Andrew Turnbull presents

The History of School Transportation in Mercer County, WV

1936-63 - 1963-74 - 1974-84 - 1984-91 - 1991-97 - 1997-2003


1984-86

In 1984, Jim Akers was succeeded as transportation director by Eddie Hopkins. Hopkins would go on to direct school transportation in Mercer County well into the next century; his tenure exceeded only by that of the late Randy Robinette.

A slightly greater number of buses than average were acquired for the 1985-86 school year, possibly to accelerate the district's conversion to diesel engines. All were Blue Bird/International conventional models.

school bus

A late-model Blue Bird/International served as the backdrop for this yearbook photo of Bramwell school bus drivers in the 1980s. No number is visible, but this bus was either #393, #394, or #402 in the fleet. [Bramwell High School yearbook, 1986]

school bus

#401, a 1985 Blue Bird/International conventional, sits in the Princeton bus yard surrounded by a veil of snow. At the time, this was almost certainly the oldest bus in the county's fleet still in commission. [Photo by the author, 2000]

Bus
Year
Body
Chassis
Cap.
Notes
383
1984
Blue Bird?
International
59
Served Spanishburg. Decommissioned and sold in 1999.
384
1984 Blue Bird? International 59
Served Spanishburg. Replaced by 478 in 1992. Decommissioned and sold in 1993.
385
1984 Blue Bird? International 71
Served Princeton. Replaced by 479 in 1993. Decommissioned and sold in 1997.
386
1984 Blue Bird? International 71
Decommissioned and sold in 1993. Served Glenwood.
387
1984 Blue Bird? International 71
Served Matoaka, Oakvale. Replaced by 480 in 1993. Decommissioned and sold in 1994.
388
1984 Blue Bird? International 71
Served Bluefield. Decommissioned and sold in 1993.
389
1984 Blue Bird? International 71
Served Glenwood. Replaced by 481 (or 482?) in 1993. Decommissioned and sold in 1993.
390
1984 Blue Bird? International 71
Served Matoaka, Princeton. Decommissioned and sold in 1993.
391
1984 Blue Bird? International 71
Served Princeton. Decommissioned and sold in 1993.
392
1984 Blue Bird? International 71
Served Bluefield. Decommissioned and sold in 1993.
393
1985
Blue Bird
International 47
Served Bramwell. Replaced by 497 in 1995.
394
1985 Blue Bird International?
Served Bramwell. Replaced by 484 in 1993.
395
1985 Blue Bird International 53
Served Princeton. Replaced by 487 in 1993. Decommissioned and sold in 1997.
396
1985 Blue Bird International 53
Decommissioned and sold in 1993.
397
1985 Blue Bird International 59
Served Spanishburg. Decommissioned and sold in 1993.
398
1985 Blue Bird International 59
Served Athens. Replaced by 485 in 1993. Decommissioned and sold in 1997.
399
1985 Blue Bird International 59
Served Glenwood, Bluefield. Decommissioned and sold in 1994.
400
1985 Blue Bird International 71
Served Bluewell, Ceres. Decommissioned and sold in 1999.
401
1985 Blue Bird International 71
Served Glenwood. Decommissioned and sold in 2002. Probably the last county bus in commission with a manual transmission.
402
1985 Blue Bird International 71
Served Bramwell, Bluewell. Decommissioned and sold in 1994.
403
1985 Blue Bird International 71
Served Matoaka. Replaced by 491 in 1994. Decommissioned and sold in 1994.
404
1985 Blue Bird International 71
Served Matoaka. Decommissioned and sold in 1994.

1986-87

In February of 1986, International Harvester Corporation reorganized itself as Navistar International. Mercer County's 1986-model buses were thus among the first to bear the chassis-maker's new corporate title and "diamond road" grille emblem. This group of buses was also the last of the county's to be equipped with manual transmissions. Ward (i.e., AmTran) submitted the winning bid as the body supplier.

Two Type D Blue Bird All American buses were also acquired this year. These buses were the last in the county to bear the "classic" pre-1990s All American styling with stacked round headlights, and they remained in service until the early 2000s.

school bus

#405, a Ward/International conventional, seen in its inaugural winter of operation. [BDT 1987-01-23]

school bus

#418, a 1987 Blue Bird All American Type D model. Note the rectangular clearance marker lights and their unusual positioning adjacent to the flashers. Most Blue Bird buses of this era instead had triangular marker lights on the outboard roof corners. [BDT 1991-09-07]

