Oriole was the largest
independent operators in the Southwest region of Allegheny County. The company could trace
its roots back to 1919 with a small feeder route operation connecting to Pittsburgh
Railways Company (PRCo) trolley lines at Dormont Junction from Bridgeville. John Collavo
was the owner of the company and he, along with several of his brothers, operated the
original line until 1921 when it was given up in favor of a new line between Greentree and
A front and back scan of a Collavo
token. Note that it doesn't have the Oriole name but that of Collavo. It is trying to be
determined if this was used during the Oriole years or if it was a pre-Oriole token that
was kept around and reused by Oriole to save some money by not having to have new tokens
made. Courtesy of The Historical Society of Greentree.
new Pittsburgh line was restricted due to operating through PRCo territory in Pittsburgh's
West End and ran closed door from Downtown to Greentree. The line was certified by the
Pennsylvania PSC on July 25, 1921 for operation. John Collavo, who then operated the
company under his own name, thus became the first independent operator to serve Downtown
Pittsburgh to Greentree line was extended in the fall of 1921 from the current terminus of
Banksville and Carnahan Roads to the Pittsburgh & West Virginia Railroad's Rook
Station. Collavo renewed this line with the PSC in 1923 and 1925. Also in November of
1925, PSC granted approval for a new branch line for the Collavo operation. This branch
line served Mt. Lebanon and terminated at Bower Hill & Cochran Roads. This branch line
soon became more patronized than the Downtown to Greentree line. The original feeder route
that was given up in 1921 was restarted by
Bigi Bus Lines and ran mostly on the original
routing that Collavo had run on.
significant event occurred in April of 1928 when John Collavo sold controlling interest in
his bus line to Joseph Supan. Collavo then started up a contract trucking company and
concentrated on that operation while leaving the bus operation in the hands of Supan and
his brothers. Later that year, Supan incorporated the operation as The Oriole Motor Coach
Lines, Inc. with himself as president of the operations and John Collavo, his brothers and
a few other associates listed as principals in the operation. It appeared that John
Collavo, although still holding some interest in the Oriole operation, became more or less
a silent partner.
A photo of the equipment used in
the orginal Joseph Supan operation. Photo courtesy of The Historical Society of Greentree
Supan was not new to the bus business. He had started a small bus and taxi company that
ran from Bridgeville to Cecil in 1923. He sold this operation to Penn Bus Lines System
prior to 1928 and it became part of the McDonald Division of the vast West Penn
transportation empire. It had no connection with the earlier Collavo or later Oriole
operations and eventually the original Supan line that Penn Bus Lines purchased became
part of Community Transit's Bridgeville Division.
June of 1930, Oriole had 5 routes that covered most of Greentree and Scott Township.
Several of these routes were very lightly patronized and ran just a few trips a day. It
has been conjectured that Oriole was looking towards the future when instituting these
lines so that its service area became secured under the PSC regulations and that
competitors could be kept out.
at this time, Oriole assigned the lines a route number. While not unique, Oriole was
unique in the Pittsburgh area for having the number on the driver side as opposed to the
more traditional curb side position. Oriole had several combined routes such as 6/7 -
Ingram Avenue/Broadhead Manor.
1930 and 1933, Oriole slowly gained PSC approval for extending the Mt. Lebanon branch
closer to the Mt. Lebanon business district. In 1934, Oriole responded to complaints from
riders regarding the line and revised routings on the outbound trips while leaving most of
the inbound routings in place. The original Downtown Pittsburgh looping was extended in
1936 to go deeper into the city.
routes were added in 1937 and both operated almost entirely within the City of Pittsburgh
limits. They were the 6-Ingram and the 7-Fairywood. These routes were originally requested
by Oriole in 1932 but were denied by the PSC due to an almost identical request for
service being requested by PRCo for a feeder bus route. In 1937, the request was made
again by Oriole and this time the PSC approved the application and revoked the PRCo rights
on the feeder operation. Even though the new Oriole lines ran a good portion of the way
following PRCo's 34 Elliot streetcar line, the PSC did not impose a closed door
restriction on Oriole on this section of the line.
1939 and 1943, Oriole continues to expand service. This was done primarily through adding
branches to existing lines that served newly developed areas. Only one of the extensions
received a route number and that was the 8 that ran to Rosslyn Farms which was an
extension of the 6-Ingram line. Also around this time, Oriole went back to a shorter
from 1930 to 1940 increased from 500,000 in 1930 to 1.5 million by 1940. This steady
increase in ridership resulted in more than doubling the bus fleet from 15 buses to more
than 30. Up through 1940, Oriole's fleet consisted mostly of various models of White
coaches with some being second hand coaches. The only exceptions up to this point in the
all White bus fleet at Oriole were 2 Studebakers which were 1928 models and a single
Yellow Coach model 733 purchased in 1937.
saw the addition of one more used White but also a Beaver 35-PT, a Rio 395-T and a Yellow
TG-3201 and signaled the start of the break of being a White coach property. A few more
Whites were purchased after this and the last one being in 1945. By this point, Oriole was
buying Beaver and GM products. Between 1945 and 1963, Oriole purchased mostly second hand
GM's although there were some new GM purchases and a few new Beaver Coach purchases.
1946, a shuttle line was approved and Oriole began operations between Lindsay Road and the
Carnegie business district. This was a new line and continued until the PAT takeover in
1964 but had never been assigned a route number by Oriole. Many of the routing quirks of
the Oriole operation continue through this day with PAT on the former routes such as
routes operating clockwise in the AM and counter-clockwise in the PM.
service arrived for Oriole in 1954 when approval was granted for service via the
Penn-Lincoln Parkway from Greentree Road via the West End bypass for routes 2 & 4.
Once the Fort Pitt tunnels and bridge were opened, it took close to a year to receive
approval to run routes 1 through 4 through the tunnels. 1960 saw this change in service as
well as new Downtown Pittsburgh loops.
The farewell picture of the Oriole
employees was taken the day before the PAT takeover. Photo courtesy of The Historical
Society of Greentree
1963, Oriole purchased 8 used and 3 new GM's to handle the still increasing ridership. The
new GM's (TDH4519) were Oriole's only GM New Look coaches and were ordered purchased by
PAT who also supplied part of the money for the buses. These 3 GM New Looks came in an
experimental livery that PAT was thinking of using and was known by Pittsburgh area fans
as the "Harley Swift" scheme and was similar to the livery used by ATE which
operated Harrisburg Railways. Of the 8 used coaches, it is not known if PAT had also
ordered those purchased or not at this time but it is assumed approval had to be given as
PAT was already in the process of negotiations with Oriole as to the purchase price of the
company and any additions or deletions that were not approved could reduce the amount PAT
had two garages within the operation. All service operated out of the main Greentree
garage with the West End garage being used strictly for storage. Employee parking at the
Greentree garage carried a monthly charge for those people that wanted to park in a paved
lot instead of the free dirt lot which became rather muddy during bad weather.
was a unionized operation and wages were similar to those paid to Bigi Bus Lines
employees, who were also unionized. Wages were less than the much larger PRCo operation
the takeover by PAT in 1964, Oriole was operating 51 coaches and had 8 routes. The last
year figures were available for Oriole was 1963 and they carried 3,260,000 riders.