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Rare GM public bus saved by City bus man
reprinted from Red Deer Express (Johnnie Bachusky) December 30, 2009

Parkin's bus - Miller photo

Wheels Rolling - Steve Parkin poses by his rare antique General Motors model TDH-3301 --
a 30-foot, 33-passenger 'short' bus that was built in 1971.

Photo by Brendan Miller, Red Deer Express


Steve Parkin has been a lover of transit buses for as long as he can remember.

He loves the way they sound roaring down a city street, the smell of their diesel fumes and their many different styles and shapes.

For almost the past 21 years, Parkin, 44, has worked for the City's transit department.

He is now the transit facilities superintendent, in charge of the light maintenance of the City's 50 buses. He is truly at home, doing a labour of love for a living.

But this past summer he finalized an even bigger dream -- acquiring his very own bus.

And this vehicle is no ordinary transit bus. It is a collector's treasure; an extremely rare antique General Motors model TDH-3301 - a 30-foot, 33-passenger 'short' bus that was built in 1971.

GM built 113 of the TDH-3301 model. Steve's bus is number 112 of those 113. Only 20 of this model were imported to Canada.

"It's extremely rare. That was the thing that made me want to acquire this one," said Parkin.

At the time they called Steve's treasure the 'New Look Bus'. GM built 510 various models of the 'short' 30-ft. buses from 1969 to '73, while producing more than 40,000, between 1959 and 1986, of the 35-foot and 40-foot buses. These longer buses serviced most North American urban centres.

When he started working for the City in 1989 the entire fleet of longer buses (there were no 30-foot models) was manufactured by GM. Today, there is only one 40-foot GM bus left in the Red Deer fleet.

A few years ago, while surfing through various bus internet chat sites, Parkin came across a notice that a private Vancouver collector wanted to find a new home for an old bus.

Parkin soon learned it was a prized GM short bus, one that was first delivered to Nelson, B.C. in 1971 for public transit. He also found out his transit treasure had survived a huge garage fire in 1975 that wiped out Nelson's transit facilities. The bus, after repairs, continued to run in Nelson until 1989. It went to a historical group and then to the private Vancouver collector.

"This bus was damaged but not so heavily they couldn't save it," said Parkin, noting the vehicle was somewhat a collector's item even in 1971. "It was the only one brought to B.C. that was of this particular version."

After many months of lengthy discussions, and working with the owner to ensure a few repairs were made, Parkin went to Vancouver last July to get a first-hand look and test drive the rare 30-footer.

"It was in amazing condition especially considering the age of it," said Parkin. "There was no corrosion on it and the previous owner kept it up really well. It is good enough now that it actually passed the commercial inspection in B.C."

Before the deal was sealed Parkin had a bigger obstacle to overcome -- finding insurance.

Few insurance companies would even consider covering the antique.

But Parkin was able to convince his own insurance company to provide coverage.

"The fact it was still a seated bus the insurance companies were worried about liability but luckily my own car insurance folks took it on with the understanding it would run with an antique plate, which is very restrictive, very limited use," said Parkin, who is not permitted to drive the bus with passengers.

When the deal was ultimately finalized last summer Parkin paid the Vancouver collector $3,500. He then put out another $2,800 to have the bus transported to Red Deer. (The short bus can't be driven on major or secondary highways as its maximum speed is only 50 mph.)

In August he was finally able to sit in his own bus, and then take it for a leisurely drive.

"It gets lots of looks when I am driving around in it, mostly because it is so short," said Parkin.

And while Parkin's bus may be short its future is now securely longer. The once "New Look" bus is now looking even newer in the devoted hands of a passionate bus man.

       News article: Newest city ghost unveiled downtown (Red Deer Express May 2012)
       News article: Ghost unveiled
(Red Deer Advocate May 2012)
       News article: Classic bus cruises city streets
(Red Deer Advocate June 2011)
       News article: Transit to retire last low-floor vehicle
(Red Deer Advocate Feb.2011)
       News article: Parkade named Sorensen Station
(Red Deer Express June 2010)
       News article: Downtown parkade to be named after transportation pioneer Gordon Sorensen                                                                                                                
(Red Deer Advocate June 2010)
Evolution of Transit in Central Alberta
History of Red Deer Transit


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