During the mid-1920s a handful of American
involved in the manufacture of heavy-duty 3-axle motorbuses for city
The principle suppliers were Safeway Six-Wheel; Fageol (Twin Coach);
Truck & Coach; and American Car & Foundry.
A young machinist-engineer named Oliver F.
to enter the fray with a different take on the subject. He proposed to
the bogie wheeled drivetrain of an eight-wheeled, two-truck interurban
rail car to a street-going motor bus. Each truck (or bogie) would be
its own electric motor, with the current supplied by a generator mated
small gasoline engine. The Fifth Ave. Coach Co. had been using
drivetrains for close to a decade so the only stumbling block being how
the bogie so it could steer - a necessity on any self-directed road
He began work on the project in 1924, and
within the year
had a prototype on the streets of Albany, New York. Warhus chose the
‘versāre’ for the name of the company, which is the present active
of ‘versō’ (‘turn, twist’). In Italian versāre means: to
across, or walk across.
Frederic(k) S. Pruyn, an Albany, New York
banker and executive
of the Albany-based Consolidated Car Heating Co. and Federal Signal
interested in the project and provided funding. Versare officers
Frederic S. Pruyn, president; Oliver F. Warhus, vice president, and
Randall MacDonald, treasurer.
1904 Harvard graduate, Frederic Stanley
Pruyn was born on July
5, 1881 to Robert C. and Anna Williams Pruyn, his father being
president of the
Embossing Co. and National Commercial Bank and Trust Co. (of Albany).
Frederick’s grandfather was Robert H. Pruyn, a well-known Albany
businessman and associate of US Secretary of State William H.
appointed Pruyn U.S. ambassador to Japan in 1861. On February 5, 1907
married Beatrice Morgan, the daughter of Manhattan business man William
Both Pruyn and Randall MacDonald, Versare
were directors in the National Commercial Bank and Trust Co.
Oliver F. Warhus was born on November 30,
1886 in Davenport,
Scott County, Iowa to Michael W. (b.1852 in Buffalo, NY- d. 1893) and
Helen M. Warhus.
His father was a Buffalo machinist following his untimely passing in
Warhus family moved to Pennsylvania. The 1900 US Census lists him in
City, Alleghany County, Pennsylvania. The household includes his mother
widow), Helen M; sisters Lillian E.( b. 1873); May M.(b.1875); Robert
(b.1877 - machinist); and Oliver F. (12yo – at school) Warhus.
was annexed by the City of Pittsburgh in 1907 and is now known as the
Pittsburgh’s North Side.
Like his father and older brother Robert,
upon a career as a machinist. The brothers were sidetracked during the
part of the 20th century when they purchased an Alleghany
undertaking business. That city’s 1906 business directory lists them
Bros. Undertakers, 123 Ohio (Oliver F. and Robert M. Warhus). Also
his sister Lillian’s millinery house, L. Warhus & Co., 423 Penn Ave.
On November 1, 1910 he married Mary
Millicent Frank (b.
August 18, 1879 in La Crosse, Wisconsin) in Chicago, Cook County,
consequently returned to his chosen trade, relocating to Jackson,
he accepted a position as gen. supt. of the Fox Machine Co. Founded by
R. Fox, the firm manufactured drill presses and milling machines for
automobile industry. He later took a
position at the American Cement Machine Co. in Keokuk, Lee County,
his first patent application, filed on April 6, 1921 (Universal Joint –
No. 1491763, filed Apr. 6, 1921 - issued Apr. 22, 1924) states he was a
resident of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the time of filing.
Warhus was a contributor to the machinist
and two of his articles were published in American Machinist (July 3,
1919 – ‘Burnishing
Tool for Ball Races’; July 17, 1919 – ‘Special Taper Attachment for
How Warhus ended up in Albany is unknown, but
more than likely he was hired by one of the firms that Frederic S.
connected with, Consolidated Car Heating Co. being the
The Versare Corp. was organized by Pruyn and
his associates in
order to submit bids and designs for a trackless trolley project for
Capital District Transportation Co., the motor coach
the United Traction Co. of Albany and an office was established at 91
(Rm. 301), an office building located in downtown Albany’s financial
United Traction was created in 1899 through
the merger of
several local trolley lines; Albany Railway Co., the Troy City Railway
City of Troy Railway); and the Watervliet Turnpike and Railway Co.
supplier of rolling stock was the J.M. Jones’ Sons Co. of Green Island,
York, but the decades-old firm had gone out of business during the
War so the traction company was forced to look elsewhere for new
A number of proposed suburban Albany routes
were in the
works at that time, the first in Cohoes, the second in Rensselaer. The
was mentioned in a 1923 issue of Bus Transportation:
“Buses for Albany Suburb
“The United Traction Company of
Albany, N. Y.,
proposes to substitute bus for trolley service on its Broadway -
line in Rensselaer, a suburb of the capital city. Applications will be
shortly by the recently incorporated Capital District Transportation
Inc., a subsidiary of the United Traction Company, for the necessary
Capital District Transportation Co. was
a ten year permit for the Cohoes bus service at a meeting of its Common
A surviving Versare Corp. blueprint dated April 30, 1924 shows their
a novel streetcar-style trolley bus that incorporates Warhus’
Apparently Versare’s design/bid was
unsuccessful, as the March
1925 issue of Engineering and Contracting reported the contract had
awarded to The Brockway Motor Truck Co. of Cortland, New York:
“The United Traction Co. of Albany, N. Y.,
commenced operation on Nov. 3, 1924, in Cohoes, N. Y., through its
the Capital District Transportation Co. The route
covered is 2
1/2 miles long on which four Brockway ‘Street Car Type’
buses are operated at a 7-cent fare.”
The conventional two-axle Brockway bus
bodies built by G.C. Kuhlman Car Co. of Cleveland, Ohio. Similar
had been sold the previous year to New York State Railways Inc. for use
Rochester and Utica, New York.
