service on the Kansas City-St. Louis route. In October, 1930
Pickwick-Greyhound’s Missouri Duplex coach operation came to an abrupt end
when the state DOT outlawed oversized/overweight vehicles on the states
roadways and the Duplexes were subsequently replaced by standard-sized
Yellow Coaches. Pennsylvania Greyhound is also supposed to have used a few
Duplex Day Coaches on its New York-Washington run.
The May 1930 issue of Autobody included a feature in the newly introduced
Pickwick Duplex Day Coach:
“Pickwick’s Double-Deck Intercity Coach
“The first Pickwick 53-passenger Duplex day coach has
been placed in service between San Francisco and San Jose, Calif. This new
double-deck, intercity coach is the latest brain-child of Dwight E. Austin,
designer of the famous Pickwick Nite coach and of other models
embodying radical departure from conventional motorcoach construction.
Austin not only designed the Duplex coach but is general manager of the new
Pickwick Motor Coach Works at El Segundo, Calif., in which it was built. He
came to the Pickwick organization in 1923 as designer and superintendent of
the body department. He was only 26 years of age at this time, without a
college degree but chock full of practical experience obtained in the
repair-shop and body-building operations in which he had been engaged with
his father and brother. The Pickwick management liked his work and liked his
ideas, and it had the operating experience and the facilities for trying out
Austin’s suggestions for new vehicles.
“In the summer of 1925, Pickwick System put into service his first parlor-buffet
coach. In March 1927 his
observation-buffet coach with upper deck seats was built and four months
later, his improved model with elevated driving seat. The following year
came the Nite coach, the most radical of his constructions – an all-metal
double-deck sleeping coach with elevated driving compartment and a power
plant capable of being rolled out at the front and replaced with a fresh
unit, in 20 min. The success of this model on the Pickwick lines immediately
suggested a day coach built along similar lines. The result was the
53-passenger Duplex coach illustrated on the opposite page, and the Pickwick
Motor Coach Works at El Segundo, especially built for the production of
these all-metal, double-deck sleeping and day coaches. This is the largest
plant of its kind in the West and one that is destined to be of great
importance, because of its affiliation with one of the world’s largest
operators of motorcoaches.
“Duplex motor coaches are constructed chiefly
of Duralumin and steel. The walls and floor are insulated and the roof is
composed of an insulating board, covered with canvas, and attached to
Duralumin carlines. The general structural features of the Duplex are
similar to the Nite coach. The power plant is quickly removable and the
driver sits in an elevated position. The coach has a central aisle
intermediate the two decks; single steps lead up and down into the 4-place
compartments… (missing text)
“Non-shattering glass throughout and air brakes are
among the safety features incorporated in this construction. In building the
Duplex coach, the designer had in mind three principal aims : long life,
ease of service and safety.
“DWIGHT E. AUSTIN
“At 33; head of the coach-building works of one of the
world’s largest operators of motorcoaches; designer of Pickwick’s Duplex day
coach (1930); designer of Pickwick’s Nite coach (1928); designer of
Pickwick's Observation-Buffet coach (1927); designer of Pickwick’s
Parlor-Buffet coach (1925) and preceding types of single-deck intercity
“His Career is a striking example of high achievement
in the face of adverse circumstances. His day schooling ended at the eighth
grade, but he continued to study on his own. In 1915, he joined his
father and brother in setting up an automobile-repair shop; they branched
out later into body building; selling the business in 1922. The following
year he became associated with Pickwick as designer and superintendent of
the body department. Now, vice-president and general manager, Pickwick Motor
Coach Works, El Segundo, Calif.
“The general overall dimensions of the Duplex coach are
as follows: Length, 32 ft.; height, 9 ft. 10 in.; width, 10 ft.; road
clearance, in center between front and rear axles, 16 in. The weight of the
coach unloaded is 17,000 lb. and the passenger load is estimated at 8,000
lb., or a total of 25,000 pounds.
