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Penn Transit Company

Acquired by PAT on March 2, 1964

Penn Transit was another independent bus line that could trace its ancestry to the street railway industry. It is perhaps one of the more complex and confusing histories of all the Pittsburgh independents due to the multitude of primary and subsidiary companies being involved along with many similar company names.

The Pennsylvania General Transit Co. (PGTCo) was a Depression-era operation, which operated many bus lines along the Pennsylvania Railroad's (PRR) lines, including several in Western Pennsylvania. This was a subsidiary operation of the PRR. In 1930 the PRR and Greyhound agreed to combine bus operations. Greyhound took over the PGTCo routes but had no interest interest in the local or suburban bus routes.

In 1931,   Greyhound formed an operating agreement with West Penn Railways, who had a subsidiary company called Penn Bus Lines, for the local and suburban routes. The new company was called Penn Bus Co. but surprisingly enough, didn't operate local service. This was due to Greyhound acquiring the rights for the Pittsburgh - Akron - Detroit service from Union Motor Transit Co, another West Penn Railways subsidiary. Penn Bus Company ran the Pittsburgh to Akron portion and Greyhound ran the Akron to Detroit portion of that line.

The original West Penn subsidiary, Penn Bus Lines, operated the first local service in 1931. The first line was operated between McKeesport and Sutersville, a small coal mining community about 10 miles up the Youghiogheny River. The bus route was a supplement to an existing West Penn rail route and started after a permit was granted by the PAPUC in 1931.  This was the only route of Penn Bus Lines at the time and should have gone to Penn Bus Company when formed, however, with the Penn Bus Company running intercity service, it was operated by the original company.

As a side note, Penn Bus Company was later included in the Blue Ridge System of companies after West Penn's intercity operations began operating under the trade name of Blue Ridge Lines in 1931. Blue Ridge was later acquired by Greyhound in 1955.

In 1934, Penn Bus Lines officially changed its name to the Penn Transit Company and coincided with a second route being established. The second McKeesport area route was also parallel to a West Penn rail route, this one from McKeesport to Irwin.

The corporate structure of Penn Transit Company had a number of divisions which operated more or less as separate companies. The  Leechburg, Kittanning, Greensburg, and McKeesport divisions all were part of the former West Penn rail network with the McKeesport division being the principal or main operation..

West Penn's interest in transit diminished, and Penn Transit Company was sold to City Coach lines in 1937, which had been formed as a holding company by several ex-Greyhound executives. McKeesport's car lines were abandoned in June 1938 and a flood of Yellow Coaches took to the streets via six routes. The Greensburg rail service met a similar fate between 1934 and 1937. Leechburg and Kittanning rail operations both went that way in 1936.

The operations were running very well but in 1944 City Coach Lines was dissolved. As a private company, the properties were acquired by its principal officers on the dissolving of the company. Hiram L. Bollum acquired the Penn Transit Company, along with the Springfield Street Railway in Massachusetts, York Bus Company and Westside Motor Transit Co. in Pennsylvania. At this time, Bollum also formed the City Lines of West Virginia to acquire various bus operation from the Monongahela West Penn Public Service Company.

In 1948, Penn Transit Company was asked by the PAPUC to operate routes once run by the Westmoreland Transportation Company who went bankrupt. The Westmoreland Transportation Company operated primarily in New Kensington.  This created a fifth division for Penn Transit Company that serviced the New Kensington area.

All of the divisions enjoyed various degrees of prosperity caused by the post-war boom in population, industrial growth and spending. By the 1950s, however, prosperity began to fade in some areas. The Greensburg lines were sold in 1953 to Carl Boe, who operated Ridge Lines, to operate as Greensburg City Lines, then resold a year later. It generally declined until abandonment in 1967. The other divisions didn't fare much better: Kittanning was sold off and Leechburg was abandoned, both in 1953. New Kensington was turned into a subsidiary, New Kensington City Lines, in 1956, leaving McKeesport as the strongest survivor.

McKeesport lines were adjusted to meet varying ridership demands and trends, including catering to the mill workers and their various shifts. At the end, the system had eight routes and 40 buses - the largest fleet of any independent that did not operate into downtown Pittsburgh. Between 1940 and 1955 all equipment was purchased new, and varied from Ford to Beaver to Mack to GM. A pair of second-hand Flxibles appeared briefly in 1955, as did a set of stick shift 4509s in 1958. Five new TDH4517s were added in 1960, followed in 1962 by six TGH3102s, which were nicknamed "peanut wagons" by the drivers. Four other second hand TDH4512s and 4509s were added in 1962.

Penn Transit Company's garage, which was built adjacent to the former West Penn car barn on Walnut Street was used by PAT until the West Mifflin Garage was opened. The structure still stands today and the faded Penn Transit Co lettering can still be seen on the building.

Acquired Equipment (with PAT number if re-numbered)
Penn Transit Number Make Model Year PAT Number
54 GM TDH4509 1953 480
239-240 GM TDH3612 1951 710-711
242 GM TDH3612 1951 789
244 GM TDH3612 1951 790
248 GM TDH3612 1952 714
249 GM TDH3612 1952 788
250-251 GM TDH3612 1952 712-713
252 GM TDH4512 1954 375
253-254 GM TDH4512 1954 365-366
255-259 GM TDH4512 1953 367-371
260-262 GM TDH4512 1957 372-374
520-522 Mack C41GT 1947 -
523 Mack C41GT 1947 95
524 Mack C41GT 1947 -
526 Mack C41GT 1947 96
527 Mack C41GT 1947 -
528 Mack C41GT 1947 97
529 Mack C41GT 1948 98
601-605 GM TDH4517 1960 533-537
801-806 GM TDH3102 1962 801-806

Note: Coach 525 was destroyed by fire shortly after delivery and replaced with coach 529.

Routes (shown with PAT numbers)
60A Walnut
60B Jenny Lind
60C Grandview
60D Bryn Mawr
60E Rainbow Gardens
60F Johnstons Greenhouse
60G Fairhaven Heights
60H Blythedale
60J Greenock Heights
60K Crawford Village
Only the McKeesport division routes listed.

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This page was updated on June 26, 2008

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