From 1924-1926 the corporate offices of the
Corporation were 103 Washington Ave., Room 404, Albany. Officers
Frederic S. Pruyn, president; Oliver F. Warhus, vice president, and
MacDonald, treasurer. The firm’s manufacturing operations was situated
facilities located at 1057 Broadway in Albany's north end (now a
parking lot in
the southwest corner of National Grid’s Broadway storage facility).
As considerable time and money and been
spent on designing
the complex dual truck system, construction of a prototype exploiting
system went forward. The passenger compartment and greenhouse of the
depicted in the 1924 blueprint was representative in size and scale to
typical medium-sized streetcar or tram found dating to the turn of the
However the first Versare prototype was anything but typical.
Although built upon the principle of a
streetcar, it had a number of major differences, most obvious being the
Budd wheels that replaced the all-steel units found on a tram or
While the passenger compartment of the coach was of conventional
the front of the coach was equipped with a massive protuberance which
the Buda gasoline engine and Westinghouse generator that supplied power
truck-mounted electric motors that directed power to the wheels. The
differed from standard railway units in that one pair of wheels one
be steered at a 45 degree angle –allowing the Versare to traverse city
without the use of tracks.
The front-mounted power plant could be
removed as a unit and
replaced with a new one in less than an hour, as were the 2 sets of
held the electric motors. Although conventional in appearance the
monocoque coachwork was unique for the period, consisting of a series
aluminum box sections to which new section could be added if additional
capacity was desired.
Its immense size, novel drivetrain and
made an instant impression on anyone who experienced it. Most new
introductions announced in the pages of the motor coach and railway
included a representative picture accompanied by a few paragraphs of
descriptive text provided by the manufacturer.
The introduction of the prototype Versare
excitement in the trades, most excited was the British magazine, The
Motor, who covered it in its June 2, 1925 issue (one full month before
appeared in the US trades):
“An Experimental Eight-Wheeled Bus.
“The Petrol-electric Principle Applied to an
“Most of the developments in connection with
vehicles of the rigid type have so far related to six-wheelers, but
experimental work continues to be carried on, notably in America, with
having a still greater number of wheels. The latest has just been
our notice by Automotive Industries, and it consists of an
chassis which has been designed and constructed by the Versare
Albany, New York. This model, as an accompanying illustration shows,
built ostensibly for bus work, and it is in this sphere of operation
are likely to witness the greatest use of such vehicles, for as the
increases the existing type of four-wheeler will become Jess able to
demands made upon it.
“In considering this point, one must not
stress the question
of mechanical adaptation and overlook the importance of the subject of
conservation, for it is largely in the latter connection that the
has gained so many adherents. It is generally recognized that the axiom
"spread the load and save the road" is not merely a happy-sounding
phrase but a sound argument supported by the results and data obtained
searching practical tests.
“The Versare eight-wheeler is of more than
because it is, we believe, the first occasion on which the
system has been applied to a chassis of this description. It
several outstanding features in design but, being merely an
embodies, in the main, components of standard build. The chassis frame
mounted on two four-wheeled trucks, each of which is provided with a
wheel enabling them to be moved through an angle of 45 degrees from the
straight. This arrangement is said to prevent sideway slip of the tires
road, apart from rendering it possible to turn the vehicle in a
“Our American contemporary draws attention
to the fact that
the two front wheels of the rear truck are provided with an automatic
that permits of knuckle steering. Crosslinks to these 'wheels are
attached to a
small wheel disposed slightly ahead of the axle at its center, for the
of which a telescoping rod attached to a point on the frame about 7 ft.
front of the axle is provided. This small steering wheel is connected
rod through the medium of a pin. In operation, the rod turns with the
revolving about the center of the axle and turns the small wheel to
steering rods are attached. This automatic control so functions as to
wheels of the rear truck to follow almost in the track of those at the
“The steering of the front wheels of the
forward truck is
accomplished in much the ordinary way. The steering column is connected
gears and levers to a small wheel which is linked to the steering
the end of the axle. The use of this small wheel ensures that the
of the wheels will always be tangential to the turning circle. The use
petrol-electric system of transmission for a heavy vehicle of this type
experimental chassis weighs 22,850 lb.) possesses obvious advantages:
have occasion to use the Tilling buses running in London will know that
changing is necessary with such vehicles and that smooth acceleration
noticeable feature of starting and, consequently, the stresses to which
chassis is subjected, as a whole, are Much reduced. The larger the
greater the importance of this consideration, and therein. is to be
reason for the use of a petrol-electric drive on the Versare chassis.
engine-driven generator, two motors (one on each bogie) and a
“For the initial experiments a 60 h.p. (Buda)
engine was employed,
but this was not deemed sufficiently powerful, and a 100 h.p. Waukesha
with a bore of 4 7/8 ins., and a stroke of 5 1/4 ins., was substituted.
electrical equipment consists of standard-type Westinghouse motors and
generator, the former being suspended between the axles by straps from
truck frame and provided with splined shafts for connection to a
axle and differential.
“The generator is also of a standard type
and provided with
a special field winding to permit of a small amount of separate
Supplementary excitation is said to give very stable operation by
flexible reduction between the engine and the wheels.
“The master controller permits the motors to
be connected in
series and in parallel for forward running, and in parallel only for
“The weight of the experimental chassis is
due to the use of heavy frame members, but in a new model which is
this will be reduced about 20 per cent, to approximately 16,000 lb.,
chassis carrying a saloon-type body to seat 44 passengers. The tests
initial eight-wheeler chassis are said to have been so satisfactory
radical deviations will be made in the design of the second vehicle.”
One month later the Electric Railway Journal
Versare as ‘unprecedented’ in its July 4, 1925 issue:
“A Radical Departure in Bus Design
“New Electric Drive Vehicle with Provision
for 44 Seated
Passengers is Mounted on Two Swiveling Four-Wheeled Trucks – Steering
Arrangements Permit Bus to Turn on a Radius Little Greater than Its Own
– Novel Body Construction with Power Operated Doors Facilitates
“Precedent has been laid aside in a new type
of bus recently
demonstrated at Albany, N.Y., before a group of electric railway and
officials and other guests. The new vehicle differs radically in having
independent swiveling trucks, and a structural steel framing without a
of the ordinary automotive type. Electric drive is another important
The development is the result of several years of intensive
the Versare Corporation of Albany, N.Y. The company is now proceeding
manufacturing plans, according to its president, Frederic Pruyn.