“Combined Chassis-And-Body Structure
“Like the Nite coach, the Duplex is an all-metal
construction in which chassis and body have been combined. The principal
structural members are 7-in. steel channels which extend along the lower
outside edge of the coach. These are tied together by 14 various cross
members and form a foundation to receive the body construction and chassis
units. These heavy channels on the outside of the structure also form an
extremely solid guard rail to protect the coach from accidents. Three
additional channels of steel and Duralumin run the entire length of the
coach above and below the windows. The uprights are of pressed
steel, connected at the bottom to the 7-in. channel and at the top to
Duralumin carlines. The inside and outside sheathing of the structure is of
Duralumin, insulation being placed between this double-sheet wall. The
central isle, 20 in. wide, is built above the lower floor level and is made
of a 1/8-in. Duralumin plate running from the motor compartment to the
rear-wheel housing. The headroom over the aisle is 85 in. except over the
baggage compartment where it is 72 in. The drive shaft and other mechanical
equipment going to the rear axle are carried under this aisle. From the
aisle, uprights are carried at intervals connecting with the roof. These
with the compartment partitions and braces make a type of honeycomb
construction that is exceptional for its rigidity.
“Baggage Stored In Coach
“The baggage compartment behind the rear axle
provides 284 cu. ft. of storage space, accessible from either side through
doors 30 in. high and 40 in. wide. This affords storage space for two large
suitcases per passenger, also for several trunks. The floor of this
compartment being only 20 in. from the ground, heavy trunks can be loaded
“Two large dome lamps light the center aisle whose
single steps lead up or down to the passenger compartments which are lit by
12 c.p. receptacles placed above each seat and controlled by individual
switches. All lights can be controlled from a master switch in the driver’s
“Seats are individual reclining chairs with the
exception of five on the rear lounge, two observation seats in the driving
compartment and two folding seats in the vestibule. The floor of this
compartment is well insulated to prevent heating from the motor and there is
a large- ventilator on each side of the front panel. There are only 18 seats
on the lower level, leaving 35 of the choice upper-deck seats. Previous
experience in operating these observation types of coaches has proved these
seats to be most desirable from the passenger’s viewpoint it is said.
“Another feature of the general arrangement is that
only 16 seats face the rear. The remaining 37 passengers face in the
direction in which the car is traveling. The individual reclining seats are
of Pickwick design and construction. They are constructed chiefly of
Duralumin, are quiet in operation and are deeply upholstered in mohair. A
mohair trimmed armrest is also provided for the aisle-seat passenger.
“All Windows Same Size
“Draped curtains are provided at all windows which are
of the Pickwick sliding type constructed of steel and Bakelite channels. All
windows are exactly the same size, are interchangeable and can be replaced
from the outside. Portable tables fit into special brackets in the
compartments and can be used for card playing, dining service, etc. In
addition to the sliding windows, there are eight roof ventilators. Heating
is provided through 12 hot-water radiators, utilizing the water from the
motor-cooling system and if necessary the heat from the exhaust pipe;
thermostats are installed to prevent overheating of the motor or the coach.
Fuel equipment includes two 50-gal. gasoline tanks.”
The following article in the August 7, 1930 Greeley Daily Tribune
indicated the Duplex coaches were in use on Pickwick-Greyhound's daily
Denver to Salt Lake City run:
“2-Deck Busses to Salt Lake thru Greeley
“Two Pickwick Duplex day coaches, with a capacity of more than 60 passengers,
are being operated thru Greeley twice daily on the
Denver-Salt Lake City run. The Duplex out of Denver arrives at 9:20 a. m.,
while the one from Salt Lake City is due here at 9:40 a. m.
“These busses are by far the largest on regular
schedule here. They have two decks of seats. The driver sits on the upper
deck level high above the huge 176-horsepower Sterling motor with which the
machine is equipped.
“The main aisle of the bus is above the floor of the
lower deck. Passengers step down to the lower deck and up to the upper deck.
