Friday, October 21, 2011

The 1100s

What were the 1100s?

According to this online historical Tri-Met bus roster the 1100s were a group of GMC and Flxible New Look (a.k.a. "Fishbowl" buses) that were purchased second hand from a variety of sources including Denver and a Hawaiian transit agency.  Tri-Met purchased the buses between 1975 and 1980 so they actually pre-date the 700s (artics) which were purchased in 1981.  However the artics had more than their fair share of problems when introduced (including the infamous falling-off-the-wheelchair-lift incident resulting in the disabling of the center-door mounted wheelchair lifts, and the cracked frames).

Many of the buses were originally numbered in lower series, such as in the 200s, 400s, 500s, and 900s.  In 1981, these buses were renumbered into the 1100 series to make way for the GMC RTS fleet that would occupy the 900 series.  The RTSes and Crown-Ikarus flxibles would be the first buses delivered in the red, orange and brown stripe scheme and not the orange scheme Tri-Met used since its inception, and would exist well into the 1980s on older vehicles.

Tri-Met also had a trio of GMC buses in the 1200-1202 series.  From 1988 through 1989 Tri-Met would backfill the now empty 500 and 600 series with the first order of Flxible Metros.  In 1990, Gillig made its first appearance in Portland with a fleet of Phantoms showing up in the 1400 series - a model and series that exists to this day as TriMet's oldest fleet vehicle.  For some reason the 1500 series was skipped over, and the 30 foot Phantoms took the 1600 series.  Tri-Met returned to Flxible for more Metros in the 1700 and 1800 series, plus an order of 10 30' buses in the 1900 series in the mid-1990s.

By the late 1990s when Westside MAX was opened, Tri-Met (soon to become just TriMet) would place in service its 2000 series New Flyer D40LFs (TriMet's first Flyers) and its 2100 series Gillig Phantoms...and then retire the last of the 300 and 400 series Flxible New Looks dating back as far as 1972, the 700 series Crown-Ikarus artics, and the 900 series RTSes.  Some of the 900 series vehicles were sold to SMART and Cherriots, and I am still kicking myself for not getting a picture of a former TriMet 900 series vehicle still in TriMet colors at the Barbur Transit Center running SMART's 2X route.  (The bus was later repainted, but the Tri-Met fleet number above the driver's window was not removed giving a hint to its heritage.  I have a picture of the bus in that paint somewhere, and I believe that bus was only recently retired when SMART purchased some used Phantoms, believed from C-Tran.)  Cherriots has also recently retired its once large RTS fleet and replaced it with a mixed fleet of Orion and Gillig low-floor buses.

The 300s, 400s, 500s, and 700s quickly disappeared - rarely one can be found purchased by a private party who intended to convert it into a RV; I've never seen a successful conversion of an ex-TriMet bus.  One bus, vehicle 434, was purchased by a "bus fan" and is the only known preserved former Tri-Met bus.

Back to the 1100s...most of them were of the following models:

GMC TDH-5303
GMC TDH-5301
Flxible F2D6V-401
Flxible F2D6V-401-1

The GMC naming convention is pretty easy:
T:  Transit (as opposed to S: for suburban/commuter)
D: Diesel (G: gas was also available)
H: Hydraulic Transmission (as opposed to M: for manual transmission)

53:  53 passenger seating configuration (a 40 foot bus)
01:  Series, these buses were manufactured between 1959-1962

Here's a picture of such a bus from Wikipedia.

Here's a picture of a Tri-Met TDH-4519, a 1963-1967 era 35 foot bus (vehicle 575, originally a Rose City Transit vehicle.)

Flxible's model numbers were obviously a little different.  For a model F2D6V-401:

F2:  102 inch wide body (all GMCs were 96 inches wide)
D:  Diesel (Propane was an option)
6V:  Detroit Diesel 6V71 engine with a T-Drive transmission
-40:  40 foot length
1:  Transit (Suburban buses had a '7')

The buses that had the additional "-1" had air conditioning.

Here's a video of a restored Seattle Transit System F2D6V which you can ride as part of Metro's Historical Vehicle fleet (and proudly owned by King County Metro!)