“Since each of the four-wheeled bogie trucks
self-contained unit, the body which holds the two together can be
length and therefore in seating capacity. The first bus of this type to
built in complete form, and which was exhibited at Albany, can seat 44
passengers. Of these 32 are provided for on standard cross seats, and
on a single U-shaped seat placed along the sides and across the rear
addition allowing 3 ½ sq. ft. per passenger there is a nominal capacity
standees. For handling freight a vehicle is being developed such that a
capacity of 15 tons can be secured without exceeding the legal load
allowed on 8-in. solid tires.
“Electric drive combined with a steering
system that permits
each wheel to run on a true circle of unusually small diameter has made
practical the development of an eight-wheeled vehicle. It follows
practice in the unit construction of the bogie trucks with the body
the structural connection. A 32 volt battery and lighting generator
electric power for starting the engine and for the regular lighting
electrical brake is another radical departure from automotive practice.
foot-operated by the standard service pedal, so that the electric
motors do the
bulk of the stopping work, although there are also air and manual
fall back on in the event of an emergency.
“Each of the bogie trucks is a small chassis
in itself. The
wheelbase is 54 in. the one at the rear, which is shown in one of the
illustrations, has a Sheldon from axle with a modified form of
steering. Slung by trunnions on a sub-frame is an electric motor, which
connected through a Spicer universal joint to the Eaton
axle. The springs, which are Sheldon 3 x 44 in., are underslung on the
axle but mounted on top of the front axle. Instead of having each
attached separately to the chassis, a design has been worked out that
two on each side in series, so practically a double-length spring takes
bumps or other road inequalities. To permit the two springs to work
as one, they are connected through links to an equalizing quadrant,
itself turns on an SKF Bearing.
“The front truck is much the same as the
rear as regards
axles, springs, motor installations, but is modified to allow the
generator to be mounted above it. Maintenance economy has been sought
it is said that both front and rear tracks as well as the complete
can be removed and replaced with another set in less than
three-quarters of an
hour. To do this the body need not be disturbed at all. In this respect
follows standard street railway practice.
“Arrangements For Steering
“Interest centers in the method by which
this vehicle with a
total length of 38 ft. can be turned in a short radius so that it can
steered through traffic in congested city streets. The steering circle
outside wheels has been held down to a diameter of 43 ft., while the
circle required for total body clearance is only 47 ½ ft. diameter.
accomplished by connecting each truck to the body through a king-pin so
is free to steer as an independent vehicle. When the driver turns the
wheel, the notion is transmitted through a worm and gear reduction, and
a patented linkage to a three-armed lever ion the front axle. Two of
are connected to the steering knuckle levers, through rods that result
truce Ackerman action, instead of the modified action effected with the
ordinary single cross-rod. That is, the wheels always roll tangent to
circle of turning.
“Any movement of the front wheels of each
truck, up to a
maximum angularity of 33 deg., determines the movement of the rear
the latter take the same circle as the front wheels, so all of the
on true circles. In the case of the rear truck, the front wheels are
a linkage connected to the body, which not only does the work of the
setting the front wheels, but also moves them just the right amount to
synchronize the two trucks. Stops are arranged so that the trucks can
45 deg. from the body centerline.
“Electric Drive Is Controlled By The Engine
“The rear wheels of each truck are driven by
motor. Power is generated by a gas engine-generator set consisting of a
Waukesha six-cylinder engine, giving 110 h.p. at 1,700 r.p.m.,
to a 40 k.w. Westinghouse generator with a special shunt-wound field.
and motors are of the heavy-duty traction type, rated at 175 volts, and
three weigh about 2,200 lbs.
“Fuel is fed to the engine by a dual
installation of the
Imco ‘Autopulse’ magnetic pump, from a 40-gal. tank on the left side
body. A Zenith SV-7 carburetor, Fedders honeycomb radiator and
muffler are used.Ignition is by the
Apollo magneto. Electrical accessories include Exide 15-cell battery of
amp.-hr. rating, and Leece-Neville starter, and 600-watt generator,
both of the
“Control ordinarily is by the engine
throttle, which gives
speeds varying from a crawl to the 30 m.p.h. reached at 1,700 r.p.m. of
engine. The two motors are then connected in parallel. A series
also provided, to give sufficient power on the heavier grades. During
operation the generator voltage falls off above a certain speed, the
characteristic being great enough to prevent overloading of the engine.
As a further
means of insuring stable operation, part of the shunt field of the
separately excited, from the battery of the starting and lighting
drive, therefore, has two controllers, one with four positions to give
and reverse motor connections, and the other with four points to vary
resistance in the battery-excited field circuit. The main controller is
at the left of the driver’s seat, and the other is mounted on the
“For use in electric braking a third
controller is connected
with the driver’s brake pedal. As developed in the Versare
first movement of the brake pedal cuts off the generator from the
system, and later positions graduate the resistance into the rotor
connect the armature of one motor with the field of the other, and
Three frames each with 25 grids in series are mounted under the body
furnish ample resistance for braking work.
“On a 10 per cent grade the speed can be
reduced to about 3
m.p.h. by electric braking, it is estimated. It would be about 1
m.p.ph. on the
level. To bring the vehicle to a stop, Westinghouse air brakes are
used, with a
two cylinder compressor driven off the engine. The valve handle is
steering wheel. Two storage tanks, connected in series, are provided to
eliminate moisture from the system. Chambers are mounted on all eight
the pistons working internal brakes mounted inside drums on the Budd
“The rear wheels on each truck have
brakes, both controlled by the air system. One set is also hooked up
manual system, to a lever at the left of the driver. An emergency brake
furnished by the reverse position of the motors. These are then joined
and can be used in case the air fails.
