Tom Collins might be the bus version of a ‘Man for all Seasons’

In September of 1960 he first slid into the driver’s seat of a C-36 Brill transit bus to begin a distinguished career in the bus industry that did not wind down until 2023.

The Brill belonged to Conestoga Transportation, a company that provided every facet of bus service to Tom Collins’ hometown of Lancaster, Pennslvania.  As a result, he rapidly gained experience and responsibility in transit, commuter, scheduled service and charter, and was quickly promoted to “operations.” That wide variety of experience served him well over the coming decades.

Spike and Jim Michaud with then MBT President Tom Collins
Spike and Jim Michaud with then MBT President Tom Collins.

Over the next 60+ years Collins’ career included increasingly responsible management stints in both the public and private sectors of the bus business. He was a key player at a number of companies that were synonymous with first rate service during great times for the industry including Safeway Trails, Carl R. Bieber Tourways, Trans-Bridge Lines and Martz Gold Line.

Tom made the move to the public sector in York Pennsylvania, and then on to SEPTA in Philadelphia, where he served full time from 1985 to 2006, and parttime until 2023 and managed to shoehorn in some contract work for CAT in Harrisburg.

A number of people have had distinguished careers in private sector coaches, and many in public sector transit. Collins is one of the very few who have made their mark in both.

In the midst of all this, in 1997 Dick Maguire, one of the Museum of Bus Transportation founders and benefactors, asked Collins to serve on the Board. Maguire was an icon in the transportation industry, and owned Capitol Trailways. 

When Maguire passed away in 2001, the Board elected Collins President, a position he held until 2017. During that time, under his leadership, the museum purchased the George Sage Annex in Hummelstown to store the antique bus fleet and rented floor space in the new AACA Museum.  

This exhibit, in what is now “Americas Transportation Experience,” is the only antique bus and coach display in the U.S. open to the public year round.

During his tenure, the fleet of historic buses grew from 12 to more than 40, and Spring Fling, the museum’s signature annual event for bus enthusiasts, grew to an average attendance of over 500.

Bus museum members, historians and enthusiasts all owe Collins a huge debt for his hard work in preserving the history of bus transportation. 

Few, if any, have dedicated so many seasons to both the industry and preserving its’ history.

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