May 2000

What Is It?
by Paul Matus

In the early days of bus design, transit officials pondered ways to overcome some of the bus' inherent disadvantages as compared to street railway cars.
     One problem (to this day never fuly resolved) was the limited seating capacity of buses relative to rail vehicles. Another is the poorer ride associated with buses.
     A factor in addressing both problems is the shorter wheelbase and length of buses necessitated by the need to navigate city streets without the operational advantages of a fixed guideway, which keeps rail vehicles within a known pathway.
     The requirement that buses have a rear axle attached inflexibly to the chassis frame also makes the problem worse, as the rear wheels follow the bus on a different pathway from the front wheels, limiting buses' turning radius and therefore overall length. A shorter bus obviously carries fewer passengers.
     In 1925 the Versace Corporation of Albany, New York, demonstrated this innovative vehicle (or weird contraption, depending on your point of view) on the streets of New York's capital city. By building a bus on a railway style frame, and equipping it with railway type trucks (albeit with 8-inch solid tires instead of flanged wheels), the company hoped to convince transit officials that they created the best of both worlds.
     The swiveling front and rear trucks were said to allow this 44-seat, 38 foot long vehicle to turn within a circle of only 47-1/2 foot diameter, including body overhang.
     The problem of powering these swiveling trucks was solved by using electric motors powered by on-board engines.
     Despite its inventors' hopes and efforts, these buses did not revolutionize highway transportation. Would it be too cynical to observe that, back in the free enterprise era of transportation, its failure didn't cost the taxpayers millions?  Both photos Electric Railway Journal.

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Last updated May 1, 2000