“The body framing is designed to carry the
and at the same time has ample stiffness to transmit the load to the
through the king bolts. In this respect it follows street railway
closely. Stiffness and strength are obtained by a floor built up of two
of steel, 0.025 in. thick, separated by V-shaped pieces of the same
laid across the body for the full length. Window and door pillars are
braced by longitudinal steel members at top, center and bottom. Along
lower ends they are also braced by individual angles carried under the
The roof is of the monitor type, of plywood supported on U-shaped
ft. 4 in. in the clear above the floor.
“Additional diagonal braces, of steel
angles, are placed at
each door, and also on the left-hand side opposite the doors. The
construction is indicated in an accompanying illustration. In the view
rear bogie the body supports are shown. These consist of heavy rollers,
on Hyatt bearings, on which the steel floor rests, or slides, when
around a curve. When it is necessary to back the vehicle a heavy pine
dropped into the notches at the rear of the bogie to hold it in the out
“Inside lighting is furnished by 24 Adlake
fixtures, of the
open-shade type, with 15-watt bulbs. In the ventilating system air is
through the monitor windows, fresh air entering through adjustable
the sides just back of the dash. In the demonstration bus the doors are
operated by hand, bit it is intended to install electric door engines
control each one independently. The bumpers are of USE make, with five
assembled at the front on the engine sub-frame. The same numberare used
rear, but with two on the body and the others on the bogie.”
Versare’s choice of a Westinghouse generator
was not mere
coincidence. George Westinghouse Jr. was one of Consolidated Car
first presidents, as was Robert C. Pruyn, a fact that was not lost on
his son Frederick,
who was its current treasurer at that time.
Consolidated’s plant was located at 413 N.
Pearl St. Albany,
which was conveniently located just 1,000 feet away from the Versare
Broadway. In fact, Consolidated’s successor, Consolidated Metal
continues to do business from that address as CMP Industries.
Albany and Schenectady New York were at the
railroad activity in the early part of the 20th century due to their
proximity to the Eastern US transportation hubs. Schenectady’s General
research center helped develop the electric locomotive and was
the groundwork that made gas-electric buses and streetcars
To allay the fears of locomotive men Versare
their new buses would not be sold to ‘competitors of the railways’ in
4, 1925 issue of Railway Age:
“A Heavy Highway Car for Railroad Use.
“The Versare Corporation, Albany, N.Y., has
highway passenger automobile which moves on two four-wheel trucks and
44 passengers with standing room for 52 more. Its drive is
pairs of trucks are movable as are also, separately from the trucks,
pair of wheels of each. The result is a highway vehicle of high
in spite of its size, can still negotiate narrow and crooked streets
and which, because its weight is evenly distributed over four axles,
under the maximum highway loading restrictions.
“The corporation does not propose top sell
these vehicles to
the competitors of railways. It expects to find a market rather with
railroads and the street railway which, it is believed, can use the
supplement existing services. A freight truck of the same general
being built and will be ready for test in about a month. It will carry
load of 15 tons, and will likewise be sold only to railways.
The present coach has eight springs which
absorb the road
shocks and reduce the pounding effect on the road and shocks in the
chassis, making for longer life of the mechanism and improving riding
qualities. It has an overall length of 40 ft. and is mounted on 30-in.
that are provided with rubber cushion tires. The trucks have a wheel
base of 54
in. The distance from center to center of trucks is 30 ft. The total
the vehicle is 16,000 lbs. The tread is 61 in. and the body width 8
latter being the maximum allowable by law. IT is possible to turn the
around in a circle with a diameter only 5 feet great than its length.
“The trucks are of a swivel type. The drive
front wheels of the forward truck by means of a steering wheel in much
manner as the ordinary automobile and the rear truck tracks with the
“Traction is secured by motors which obtain
their power from
a generator which is driven by a gasoline motor. The elaborate
many differentials and universal joints which would be necessary for
transmission on such a large vehicle is thus avoided, as is all gear
This is considered an important advantage, in view of the fact that
vehicles in frequent stop service requiring much shifting of gears are
be laid up frequently because of transmission troubles. The electric
transmission also has the advantage of reducing vibration, which makes
lower maintenance costs and smooth acceleration which makes for more
comfortable riding. The engine is also used more economically.
“This coach is equipped with a 100-h.p.
developed by the Waukesha Engine Company. This engine is a model 6-A,
7/8 in. bore and 5 ¼ in. stroke, constructed with the Ricardo head.
is connected to the generator by means of a flexible coupling and the
mounted as a unit on channels lengthwise of the car as in ordinary
practice. The driver’s seat is to the left of the generator that is
to the rear of the engine.
“The electrical equipment for the Versare
coach was supplied
by the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company. The generator
capable of utilizing the full output of the engine and is able, without
overheating, to supply full power to the two motors that are mounted on
bogies. The motors have a rating of 20 h.p. at 175 volts. There are two
these, one mounted on the rear axle of each truck. They are of vehicle
rated at 20 h.p. and have a high continuous rating. They are partially
to protect the commutator against dirt and water.
“The motor controller and a braking
controller form the
principle part of the control apparatus. The master controller has
operating positions, series and parallel forward and parallel reverse.
parallel operating position forward is the first position from the
‘off’ as it
is used more frequently than the series. The master controller is
mounted directly under the
driver’s seat and a
lever for positioning the controller extends up through seat to the
left of the
driver. A special notching device is provided on the lever that
control from rough handling by the driver.
“This type of control is simple in operation
mastered. The engine is first started, of course, as in ordinary
driver then throws the motor control lever into one of the operating
He is then ready to go. The engine throttle is practically the only
regularly used, the variations in engine speed being sufficient to
desired voltages and hence coach operating speeds.
“The equipment is designed for a maximum
speed of 30 miles
per hour. The balancing speed on the level of the coach is
miles per hour with a reasonable engine speed. No tests have as yet
on this new coach to indicate its performance, but it is expected to be
than that of the initial experimental equipment. The experimental
heavier and of slightly different construction. Tests on it indicated
scheduled speeds of 11 miles per hour could be made on mile runs with 8
per mile of ten seconds in length. Here the tests were conducted on a
a rolling profile, having grades up to approximately 4 per cent. As far
possible the starts were always made up hill.
