HEINO, Netherlands — Sprinkled across the U.S. are a number of opportunities for bus enthusiasts and industry veterans to see the industry’s heritage on display.
For those who have families that aren’t quite as fired up about such a specialized road trip, there is a unique opportunity to combine a “bus man’s holiday” and a European vacation.
Dutch operator ElboBus Trailways is home to a remarkable collection of vintage American coaches, with a number restored and operating. Ranging from a 1947 GM Silversides PD3751 and a PD4103 all the way to a 1982 MC9, Elbo’s antique fleet showcases North American bus technology from the end of WWII through the 1980s.
According to company owner Martyn Besselsen, the name Elbo is an acronym for “Enige Leuke Bus Onderneming” or “Only Nice Bus Company.”
In the 1960s, Besselsen’s dad, Co, started a camp dedicated to giving underprivileged children the opportunity to spend time outside the city. In 1969 he bought a used coach to transport kids to the camp but wasn’t allowed to operate because he lacked required permits.
Rather than quit, he bought a small six-bus operator in Leidschendam, Holland, and ultimately moved it to Heino.
Elbo currently runs a modern fleet of coaches that offer tour and charter services. Besselsen is proud of the fact that 30 percent of Elbo’s business still comes from the camp. In addition, they operate an activity center and dinosaur park. That amounts to a special kind of diversification.
Besselsen said he “grew up between the buses,” often joining his father on trips and helping his uncle who did all the maintenance in the early days.
In the early 2000s, Elbo was approached by Trailways and became an enthusiastic member, in part because it was doing a lot of work for American groups. In addition to serving tourists, the company does a thriving business with universities, churches and the military.
About the same time Elbo joined Trailways, Besselsen noticed that American groups were on a tight budget and decided that school buses might be a way to save them money and make things interesting.
In short order, Elbo had 12 yellow buses and found them in demand for lots of local trips.
While searching for “yellow buses” on eBay, Besselsen stumbled across an antique Silversides, and with one click, he owned a bus in California.
“It was quite an adventure to get it here and a lot of work to get it ready,” he said. “We were used to school buses that you could drive directly from the ship. But finally we got it restored very beautifully and it looks amazing.”
The rest is history (pun intended), and along with Elbo’s fleet of modern coaches, it now owns 10 vintage North American buses, including the iconic Big Dog, an operable Scenicruiser.
Elbo’s current roster of antique North American buses includes:
- 1947 Silversides PD3751 7235
- 1952 Red Ghost (bus historian Bob Redden’s old bus) GM PD4103 1355
- 1956 GM PD4501 832 Scenicruiser
- 1962 GMC PD4106 907
- 1975 GMC T6H4523A1376 Fishbowl
- 1977 GMC P8M4905A1617 Buffalo
- 1977 GMC P8M4905A1737 Buffalo Automatic
- 1978 MCI MC8
- 1979 MCI MC9 S14537
- 1982 MCI MC9 37235 (ex-Navy)
In addition, Elbo has a number of interesting antique European coaches, including the open top bus that was carrying the Dutch royal family during an unsuccessful terrorist attack in 2009. Its modern fleet just added two new Volvo coaches
Bear in mind that Elbo Trailways is a busy modern bus operator, so if you are planning on traveling to Europe, it would be worthwhile to contact Besselsen and arrange a visit. You may be able to trick your family into going, or sneak off while they explore stuffy old cathedrals.
You can reach Elbo at http://trailwayseurope.com/