Bus
Year
Body
Chassis
Cap.
Notes
405
1986 Ward
International 47
Decommissioned and sold in 1997.
406
1986 Ward?
International 47
Served Montcalm. Replaced by 492 in 1994. Decommissioned and sold in 1999.
407
1986 Ward? International 47
Wheelchair lift? Served Princeton. Decommissioned and sold in 1999.
408
1986 Ward? International?
Served Spanishburg.
409
1986 Ward? International?
Served Matoaka. Replaced by 494 in 1995.
410
1986 Ward
International 59
Served Athens. Replaced by 495 in 1994. Later repurposed as a maintenance vehicle. May have been sold in 2004.
411
1986 Ward? International 71
Served Princeton. Replaced by 496 in 1995. Decommissioned and sold in 1999.
412
1986 Ward? International?
Served Bluefield, Montcalm.
413
1986 Ward? International 71
Served Bluefield. Replaced by 486 in 1994. Decommissioned and sold in 1999.
414
1986 Ward? International 71
Served Princeton. Decommissioned and sold in 1999.
415
1986 Ward? International 71
Served Glenwood. Decommissioned and sold in 1997.
416
1986
Ward? International
71
Served Princeton. Decommissioned and sold in 1999.
417
1987
Blue Bird
(Type D) 89
Served Bluefield. Replaced by 502 in 1996, then reassigned and replaced by 528 in 2000. May have been sold in 2001.
418
1987
Blue Bird
(Type D)
89
Served Bluefield. Replaced by 503 in 1996. Decommissioned and sold in 2002.

1987-88

Wayne Corporation won the Mercer County school bus contract for two years in a row in the late eighties. This group of buses was likely the first to be equipped with roof hatches, enhancing passenger safety in the event of a rollover collision. They hung around a long time, too: Whereas in past years most buses were retired from daily use after eight years and decommissioned altogether by ten, many of Mercer's late-1980s Wayne buses were kept on the rolls for 15 years or more, serving as the "go-to" vehicles for spare or field trip duty through the author's early-2000s high school days. This was ample evidence of how durable Wayne's seamless Lifeguard bodies were...and how the school board's budget was being whittled away.

In order to compensate for the multi-month gap between the chassis and body stages of school bus manufacture, Navistar International appears to have adopted the dubious practice of "model year inflation" at this time. All the new International-chassis buses that were built in 1987 and acquired by the district in 1987 thus carried 1988-coded VINs instead of 1987 VINs. This problem became more acute in later years, eventually leading to a state of absurdity where school bus "model years" begin two years early.

school bus

A short 1988 Wayne/International model with a rear wheelchair lift, now decommissioned. The fleet number has weathered off, but through the process of elimination we can logically deduce that it is #420. [Photo by the author, 2013]

school bus

All the buses that Mercer County purchased for 1988 were Waynes...except for #421, which was inexplicably a Blue Bird. In this case, it also served as the background for a drivers' photo. [Bramwell High School yearbook, 1988]

school bus

#428, a 71-passenger Wayne/International model once in the county's fleet. It has seen better days. [Photo by the author, 2013]

school bus school bus

#429, yet another 1988 Wayne/International model and a twin to the last. At the time, #429 had been retired from daily duties and cast to the county's "spare bus" pool. The front corner of #460 or #461, a 1990 Ward/GMC bus, is also visible in the first picture. [Photos by the author, 2000]

Bus
Year
Body
Chassis
Cap.
Notes
419
1988
Wayne? International 47
Served Matoaka. Replaced by 505 in 1996. Decommissioned and sold in 1999.
420
1988 Wayne International 47
Wheelchair lift? Served Princeton. Decommissioned and sold in 2002.
421
1988 Blue Bird
International
Served Bramwell. Replaced by 509 in 1996. May have been sold in 2001.
422
1988 Wayne International 71
Served Princeton, Athens.
423
1988 Wayne International 71
Served Athens.
424
1988 Wayne International 71
Served Bluefield.
425
1988 Wayne International
Served Athens.
426
1988 Wayne International 71
Served Bramwell. Replaced by 516 in 1997?
427
1988 Wayne International
71
Served Spanishburg.
428
1988 Wayne International 71
Served Montcalm, Oakvale. Last International S-series bus in regular service.
429
1988 Wayne International 71
Served Athens. Decommissioned and sold in 2002.

1988-89

After nearly two decades of purchasing International-based school buses almost exclusively, Mercer County elected to vary the mix in 1988 with a few buses built on GMC medium-duty chassis. Due to International's practice of "model year inflation," the GMC buses had VINs a year behind those of the Internationals from the same batch. All had Wayne bodies.

Waynes acquired for the 1988-89 school year differed in subtle ways from the previous batch. To begin, a black stripe and stylized "W" logo were added to the roof. Flasher visors were now rounded instead of squared, and roof hatches became staggered along separate sides of the central rib.

school bus

#440, a 1988 Wayne/GMC, seen at the author's high school in its very first month of existence. [BDT 1994-09-25]

school bus

In 2013, transportation enthusiast Ryan Dunn happened upon this Wayne/GMC parked in Cleveland, Ohio...that just happened to be identical to the Wayne/GMC buses that Mercer County acquired in 1988, and just happened to still bear the number "442" on its repainted flanks! It just goes to show that you never know where a local school bus may end up. [Photo by Ryan Dunn]

Bus
Year
Body
Chassis
Cap.
Notes
431
1989
Wayne International 47
Decommissioned and sold in 2002.
432
1989 Wayne International 47
Rear wheelchair lift? Served Montcalm. Decommissioned and sold in 1999.
433
1989 Wayne International 47
Rear wheelchair lift. Served Spanishburg. Decommissioned and sold in 2002.
434
1989 Wayne? International?
Served Princeton. Replaced by 520 in 1999.
435
1989 Wayne International 59
Served Matoaka. Decommissioned and sold in 2002.
436
1989 Wayne International 59
Served Athens, Oakvale, Princeton. Replaced by 521 in 1999. Decommissioned and sold in 2002.
437
1989 Wayne International 59
Served Oakvale. Replaced by 526 in 1999. Decommissioned and sold in 2002.
438
1989 Wayne International?
Served Bluefield, Matoaka. Replaced by 527 in 1999.
439
1989 Wayne? International?