“This coach is provided with three
independent sets of
brakes. Standard automotive Westinghouse air brakes, of the internal
type, are provided on all eight wheels with the usual controlling air
addition to the air brakes, the hand brake is incorporated on the truck
the coach to a stop or for holding it for long periods. The hand brake
mounted on the left of the driver. In addition to these two brakes, the
electrical brakes are incorporated in the electrical scheme of control.
“The air storage tanks, the electrical grid
resistance and a
40-gal. gasoline tank are all mounted under the center of the coach.
supplied to the tank by means of a compressor directly connected to the
These tanks clear the side of the coach and in no way interfere with
needed for ordinary operation.”
The Versare was not the first eight-wheeled
considered by a US manufacturer. In fact the Goodyear Tire and Rubber
proposed such a vehicle in mid-1920, the July 1920 issue of The
American City reporting:
“Enter the Six-Wheel Motor Bus
“A pay-as-you-enter auto bus, patterned after
new type of street cars and capable of carrying loo people, is being
by the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, Akron, Ohio,
as an experiment in broadening the field for the use of
truck tires, and will be operated in Akron. The new bus will
six wheels. It is the intention of the company later to equip
the bus with eight wheels similar to the double trucks on
cars. Unfortunately photographs of the bus with its special
equipment are not available.
“The accompanying illustration, however,
arrangement of the six wheels, as the bus is now used with a
“The increased service of busses of this
the greatest cushioning of the load, thereby lessening the impact on
can be well appreciated by students of highway traffic. States now
the passage of laws limiting the total weight of load and vehicle may
reconsider their legislation in the light of the lessened load per inch
with the six-wheel bus, which is now a reality, and the
eight-wheel bus or truck, which is promised in the near
A six-wheeled trolley coach that served as
the test bed for
the 1920 experiment was retrofitted with Goodyear’s eight-wheel system,
the road as promised midway through 1922, the June 8, 1922 issue of The
Automobile (Automotive Industries) reporting:
“Goodyear Makes Bus With Eight Wheels:
Is Development of Present Six Wheeled Vehicle—Same Chassis Used
“AKRON, June 5 — An eight
wheel passenger bus—an entirely new departure in motor
design—is being developed by the Goodyear Tire & Rubber
Akron, which two years ago pioneered in the successful development and
practical demonstration of the six wheel chassis for both
six wheel passenger bus perfected
by Goodyear engineers is being remodeled and made into
an eight-wheeled bus, with four wheels in the rear and
front. It will carry a street car body of the Peter Witt type, with
folding doors and collapsible steps, and seats and standing room for 55
“The new eight wheeler will have
same chassis and wheelbase as the six wheeled vehicle, with
a wheelbase of
180 in. from the center between the front wheels to the center between
“Goodyear engineers have perfected a
system whereby the
big bus can be steered by all four front wheels operated with
single steering wheel. The front and rear wheels of the front
been arranged with different radius lengths so as to permit proper
when the vehicle is turned and the wheels are at an angle to the
“Litchfield Worked Out Plan
“His conviction that the ultimate motor
vehicle would be
multiple wheeled, taking the same evolution as the freight car, led to
Litchfield's working out plans for the first six wheeled motor vehicles
put into practical use in America several years ago. Litchfield is
vice-president and factory manager of the Goodyear company.
“Six wheeled trucks and buses now are being
in Akron. They have proved to have easier riding qualities, a lower
gravity and better traction, while tire equipment is less expensive
than for a
conventional four-wheeled truck with larger wheels. The
new eight wheeler is expected to make its debut within a
month or so.”
An article in the June 24, 1922 issue of
Automobile Topics provides
a few more details:
“GOODYEAR PERFECTS EIGHT-WHEEL TRUCK
of Six-Wheel Design; Has Air
Brakes on All Eight Wheels — Four-Wheel Steer in
Reduced to 34 x 7 All Around.
“An eight-wheel passenger bus has
completed by the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Akron. This
is a development
of the six-wheel five-ton truck, experimented with by
the Goodyear company during the past two years. Compared with the
type, the eight-wheel bus is of prime interest because of
important developments. These include the perfection of an airbrake
operating on all eight wheels; a new steering mechanism,
all four front wheels; and finally, a reduction in the size of
used. It is largely to obtain the maxi-mum saving in tire weight and
that the Goodyear company has been making these experiments.
“Goodyear engineers have succeeded in
applying to the
new bus an air brake system similar to that used on street
railroad trains. While the use of air brakes on motor vehicles has been
in the past, the Company’s engineers claim that theirs is the first
“The air brake system, as adapted to
this bus was
developed by taking part of the compression from the top of the engine
cylinders by means of special plugs and confining the pressure thus
a small tank mounted on the chassis. The system, it is said, affords a
air pressure for this use. The brakes are operated by a small lever
the dash in front of the driver.
“The second new development is the steering
by all four
front wheels with a single steering-wheel, In order to make
this control, it was necessary to devise a hook-up which would permit
and rear wheels of the forward truck to swing each at a different
that the wheels would track at an angle.
“In addition to those advantages obtained in
previous multi-wheel designs — namely, easier riding qualities,
traction and a greater operating radius — the company has with the
design effected a further saving in tire weight and tire costs. The
distribution of the weight of the vehicle and load over a greater
tires is a big factor in reducing damage to roads, too.
conventional four-wheel truck carrying a
five-ton load, it would be necessary to use 48” x 12” giant pneumatics,
Company points out. On the first six-wheel trucks developed,
original tire equipment used consisted of 40” x 8” pneumatics. Now on
eight-wheel bus, 34 x 7 tires are used all around.
“The eight-wheel bus has a large
body. It is a one-man-operated design, equipped with adjustable
electric lights and upholstered seats. The body seats 44 passengers and
standing room for nearly 20 more. The entrance door is alongside the
with a pay-as-you-enter arrangement. Two exit doors in the middle of
are operated from the driver's seat.”
