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New book looks at the history of Glacier’s red buses

| May 29, 2024 7:30 AM

Hungry Horse News

The role of two Montanans in saving the red buses of Glacier National Park is recounted in a new book, “Glacier’s Reds—The quest to save the park’s historic buses” by historian Ray Djuff of Calgary, Canada.

Dennis Schwecke of Great Falls was an engineer at Ford Motor Company with a personal interest in the red buses when he was asked in 1999 to inspect them following the discovery of safety issues. Schwecke’s selection was pivotal in the eventual rescue of the buses.

Also on the inspection team in 1999 was Bruce Austin, a native of Billings who has a passion for collecting and restoring White Motor Company products like the red buses. The fact he owned and had restored a similar Model 706 from Yellowstone gave him first-hand knowledge. Austin stepped up again in 2013 when he lobbied against a proposed Glacier concession contract that might have seen the red buses retired and replaced with new equipment. 

Ray Djuff takes readers behind the scenes to reveal how Schwecke became involved in the bus rescue an eventually brought Ford Motor Company into the picture. And how Austin lobbied in 2013 to save the red buses from the scrap heap of history. 

Yet those were not the only times the buses faced obsolescence. Djuff’s years-long research uncovered repeated instances where their future was in doubt. 

Glacier’s Reds is an in-depth look at the history of the public transportation in Glacier Park, from its origins in 1912 to today. More than 300 photos, many from private collections and in color, show the evolution from horses and wagons to the 1936 creation of the White Motor Company Model 706s, the red buses the public knows and now treasures. 

The story of the red buses could not be told without including their drivers, known as gearjammers for the propensity of unskilled ones to clash gears when shifting. Glacier’s Reds includes first-person accounts of everything from the mundane to the incredible: summer romances that turned into lifelong relationships; why “pigs” got pushed over Logan Pass; to how a gearjammer helped prove the efficacy of a drug that ended the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Glacier’s Reds—The quest to save the park’s historic buses,” is available online from Amazon.com or can be ordered through local bookstores.