Replaced by 522 in 1999. Served Spanishburg. Later repurposed as a maintenance vehicle.
440
1988
Wayne GMC
71
Replaced by 523 in 1999. Served Princeton, Matoaka. Decommissioned and sold in 2002.
441
1988 Wayne GMC
71
Replaced by 524 in 1999. Served Bluefield. Decommissioned and sold in 2002.
442
1988 Wayne
GMC
71
Replaced by 525 in 1999. Served Bluefield. May have been sold in 2001, but unconfirmed. Now in Ohio.
443
1988 Wayne?
GMC?

Served Princeton. May have been sold in 2001, but unconfirmed.

1989-90

1989 was the year in which Navistar International redesigned its line of medium-duty chassis and trucks, replacing the boxy S-series mainstays of the 1980s. The resulting "3700" and "3800" series school bus chassis featured a slick new look with rectangular headlights, faired-in corner lights, a curved bumper, and a body-colour slat grille. International also got a head start on the next model year with the introduction of the new line, so all 3700/3800-series buses carried "1990" VINs even if they were manufactured in early 1989.

Both this year and next, school bus bodies were furnished by American Transportation's Ward unit...with the exception of a solitary Wayne Lifestar Type D bus. The author had the privilege of seeing this rare bus in operation twice in his high school years...though alas, he never was able to snag a photo.

school bus

#446, a 1990 Ward Volunteer/International model. This bus bears front-end damage from a minor road collision, obscuring the fact that this was the very first bus acquired by the county to bear International's modernized nose styling. [BDT 1994-06-02]

school bus

The rear end of #448, an identical 1990 bus. [Photo by the author, 2000]

Bus
Year
Body
Chassis
Cap.
Notes
444
1989
Ward GMC
71
Served Montcalm. Replaced by 530 in 2000.
445
1989
Ward GMC?
Served Montcalm, Princeton, and Oakvale.
446
1990
Ward International 65
Served Bluefield. Replaced by 531 in 2000. Decommissioned and sold in 2002.
447
1990
Ward International 65
Served Oakvale. Replaced by 532 in 2000. Decommissioned and sold in 2002.
448
1990 Ward International 65
Served Oakvale. Decommissioned and sold in 2002.
452
1990 Ward International 47
Served Glenwood, Bluewell. Decommissioned and sold in 2002.
453
1990 Ward International 47
Rear wheelchair lift? Served Matoaka. Decommissioned and sold in 2002.
454
1990 Ward International 47
Served Spanishburg. Replaced by 518 in 1997. Decommissioned and sold in 2002.
455
1990 Wayne (Type D)
89
Wayne Lifestar model. Replaced by 428 (an older conventional), then by 535. Probably the last Wayne bus acquired by the county.

1990-91

Although identical in most respects to the previous year's buses, this batch was the first to be specified with new semicircular crossover fender mirrors that afforded drivers a greater field of vision.

Due to General Motors discontinuing production of its S6000-series conventional school bus chassis in 1991, this was the last of the county's bus orders to be split between International and GMC. Mercer would trend back towards an "all-International" fleet the following year.

school busschool bus

#460 and #461, two identical Ward/GMC buses that were ridden by the author. [Illustrations by the author, 2013]

school bus

#463, a 1991 Ward/International model of modest capacity. [Photo by the author, 2013]

school bus

#465, a short 1991 Ward/International model with a side access door for a rear wheelchair lift. Note the presence of tinted glass on this particular bus. [Photo by the author, 2000]

Bus
Year
Body
Chassis
Cap.
Notes
456
1990
Ward GMC?

Served Montcalm.
457
1990 Ward GMC?
Served Princeton.
458
1990 Ward GMC?
Served Princeton. Replaced by 538 in 2001.
459
1990 Ward GMC?
Served Bluefield.
460
1990 Ward GMC
71
Served Athens. Replaced by 540 in 2001.
461
1990 Ward GMC 71
Served Athens. Replaced by 541 in 2001. Decommissioned and sold in 2002.
462
1991
Ward International 47
Served Bramwell. Decommissioned and sold in 2007.
463
1991 Ward International 47
Served Athens. Replaced by 544 in 2002.
464
1991 Ward International
Rear wheelchair lift? Served Glenwood.
465
1991 Ward International 47
Rear wheelchair lift. Served Athens. Decommissioned and sold in 2008.
466
1991 Ward
International 47
Rear wheelchair lift. Served Oakvale.
467
1991 Ward?
International?
Rear wheelchair lift. Served Montcalm.

Continued...






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