Other 8-wheelers were announced in the pages of
Bus Transportation and Electric Railway Journal at about the same time.
The American Motorway Equipment Co. of New York announced they were
planning to manufacture the AMECO 8-Wheel Safety Bus, but the project
didn't get beyond the planning stages although two brochures were
issued. Another builder was the National Axle Corp., of San Jose,
California whose 'Pacific 8-Wheeler' was advertised in the December 1922
issue of Bus Transportation.
Emory Winship's Eight-Wheel Motor Vehicle Corp.,
of San Francisco, Claifornia produced an eight-wheeled bus and truck
that were pictured in the March 1, 1923 issue of Motor West. Designed
by the talented engineer Rollie B. Fageol, the 2 prototypes were tested
extensively, but I could locate no evidence they progressed beyond the
M.O. Reeves 1911 Octoauto is generally considered
to be the first 8-wheeled automobile, but like the trucks and buses
mentioned above, it never got beyond the prototype stage.
What sets Versare apart from the aforementioned
8-wheelers was the fact it did enter series production, albeit in very
small numbers. The planned series
manufacture of the
Versare - which up
until that time was a ‘prototype’ - was mentioned for the first time in
11, 1925 issue of the UK trade, The Commercial Motor:
“Developing an Eight-Wheeled Bus Chassis.
“The Latest Details of the Versare
Multi-wheeler Which Incorporates Several Noteworthy Features in its
“In our issue dated June 2nd we published a
dealing with an experimental eight-wheeled bus chassis built by the
Corporation, of Albany, New York, and now that the company have
plans for the manufacture of the new vehicle we feel justified in
our previous description by referring to the latest features in its
many of which are the outcome of experimental work extending over a
“It will be remembered that in the Versare
petrol-electric system of drive is employed, and, in some respects, the
construction follows railway practice in that the vehicle has two
four-wheeled bogies, with the body serving as the structural connection
“As our American contemporary, ‘Bus
which we must acknowledge our indebtedness for the details we now
observes, the bogies are in effect small chassis in themselves. That at
rear has a Sheldon axle in front with a modified form of Ackerman
electric motor is slung by trunnions on a sub-frame, and is connected
Spicer universal joint to the Eaton double-reduction rear axle.
“The springs for the rear axle are
underslung, those at the
front being mounted above the axle, but instead of their inner ends
attached separately to the frame channels they are arranged to operate
side in series, so that a double4ength spring is virtually available
absorbing vibration and road shocks. To effect this end the springs are
connected through the medium of links to an equalizing quadrant which
an SKF bearing.
“So far as the disposition of its main units
the design of the front bogie is a duplicate of that at the rear, but
addition it has the engine and generator mounted above it. The type of
bus which we illustrate is designed to seat 44 passengers, whilst ample
is available to permit a further 52 persons to stand, It is obvious
accommodate this number of passengers in a single saloon a 'body of
considerable length must be employed, and for this reason the
have given much attention to the question of steering control, so that
vehicle can be operated in congested traffic areas with comparative
speed. When it is mentioned that the overall length of the bus is 48
the wheelbase (measured from center to center of bogies) 29 ft., it
acknowledged that the problem is one which had to be satisfactorily
render the vehicle, as a type, a practicable proposition.
“The manner in which this difficulty has
been met is one of
the outstanding features of the design. In the first place each bogie
connected to the body through a king-pin, and is thus free to be
independently. When the steering wheel is turned, the motion is
through a worm-gear reduction and through a patented form of linkage to
three-armed lever on the front axle. Two of these arms are connected to
steering-knuckle levers through rods that result in a true Ackerman
movement of the front wheels of each bogie (the limit is 33 degrees)
the movement of the rear wheels, which follow the course of those
ahead. In the
case of the rear bogie, the front wheels are turned through the medium
linkage connected to the body, and this enables the movement of one
relation to the other to be synchronized. Suitable stops are fitted so
movement of t b e bogies from the center line of the body is limited to
degrees. This articulated form of steering enables the bus to be turned
circle of 43 ft. diameter, i.e., very little more than its own length.
“The Westinghouse motors which drive the
rear wheels of each
bogie derive their power from a six-cylinder Waukesha engine which
h.p. at 1,700 r.p.m., and is directly coupled to a 40 kw. Westinghouse
generator with a special shunt-wound field.
“Control is ordinarily by the engine
throttle up to the
rated speed of the power unit, at which 30 m.p.h. can be reached, the
motors then being connected in parallel. A series position is also
that sufficient power is available when climbing steep gradients.
operation the generator voltage falls off above a certain speed, and
characteristic avoids overloading of the engine. The generator is
a special field winding to permit of a small amount of separate
the battery of the starting and lighting system.
“The braking system is worthy of special
controller is connected with the driver's brake pedal for use when
performed electric ally. As developed on the Versare chassis, the
first movement of the brake pedal cuts off the generator from the
electrical system, and later positions graduate the resistance into the
circuits and connect the armature of one motor with the field of the
vice versa. Three frames, each with 25 grids in series, are mounted
body and furnish ample resistance for braking work.
“’Bus Transportation’ states that, on a 10
gradient, the speed of the vehicle can be reduced to about 3 m.p.h. by
braking, and to bring it to a halt Westinghouse air brakes are used, a
two-cylinder compressor driven by the engine being fitted. For this
chambers are mounted on all eight wheels, the pistons actuating
inside the drums. The rear wheels on each bogie are fitted with
internal brakes, both of which are connected to the air system.
“We have now dealt with the major features
of importance in
the design of the chassis and, before closing, we would refer to one or
points of interest in the body. Firstly, it is apparent that as the
the place of the ordinary frame members, and takes the weight of the
passengers, it must be of very strong, construction, and this end is
by building up the floor of two sheets of steel, 0.025 in. thick, these
separated by V-shaped sections laid across the body throughout its
length. The pillars for the doors (there are two, as one of our
shows) and the windows are of wood which is braced by longitudinal
steel, additional strength being given by angle-iron members disposed
“The body supports on the bogies consist of
turning on Hyatt bearings on which the steel floor rests, or slides,
vehicle is negotiating corners.
