Stepping Back in Time: The Historic Red Buses of Glacier National Park

The Red Buses of Glacier National Park are as much a part of the park’s history and identity as the towering peaks and glacier-carved valleys that surround them. These iconic vehicles, with their distinctive design and vibrant color, have been carrying visitors through the park for over a century, offering a unique perspective on one of America’s most beautiful landscapes.

The story of the Red Buses begins in 1914, when Roe Emery and Walter White of the White Motor Company introduced the first motorized transport to Glacier National Park. This was a ground-breaking moment, marking the first era of motorized transportation in any national park​​.

(Gillfoto / CC BY-SA 4.0)

Between 1936 and 1939, the White Motor Company manufactured the fleet of 33 Red Buses. Each was built from oak and covered with an aluminum and metal skin, their design echoing the era’s emphasis on style and grace. Their vibrant red color was inspired by the ripe Mountain Ash berries found in the park, a touch that helped the buses blend into their natural surroundings while still standing out to visitors​​.

Named for the sound their original standard transmissions made as drivers “jammed” the gears over mountain passes, these 25-foot-long touring coaches quickly became a key feature of the Glacier National Park experience. The Red Buses not only offered a convenient mode of transport but also provided visitors with an immersive and scenic tour through the park’s majestic landscape​.

The Red Buses have undergone various overhauls throughout the years to ensure their longevity. Notably, in the 1990s, the Ford Motor Company donated time and money for a significant rehabilitation of the fleet. More recently, the park has started converting the buses into a more environmentally-friendly hybrid system. This modernization, while essential for sustainability, has been carefully done to preserve the historic appearance and charm of the buses​​.

Today, the Red Buses are among the most recognized modes of public transportation in America. They are more than just vehicles; they are a symbol of Glacier National Park and a testament to its history. They are a reminder of a time when travel was an adventure, a journey into the unknown, an opportunity to explore the wonders of the natural world.

Each Red Bus, now valued at $250,000, continues to carry visitors through Glacier National Park, offering an unforgettable ride through one of America’s most cherished natural landscapes​​. They are a link to the past, a nod to the future, and a timeless fixture of the Glacier National Park experience. As such, the Red Buses are not merely a mode of transport but an integral part of the park’s history and identity that will continue to charm visitors for generations to come.

2 thoughts on “Stepping Back in Time: The Historic Red Buses of Glacier National Park

  1. Great article. We were fortunate to take the “Going to the Sun” excursion in one of these “Grinders”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s