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Oriole Motor Coach Lines

Acquired by PAT on March 12, 1964

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 Downtown Pittsburgh.

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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.

The 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 directly.

The 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.

A 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.

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A photo of the equipment used in the orginal Joseph Supan operation. Photo courtesy of The Historical Society of Greentree

Joseph 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.

By 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.

Also 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.

Between 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.

Additional 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.

Between 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 Downtown loop.

Ridership 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.

1941 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.

In 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.

Express 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.

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The farewell picture of the Oriole employees was taken the day before the PAT takeover. Photo courtesy of The Historical Society of Greentree

In 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 would pay.

Oriole 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.

Oriole 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 however.

At 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.

Equipment (with PAT number if acquired)
Oriole Number Make Model Year PAT Number
45-46 GM TG3609 1945 863,853
55-56 GM TDH4008 1947 110-111
57-58 GM TDH4008 1948 112-113
59 Beaver B-35-PT 1948 677
60-63 GM TDH4509 1951 448-451
64-65 Beaver B-35-PT 1951 678-679
69-70 GM TDH4509 1952 452-453
71 GM TG3609 1944 867
73 GM TG3609 1944 854
74-75 GM TDH4512 1954 335-336
76 GM TDH4512 1956 337
77-81 GM TG3609 1946 855,868,864,856,865
82 GM TDH4512 1958 338
83-85 GM TG3609 1945 857-859
86 GM TG3609 1946 860
87 GM TG3609 1945 866
88 GM TG3609 1945 88
89 GM TG3609 1945 861
90-92 GM TDH4509 1951 454-456
93-97 GM TDH4512 1953 339-343
98 GM TDH4512 1954 344
99 GM TDH4512 1957 345
100-101 GM TDH4509 1951 456-457
102 GM TDH4509 1951 102
103-104 GM TDH4509 1951 458-459
105 GM TDH4512 1956 346
106-108 GM TDH4519 1963 540-542


Routes (shown with PAT numbers)
26B Broadhead Manor (former Oriole route 7)
26C Ingram/Rosslyn Farms  (former Oriole route 6/8)
36A Mt. Lebanon via Banksville (former Oriole route 1)
38A Mt. Lebanon via Parkway (former Oriole route 1)
36B Virginia Manor (former Oriole route 2 & 3)
36C Carnegie-Greentree via West End (former Oriole route 4)
38C Carnegie-Greentree via Parkway (former Oriole route 4)
36D Westwood (former Oriole route 5)
39A Carnegie-Mt Lebanon Shuttle (Oriole assigned no number to this route)

Click on images for a full screen view


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An overhead view of the Greentree garage. Photo courtesy of The Historical Society of Greentree

AMCAP would like to thank The Historical Society of Greentree for allowing us access to their historical collection so we could better document the operations of The Oriole Motor Coach Company.

All items contained on this site are the property of AMCAP, unless otherwise specified, and may not be used without permission.

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This page was updated on June 26, 2008

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