“Certain dimensions have already been given,
others are as
follow: Weight, complete, about 16,500 lbs.; wheelbase of each bogie, 4
ins.; track, 5 ft. 9 ins.; width over rubbing rails, 8 ft.; overall
ft. 8 in.; body interior height, 6 ft. 4 ins. When the bus is carrying
load of seated passengers the weight is equally distributed over the
“We shall watch with interest the progress
of the Versare
multi-wheeled bus, and will keep our readers duly advised of any
are made in its design and construction.”
The first Versare buses were offered in two
forms, the first
featuring a conventional streetcar body fitted with a railroad-style
with clerestory windows, the second featuring a slightly sloped plain
roof typical of those found on most other motor coaches.
Despite the significant amount of publicity
the introduction of the 8-wheeled Versare gas-electric coaches, only
known to have been delivered to transportation customers. The initial
vestibule-windowed prototype/demonstrator originally tested on the
Albany during early 1925 was later acquired by the Capital District
Transportation Co. and assigned to Albany's Western Avenue line. At
8-wheeled Versare gas-electric trucks are known to have been built, but
purchasers remain unknown, although it’s likely they remained in Albany
by one of Pruyn’s businesses.
The three documented production 8-wheeled
coaches were sold
to just two firms, two to the Alton Transportation Co. of Alton,
who utilized it on their 90-mile long Jacksonville, Illinois to East
Illinois run, and the third (1927) to the Montreal Tram Co. of
Quebec, Canada who used it on the Atwater-LaSalle (Ave. Atwater - Blvd.
in the suburb of Verdun from 1927-1934.
Formed in 1927 the Alton Transportation Co.
served as the
motor coach subsidiary of the decades-old Chicago &
Alton Railroad Co.
Alton Transportation’s No. 400 and No. 401 weighed 24,540 lbs., and had
length of 39 ft. 10 in. Fitted with a 52-gal fuel tank the gas-electric
featured a railroad roof with windows and a smoking compartment.
doors were situated bilaterally at the front of the coach, and third at
center of the right side. Power was delivered via a Westinghouse
was driven off of a Waukesha 6-cylinder gasoline engine.
Both the parent and its subsidiary entered
proceedings during 1928, with the bus company’s assets being sold to
Jacksonville Bus Line in 1930. Just prior to the bankruptcy the firm’s
costly Versares were sold off to generate much needed cash.
No. 400 was retired from service in late
1927 and sold to
the Cleveland Railway Co., of Cleveland, Ohio who renumbered it as No.
although it was more popularly known as ‘the Monster’. Cleveland
subsequently purchased No. 401 in 1928, renumbering it as No. 701.
short time in service the operator judged the vehicles to be too wieldy
of further use and both vehicles were scrapped shortly thereafter.
Montreal’s ‘Beast’, aka “Le monstre de la
rue Atwater“ aka car
#800, had a much longer useful service. It entered service on May 11,
exactly 7 years later (May 11, 1934) its monocoque aluminum coachwork
a catastrophic failure and the vehicle literally split in two, after
was parted out and junked.
Although the Versare 8-wheeled coaches were
the press, customers were few and far between. While they were busy
engineering of its significantly more conventional 6-wheeled successor
order, Versare Corp. sent out a press release for the 8-wheeler during
of 1926 in order to try and drum up some new business. The October 1926
of Motor Coach Transportation mentioned the firm’s Westinghouse
in the headline:
“Two Westinghouse Motors in Versare Coach
“A novel form of road vehicle has recently
which is destined to have a promising future. This is a
eight wheel, passenger-carrying vehicle built by the Versare
Albany, New York. Manual steering control of the forward truck and the
automatic steering of the rear truck render- the handling of this coach
The use of eight wheels permits of greater capacity than has hitherto
obtainable with four wheel or six-wheel vehicles, and greatly improves
riding characteristics. A large demand for this type vehicle is
expected in the
field of freight haulage. Power for the coach is generated
large 6 cylinder Waukesha engine direct-connected to a
generator. Two Westinghouse vehicle type motors are used for
motor being mounted on each truck.
“Control of power application to the motors
is very simple.
The generator is self-exited, a small field controller permitting the
to carry the filed strength at all current loads. In normal operation
only necessary to increase the engine speed in order to apply more
power to the
motors. The permissible variation in field excitation, however, allows
engine output to be obtained under any condition of service and
its value in climbing steep grades Dynamic braking is also provided for
in descending long grades or for use in case of failure of brakes.
“Info — Passenger Seats — 44. Passenger
Standing — 52.
Complete Weight — 16,500 Ibs., Truck Center Distance — 29 ft. Truck
— 54 in Gauge, Front and Rear — 69 in. Turning Circle, Maximum — 47 ft.
6 in Maximum
Speed — 30 mph Overall Length — 38 ft. Overall Width – 96 in. Overall
8ft. 8 in.”
The October 1926 issue of Motor Coach
Transportation contained another article on the Versare:
“The new gasoline-electric coach which has
recently been put
out by the Versare Corporation of Albany. New York, is,
reality, two independent short wheel base vehicles each of which has
extremely short turning radius of 9 ½ feet. These two short wheel base
are connected by king pins to a rigid body. The individual trucks,
to articulate, allow the entire vehicle to turn in circle little more
“The front wheels of the lead trucks are
by the driver. The articulating action of both trucks is the result of
automatic control. No overhang and automatic semi- delayed steering of
truck eliminates side-swiping and the necessity for wide swings on
to its snake like action in threading through traffic the 38 foot
“By the use of eight spring suspension, each
truck having four springs with two equalizers, exceptional riding
obtained. The gasoline-electric drive insures smooth acceleration;
racing; eliminates gear shifting and makes spectacular driving
Particular attention has been paid to safety, as well as dependability.
but the finest materials and parts are employed in the construction of
Versare, and three independent methods of braking are employed:
“Electric resistance braking for service use.
