by Bryan Larrabee
A few months ago I was having coffee with my friend James Pearson who happens to work for 911
Filmcars. They provide an array of vehicles for the film industry. In passing I happened to ask about a
derelict GM Oldlook bus that had been stored for some time off Byrne Road in Burnaby. The bus had
mysteriously disappeared. James wasn’t sure where the bus went and I mentioned that if they decide to
scrap it, keep us in mind because we might want to take some seats and other parts.
The discussion was forgotten by both of us until a rainy Tuesday afternoon in December. Around 3:30
pm I got an urgent call from James. The Oldlook bus had been parked at a film set near the Golden Ears
Bridge for a few months. 911 Filmcars had to move it immediately and they decided to ask James to
arrange to have it towed to scrap.
James asked if the Transit Museum could have it if they paid for the towing and they said yes but it
would have to be moved immediately. My first call was to Dale Laird, our President, to ask “Can we take
this bus? At the very least we could part it out and scrap it to recover our towing costs”. Dale was
concerned about finding a place to park it because the City of Burnaby won’t allow us to park unlicensed
buses outside in our compound. After some discussion he agreed we could take it.
My next call was to Angus McIntyre who is on our Board of Directors. Angus has a good contact within
Mundies Towing and if anyone can get us a tow truck on short notice, it’s Angus. He was very doubtful
and asked if there was any way we could make arrangements for the next day. I said I would try and in
the meantime he would call Mundies. As Angus was arranging for a tow truck for noon the next day, I
was finding out that the bus couldn’t wait. It had to be gone that night. We were going to miss the
chance to acquire the bus.
I texted Mundies to say “Sorry it won’t work for us, the bus has go tonight”. My phone rang
immediately and Mundies said “Tonight is better. We have a truck clearing in Port Kells right now!”
So I called James back and told him we could do it after all. He made arrangements with the movie lot
and we agreed to drop everything and meet the tow truck at our Roseberry shop. I arrived 10 minutes
before James and was moving a bus out of the shop to make room when the tow truck with bus in tow
came sailing around the corner.
The driver showed his skill and backed the derelict Oldlook right into the shop, disconnected and drove
away. It was 7pm. It only took three and a half hours from the first phone call to delivery of the bus.
This left James and I standing there looking in silence at an extremely dirty bus full of junk and smelling
like musky mold. James looked at me and broke the silence by saying “What have we done?”
We had to leave a licensed bus outside while we rallied the Board of Directors to decide what to do with
the derelict Oldlook. I immediately evoked a “cone of silence” over the bus until all the Directors were
informed and the Board had a chance to discuss the fate of the bus. I didn’t want our volunteers to start
posting pictures until the directors had a chance to consider options. In the meantime James was able
to tell us that all the glass on the bus had been replaced, the fuel tank had been cleaned out and various
bus parts were stored inside. All the seats were intact except the driver’s seat. There were old wasp
nests to remove and a layer of dirt both inside and outside of the bus. We had to use N95 respirators to
work on the inside of the bus.
I bought some rubbermaid containers and we used them to store bus parts as we removed them. We
found garbage and mouldy cardboard that fell apart as we tried to remove it. We pushed the bus
outside on a Sunday and Kyle Little power washed part of the exterior as Harry Vagg and I worked on the
interior. Over the next week, Jason Sharpe and Matthew Walker joined in the cleanup.
At the Directors meeting it was agreed that we will have the bus assessed first for structural integrity
(the floor, bulkheads and suspension). The second assessment will be for mechanical condition
(driveline, engine and transmission). We will ask a Detroit Diesel mechanic to give us a
recommendation. We understand that if the Museum keeps the bus, it will become a long term project.
The bus was given fleet #740 when it first operated in Victoria and later assumed the current fleet #678
when it saw service in Prince George. This information is not verified but if we keep the bus, should it
be known as #740 or #678?
by Bryan Larrabee