The elevator aisle is to permit the propeller shaft of the bus to clear the body.
“Aluminum alloys used in the Pickwick Duplex day coach
make it as light in weight as the huge single deckers operated thru Greeley.
Toilet facilities are provided in the Duplex.
“This equipment is not to be confused with the night
coach operated on some bus lines. The Pickwick company builds the Duplex.
Each Duplex carries a crew of two, the driver and a conductor or courier.”
The October 1930 issue of Autobody announced the firm's move into their
new $300,000 Mines Field factory:
“New Plant of Pickwick Motor Coach Works by A.H. Reed
“The astounding growth of the motor coach industry
during the last decade has brought about revolutionary changes in design and
construction of passenger coaches. The long-haul passenger business, in
which the motorcoach has become a recognized factor in late years, inspired
the development of special types of buses capable of meeting the
exacting requirements of this sort of travel. In these coaches, wood has
given way to metal, and mohair has in many instances replaced leather for
seating upholstering. Refinements have been added in the form of
forced-draft heating and ventilating systems, Thermos drinking fountains,
individual reading lights, and in some instances, lavatories and even
facilities for sleeping and dining.
“Outstanding among the leaders in the field of motor-
coach operation and construction in this country is the Pickwick
Corporation. It was one of the pioneers in development of this industry.
Although concerned chiefly with the operation of motorcoaches, Pickwick has
engaged in coach construction and designing almost since the inception of
the company 18 years ago. Until about two years ago Pickwick confined its
coach-building activities to construction of rolling stock for use on its
own lines. In this, the company was eminently successful, due to the
experience of Charles F. Wren, its president, as a practical bus operator,
and to the genius of Pickwick’s brilliant young designer and engineer,
Dwight E. Austin. Although lacking the facilities for turning out more than
a small portion of the rolling stock required by its constantly expanding
system, the Pickwick company achieved prominence in the couch-building field
from its special-type buses, notable among the first of which were
the parlor-buffet and observation-buffet coaches, equipped with dining
“Pickwick Duplex Coach and the 53 passengers for whom
this coach provides seating accommodation. All have individual reclining
chairs, with the exception of five passengers on the rear lounge, two
passengers seated in the driver’s compartment, and two folding seats in the
vestibule. Only 16 seats face the rear; 35 passengers can be seated on the
upper level, which is generally preferred by the passengers.
“The practicability of the Nite coach and its success financially and from an
operating standpoint have been conclusively proved, Pickwick officials
state, in more than a year’s continuous service between Los Angeles and San
Francisco, and more recently between Kansas City and St. Louis.
“Hardly had Wren and Austin perfected their Nite coach
when they set to work on another model, designed for travel only and for a
carrying capacity of 53 nearly double that of ordinary-type motorcoach.
Applying the same double-deck, staggered-compartment plan to the new day
coach, Pickwick produced early this year its first Duplex coach, constructed
entirely of metal like the Nite coach and having mohair-upholstered
reclining seats, removable engine, also like the Nite coach, lavatory,
portable tables for lunching or card playing, interior luggage compartment,
heating and forced-draft ventilating systems.
“Operators everywhere have been quick to sense the
tremendous advantages offered by a coach of nearly twice the ordinary
carrying capacity and weighing no more and costing nor more to operated than
many of the 33-passenger models. The first Pickwick Duplex was introduced
during May of this year.
“Charles F. Wren – President of Pickwick Corporation
and its subsidiaries. He was one of the earliest of the long-distance
“Dwight E. Austin – Vice-president and general manager
of Pickwick Motor Coach Works and designer of the novel Pickwick Note coach
and Duplex day coach. Austin not only designed the Duplex coach but is general
manager of the new firm."