“Air brakes on 4, 6 or 8 wheels, as desired.
“Conventional mechanical hand brake.
“Great stress has been placed on
interchangeability. Both front and rear trucks as well as the complete
unit may be replaced with other units in less than three-quarters of an
without disturbing the body or inside of the coach in any manner.
“The important item of lubrication has been
the use of roller and ball bearings with ample reservoirs for
“A minimum of unsprung weight and the
of the load insures less tire expense than that entailed in a four
vehicle carrying two-thirds the load.
“Versare bodies (built to the specifications
operator) are of a frameless truss type. This construction insures the
rigidity with minimum weight.”
In mid-October of 1926 a number of national
papers ran an
item that showed a picture of the Versare and a headshot of W.H.
president of the NERA. The following caption appeared in the October
Ogden Standard (Utah):
“With buses like the 41-passenger,
Versare-Westinghouse gas-electric giant on the street; the best way for
car owner to get to-work is to take a bus! This model was put in use on
Cleveland streets, and is the first to be used in a large city. To the
shown W.H. Sawyer of East St. Louis, the new president of the National
Railway Association of America.”
By 1926 it was obvious that the firm’s
8-wheeled coach was a
commercial failure, or more poignantly ’the answer to a question that
asked’. The same mistake was not repeated on the firm’s next project, a
gas-electric six-wheeled coach. Unlike the firm’s 8-wheeled coaches,
6-wheeler’s gasoline engine and generator were located at the rear of
vehicle, with a 25 watt Westinghouse electric motor attached directly
of the rear axles (50 watts total).
With the power plants located at the rear
Warhus was able to
locate the driver and passenger entrance ahead of the front axle, with
claim that it was the first ‘streetcar-type’ coach to be so-equipped.
the new Versare was available in two flavors, one for the rails and one
highways. The AERA Convention issue of the September 17, 1927 issue of
Electric Railway Journal introduced the triple axle Versare via a
“An ENTIRELY NEW conception of both Highway
and Rail vehicles;
in Design; in Construction; in earning power; and distinctively
“For the first time in history:
“VERSARE Six-Wheel Rail Unit
“For two years Versare engineers have been
working on this
design. They were given a free hand. With the results of Versare
low-cost popular transportation as a background they strove for
perfection in a
light, practical, economical and thoroughly modern electric car.
“What are the results?
“A vehicle that is unique alike in design
“An electric car built entirely of duralumin
and light alloy
steel, — weighing complete and ready for the rails only 12,500 lbs.
“Greater comfort, smoother and more silent
have ever been known in rail vehicles before. Plenty of room for 32
32 standing passengers.
“Automotive type axles and drive, with their
simplified maintenance and easy accessibility.
“A drive truck unit that can be removed
entirely in half an
hour. Standard Westinghouse motors and control.
“Furthermore the Versare Six-Wheel Rail Unit
will be sold
complete at an established price, in the same way as automotive
offers without doubt the simplest and most satisfactory solution to
modernization problems in the great majority of American cities today.
“Be sure to see the completed sample car
which will be
exhibited at the Convention on Track E.
“VERSARE CORPORATION, Albany, N. Y.
“Transportation history and Highway Units
"The Versare Six-Wheel Highway Unit
“Versare Corporation, the pioneer
manufacturer of large
capacity, single-deck highway units, announces this new six-wheel unit
“With a capacity of 35 seated and 35
standing passengers, it
is the lightest weight gas-electric coach of this size that has ever
built, weighing complete only 13,500 lbs.
“It embodies identically the same structural
units and truck
design which have proved their efficiency, economy and low depreciation
hundreds of thousands of miles of service on our eight-wheel vehicles.
“Note particularly that the power plant is
mounted at the
extreme rear end of the body. It can be quickly removed and replaced
disturbing the radiators or fan units, and without the use of an
“No oil or gas fumes can seep into the coach
because all seams in the engine housing are sealed with asbestos or
“Gas-electric drive is through two standard
traction type 33 hp. motors mounted on the rear four-wheel trucks, —
power for a vehicle of this size, resulting in the speed and pick-up
Versare Highway Units have become famous.
“Study the more detailed specifications
given overleaf. Note
the radical difference between ordinary coaches and this highway unit
specifically to meet electric railway operators' needs.
“Then be sure to see the complete sample
unit on exhibition
at the AERA Convention in Cleveland — Space 476.
“VERSARE CORPORATION, Albany, N.Y.
“Weigh carefully these specific advantages
“The Versare Six-Wheel Highway Unit
1. No chassis. Duralumin truss construction
with railroad practice.
2. Body maintenance practically eliminated.
3. Unit power plant mounted at rear. Quickly
removable without crane.
4. Radiator and fan units separate from
power plant. Easily removed from side of body.
5. No engine heat, oil or gas fumes can
6. Body built of interchangeable units
identical with those of the eight-wheel vehicle.
7. Versare Hercules-Westinghouse gas
electric drive. Two 33 hp. standard traction type motors.
8. Turning radius of 56 feet.
9. Electric brake. Westinghouse air service
brakes and mechanical emergency brake.
10. Versare Patented Equalizer at rear drive
axles, — floating ease in riding.
“The VERSARE Six-Wheel Rail Unit
1. Built entirely of Duralumin and light
2. Four wheel, single motor auto-motive type
drive bogey in
rear. Two wheel automotive type single motor drive axle in front.
3. Patented Versare Equalizer, — floating
ease in riding.
4. All body sections interchangeable with
standard replacement units.
5. Drive truck and motors removable complete
in half an hour.
6. High speed with safety.
7. Maximum passenger capacity with
exceptional comfort. 32 seated, 32 standing.
8. Silent operation.
9. Standard Motors, control and safety air
brake equipment. Internal band brakes.
10. Highest quality standard equipment
The Versare Story is
continued on page 2 - Click Here for page 2.
Theobald for Coachbuilt.com