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WB Bus Subway

Recent MaBSTOA-Related Anniversaries

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Though the times have passed for each, better late than never to mention them:

- June was the 55th anniversary of the debut, in 1963, on New York City streets of the first buses built by GM for the then year-old MaBSTOA, numbered 3301-3555 in model TDH-5303.  They were the first buses for this agency (which only the year before had taken over the routes previously operated by Fifth Avenue Coach Lines and its Surface Transit subsidiary) to have one singular roll sign in front, as opposed to two split ones.  Their layout copied (not specifically by the type sizes) that of 1959-62 5301's built for the TA, with route number at left, and at right two small lines of type with the route name on top and 'TO __________ [destination]' at bottom - the only group to have such signs so laid out.  By this yardstick, we can gauge that the buses, when first delivered, were originally assigned to Kingsbridge and West Farms in the Bronx, and Amsterdam and 132nd Street in Manhattan.  I've not seen pics of bus runs with these or later models of routes from either Kingsbridge or Coliseum, but one pic exists "out there" from 1970 of a Bx-42 run (out of West Farms) with a vintage sign of that layout grafted onto one of the 1965-66 group of buses (numbered 6541).  Most pics with these types of signs were predominantly of Amsterdam-based M-104 Broadway and, to a lesser extent, M-100 Broadway-Kingsbridge; most from 132nd were of two of the key Fifth Avenue routes, 3 and 5 (though 4 photos with that type of layout exist, their type seems to be hand-painted as opposed to set by Transign, as 4 prior to September 1963 was assigned out of Kingsbridge in the initial MaBSTOA era).  These buses later ended up going from garage to garage throughout the system, and lasted to about 1976.

- July 1, in 1974, was the day of the big route renumberings in Manhattan, the Bronx, and some Queens routes.  Four of five TA routes had their numbers changed (with only M15 First and Second Avenues retaining its designation); the Queens-oriented routes, QM15 and QM16 (which ended up duplicating the nomenclatures of two Green Bus Lines express bus routes to Manhattan, emanating from Lindenwood and Rockaway Park respectively), to M32 and Q89; Bronx routes with lettered suffices either combined into the source (i.e. Bx12A, Bx12B and Bx12C to Bx12) or assigned recycled numbers (Bx15C to Bx17, Bx15A to Bx6, Bx15B to Bx19) or started anew (Bx5A to Bx54); the TB routes split off into M34, M35 and Bx21; and other Manhattan routes also switched around in the nomenclature department (among them M15 23rd Street to M26, M20 57th Street to M28, M1 Madison-Chambers to M22).  Plus M2A shortened to M2, and M101A becoming M102.  Of the routes so changed back then, subsequent later renumberings were effected such as M26 to M23, M32 to Q32, M28 to M57, and M29 (ex M7 65th Street Crosstown) to M66.

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If there is a major gap in terms of transit literature in New York City, it is the inability to have all of the bus histories made available and updated in printed form.

The late Bernard Linder classics on NYCTA, FACO , NYCO, STS and MABSTOA are only available in reference rooms in  libraries at odd hours.  There are histories of the private companies that were published over the years but again, it is available only in libraries and for reference use only.

There is far more material available on the trolley lines and the subway system including rosters and dates of operation, however, anyone who is interested in NYC transit bus lines has to be able to spend a lot of time in the libraries trying to find the material.

At one time, I had many of these historical treasures in printed form but over the years, they have been lost and quite honestly, I miss reading them. My favorite is "MABSTOA: the first ten years" that  contains a roster of the equipment and the numberings and re-numberings that began with the city takeover. The article when read in conjunction with the NYCO and STS articles detail quite clearly the major problems that STS had and the severity of the maintenance problems in the the late 1950's when NYCO started sending some of its oldest buses to STS as the maintenance was already in the pits.  

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By the time the oldest of FACCo and NYCO buses went to Surface Transit, NYCO had become Fifth Avenue Coach Lines, Inc. (effective June 1, 1956) and swallowed up STS (that Dec. 17).

I know as for the 3301-3555 group when originally assigned, three of the depots to which they went were ex-STS (to replace the dilapidated fleet that still stayed on the roads even with FACL sending up surplus FACCo and NYCO rolling stock), with the other the ex-FACCo depot whose buses were very well-maintained - and from which the oldest of that batch was spread out amongst ex-STS depots (plus making up for what FACCo buses were spirited away by FACL to Westchester during the 1962 strike that led to the creation of MaBSTOA).

I don't know if NYPL has in their branches old Motor Coach Ages, but I have been working to do my own piecing together of the bus history in NYC from old articles in The New York Times - which in their accuracy was sometimes wanting.  There is online old NYCO annual reports (for years ending 1936-50 and 1952; nothing from 1951 or 1953-55 after which they became FACL, for that matter none of their annual reports are online and one has to seek them out in libraries).  Google Books has snippets of 1962-67 transcripts of MaBSTOA proceedings which have also been a help in trying to uncover this maze.  But yeah, one otherwise has to go to libraries to get all the skinny.  If you've seen online on other forums, you may have stumbled on some days in history of the buses.

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Only the main libraries in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan have the Motor Coach Age articles. Brooklyn Public Library has the Brooklyn article in the Brooklyn Division and Queensborough Public Library has a lot of Queens material both public and private in the Long Island Division. New York Public Library has the material at 42nd Street  but I do not know if either Staten Island (St. George) or Bronx (Fordham) has the articles.

For the MABSTOA proceedings, try the New York State Library in Albany.  They have a very good website and if anyone knows where the materials are and how to access it, it is them. If you have p problem with the website, try calling them and see what will be their response. 

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