RED LODGE — Folks in Red Lodge had a chance to ride an original bus used to transport people in Yellowstone Park before World War II. This Sunday, they’re being used to give the public a peek into the past, for a great cause.
Thanks to the nonprofit, Buses of Yellowstone Preservation Trust, tourists like Hamilton resident, Ellen Nichol, spent their morning riding around town in historic style.
“You get a nice little tour of the town, you get to go up on the bench, you get a little history. And most of all you get to stand up and put your arms up, you get to wave like you’re in the parade,” Nichol said.
What started as a restoration project for original Yellowstone Park buses became a nonprofit committed to preserving these vehicles.
Don Mueller and his brother, John, were part of the original group of founders.
“Preserving is important to us and having people be able to touch them, sit in them and ride in them, so that they can experience a little bit of the, maybe thrill, that people had riding through the park in them,” Mueller said.
Founded in 2008, the group used this Labor Day weekend as an opportunity to fundraise for flood victims in Red Lodge. It brought visitors with their own personal ties to the buses.
“My dad drove several times before and after World War II. And he drove several years up through the early 50s up from about 1947 to about 1952,” said Red Lodge tourist, Jim Stoner.
It’s come full circle for Stoner as he boarded one of the buses his dad used to drive. He recounted one memory of his parents the way they were back then.
“When they got to the end, my mom would always sit up in the front. So when they got off, she’d be the first one off and give my dad a tip. It loosened all the purse strings cuz you really do well after that,” Stoner said.
Even the building in which the buses are housed has historical significance to Red Lodge. David Whitcomb’s grandfather built it as a service station in 1936.
“In terms of the petroleum distribution here, this service station is probably the oldest if not one of the oldest service stations that operated in the state of Montana,” said nonprofit member, Whitcomb.
The volunteers at the Buses of Yellowstone Preservation Trust are working to restore the garage so the buses can stay there long-term.
“It makes me feel really good. My grandfather and dad and uncle would appreciate it,” Whitcomb said.