When Pickwick Motor Coach Works entered into bankruptcy in 1932, its
principal owner, Charles F. Wren (b.1885-d.1944), created a new firm in
order to refurbish and manufacture buses for the Columbia Pacific Nite Coach
Lines Inc.. a recently organized Wren-backed firm that operated a Los Angles to Chicago
passenger line which stopped off in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Just before Pickwick Motor Coach Works Ltd. went out of business, Wren
had introduced an all-new rounded Nite Coach that debuted in late 1932
featuring Dwight E. Austin's patented angle drive mechanism and a transverse
rear-mounted Waukesha engine.
Although the exact circumstances remain cloudy, it appears that Austin
and Wren parted ways at the end of 1932, just as series production of the
new Nite Coach was underway.
As Pacific Greyhound had already committed to purchasing the new coach,
Wren likely purchased the necessary tooling from Pickwick's receiver and
completed the remaining Nite Coach's construction in the new Columbia Coach
Both Columbia Pacific Nite Coach Lines and Columbia Coach Works were
named in recognition of the Columbia Finance Co., a newly formed holding
company controlled by Wren that held a controlling stake in both firms.
Dwight E. Austin did not join Wren in the Columbia enterprise, electing instead to produce
his own 21-passenger city transit bus, the Austin Utility Coach, in Pickwick’s
former Mines Field factory which he leased from Pickwick's receiver, C.A.
What is known is that at least eighteen of the bread-box-style Nite
Coaches were constructed. Ten were purchased by the Pacific Greyhound
Line while the remaining eight coaches were sold to the Wren's Columbia Pacific Nite Coach Line.
Whether they were constructed by Pickwick Motor Coach Works or by Columbia
Coach Works remains unclear. At least one photograph gives a late 1932 date,
although most state 1933 or later. Pictures exist of the coach in four
liveries, Columbia Pacific Nite Coach Lines, Pacific Greyhound Line, Sante
Fe Trail System Nite Coach and Santa Fe Trailways Sleeper Coach.
Columbia Pacific went bankrupt in 1935 and the route
was taken over by the Burlington Line. The new owners elected to replace the
two-year-old coaches with more cost-effective units so they were sold to the
recently established Sante Fe Trailways Stage Line, who refurbished them for
use on its daily Kansas City to Los Angles run.
Columbia's story is continued in greater detail on the
Columbia Coach Works
Bus collector Eric McLain is the last recorded owner of the only Pickwick
coach known to exist, a 1930 Duplex. Luckily a number of firms produced scale models based on
the Nite Coach that are occasionally offered for sale.
During the early thirties the Kenton Lock Mfg. Co. of
Kenton Ohio produced a series of cast metal Pickwick miniatures in five
sizes 6 in., 7½ in., 9 in., 11 in., and 14 in. Depending on condition the
Kentons can be found from as little as $100 to over $5,000 for a large coach
in mint condition.
Hubley also manufactured a less detailed series of
slushcast Nite Coaches, 2 ½ in., 3½ in, and 4½ in. long. The 3½ in.
version featured the fastback Nite Coach, the other two the stepped roof
coach. More common and not as desirable as the more detailed Kentons, their
prices range between $50 and $400.
Kansas Toy & Novelty Company, a lesser known firm also
produced 2 Pickwick Nite Coaches, a stepped roof coach (#49),2 3/8 in. long
and a fastback coach (#59) 3 3/8 in. long. Prices are similar to the Hubleys
ranging from $50 to $300.
A 27” version of the fastback Nite Coach was also produced in blue and grey
Greyhound livery. The painted cast aluminum model includes a detailed interior
sleeper cabins with realistically sized cast aluminum wheels. Greyhound logos
did not appear on the coach which was lettered Pickwick ‘Night Coach’ Compartment
Sleeper. This very rare toy has recently sold for as high as $22,000 in mint
condition. Coaches in poor condition can be found for as little as $1,500.
Luckily a modern Woodstock, Illinois toy company, Retro 123, manufactures a
32 in. long version of the first Nite Coach, the stepped roofed Alsacia.
Originally available in Pickwick livery, only the Greyhound version remains
in stock as of this writing.
A bargain at $895.
© 2004 Mark Theobald - Coachbuilt.com