In the 1800’s, horse-drawn carriages called “hacks” were used to transport children to and from school. In 1914 Wayne Works, now known as Wayne Corporation, attached a wooden hack onto an automobile chassis, creating a predecessor to the modern motor school bus. Inside these vehicles, the passengers sat on perimeter seating, facing the center rather the front of the bus. Entry and egress continued to be through a door at the rear (as it was with the horse-drawn carriages). This was possibly the start of the rear emergency door found on modern school buses.
In 1927, Blue Bird Body Company and Wayne Works began building all steel bus bodies. By the 1930’s, nearly every school bus manufacturer was using steel over wood or other materials for body construction. At this time, companies also began installing additional exterior rails along the length of their buses to add structural rigidity and to aid in passenger protection.
Wayne Works was one the first to offer glass in place of the canvas curtains previously used. Gillig Bros invented and patented the design of a slightly curved, reinforced metal roof with windows separated by pillars at regular intervals. Each window was adjustable by the use of a latching mechanism.
Next week we will talk about the first Transit-Style School Bus and how World War II and the 1950’s Baby Boom affected manufacturing of school buses.