Greyhound Lines

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Greyhound Lines is the largest intercity common carrier of passengers by bus in North America, serving 2200 destinations in the United States. It was founded in Hibbing, Minnesota in 1914 and incorporated as "The Greyhound Corporation" in 1926. Today it is headquartered in Dallas, Texas. Its famous name and its logo are based on the Greyhound, the fastest breed of dog used in dog racing.


Early history, growth

Today's Greyhound is the result of nearly a century of expansion and acquisition. The company has been headquartered in Hibbing and Duluth, and Minneapolis, Minnesota, Chicago, Illinois, Phoenix, Arizona, and now Dallas, Texas. Greyhound Lines grew so quickly in the 1920s and 1930s that the Interstate Commerce Commission encouraged smaller independent operators to form the National Trailways Bus System (NTBS) to provide competitive markets. Unlike Greyhound which centralized ownership, Trailways member companies became a formidable competitor while staying an association of almost 100 separate companies.

Eastern Greyhound Lines of Ohio, Yellow Coach, photo credit Redden Archives
Eastern Greyhound Lines of Ohio, Yellow Coach, photo credit Redden Archives

Post WWII decline

Carl Wickman was born in Sweden in 1887. He moved to the United States and in 1914 began a bus service in Minnesota where he transported miners from Hibbing to Alice at 15 cents a ride.

In 1915 Wickman joined forces with Ralph Bogan, who was running a similar service from Hibbing to Deluth. The name of the new organisation was the Mesaba Transportation Company and it made $8,000 profit in its first year.

By the end of the First World War Wickman owned 18 buses and was making an annual profit of $40,000. In 1922 Wickman joined forces with Orville Caesar, the owner of the Superior White Bus Lines. Four years later, Wickman reached agreement with two West Coast operations, the Pickwick Lines and the Pioneer Yelloway System.

In 1926 Wickman's bus operations became known as the Greyhound Lines. Wickman, who was president of the company, continued to expand and by 1927 his buses were making transcontinental trips from California to New York.

Wickman's business suffered during the Great Depression and by 1931 was over $1 million in debt. However, with the improvement in the economy, the Greyhound Corporation began to prosper again. In 1935 Wickman was able to announce record profits of $8 million. By the outbreak of the Second World War the company had 4,750 stations and nearly 10,000 employees.

Wickman retired as president of Greyhound Corporation in 1946, and was replaced by his long-time partner, Orville Caesar. Carl Wickman died at the age of sixty-seven in 1954. After World War II, and the building of the Interstate Highway System beginning in 1956, automobile ownership and travel became a preferred mode of travel in the United States. Along with a similar downward trend in public transportation in general, ridership on Greyhound and Trailways bus routes began a long decline.

Greyhound's 1954 Scenicruiser was one of its most popular buses. Photo credit: Robert Redden, Redden Archives
Greyhound's 1954 Scenicruiser was one of its most popular buses. Photo credit: Robert Redden, Redden Archives

Greyhound leadership saw the trend, and used the profitable bus operations to invest in other industries. By the 1970s, Greyhound was a large and diversified company, with holdings in everything from the Armour & Co. meatpacking company to the Dial soap company, Traveller's Express money orders, MCI bus manufacturing company, and even airliner leasing.

In late 1984, Greyhound had a very bitter bus driver's strike, with one fatality in Zanesville, Ohio. By the time contract negotiations were due again three years later, the bus line had been spun-off from the parent company to new owners, which resulted in Greyhound Lines becoming solely a bus transportation company headed by Fred Currey, a former executive with the largest member of the National Trailways Bus System. The old parent changed its name to Dial, Inc.

Greyhound Lines is spun-off from parent

Under the new ownership in 1987, led by Currey, Greyhound Lines shortly thereafter acquired the former Continental Trailways company, the largest member of the rival National Trailways Bus System, effectively eliminating a large portion of the bus competition. Although Greyhound negotiated cooperative schedules with Carolina Coach Company and Southeastern Trailways, two of the larger members of the Trailways system, many smaller Trailways carriers were effectively forced out of business.

Three years later there was another costly strike. This, combined with the loss of diversification and strength of the former parent company, and labor law violations, forced the company to file for bankruptcy, from which it emerged in the early 1990s. At the same time, Greyhound had to contend with the rise of low-cost airlines like Southwest Airlines which further reduced the market for long-distance intercity bus transportation.

In 1997, Greyhound Lines acquired Carolina Trailways, one of the largest members of the National Trailways Bus System. Though today Carolina Trailways still operates as a brand name, most of the other independent members of the Trailways System fell into line and began interlining cooperatively with Greyhound. Some discontinued regular route services, diversified into charters and tours, or went out of business.

Laidlaw ownership

In 1998, Hamilton, Ontario based transportation conglomerate Laidlaw Inc. acquired a majority interest in Greyhound Lines, Inc. (U.S. operations) and Greyhound Lines of Canada, including Carolina Trailways and other Greyhound affiliates.

After incurring heavy losses through its investments in Greyhound Lines and other parts of its diversified business, Laidlaw Inc. filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in June 2001.

Late model Greyhound Lines Bus with seating for 55 passengers. Photo credit: Robert Redden, Redden Archives
Late model Greyhound Lines Bus with seating for 55 passengers. Photo credit: Robert Redden, Redden Archives

Naperville, Illinois based Laidlaw International, Inc. listed its common shares on the New York Stock Exchange (Ticker: LI), on February 10, 2003, and emerged from reorganization on June 23, 2003 as the successor to Laidlaw Inc.

System Shutdown

On October 3, 2001, Greyhound bus No. 1115 crashed in Manchester, Tennessee after a passenger who was believed to be holding a Croatian passport, reportedly attacked a driver, and as a result, Greyhound shut down all service nationwide for several hours amid fears of a potential terrorist plot related to the September 11 terrorist attacks. No such plot was discovered and the attacker was killed in the crash.

Greyhound Lines in the 21st century

During 2004, Greyhound Lines announced major schedule reductions in its route system, particularly in the northwest and north central United States, and elimination of some long-distance routes. Similar changes were taking place during 2005 in other parts of the country. During the past few years, Greyhound Lines has been expanding its charter and sightseeing services, and is the largest operator of Gray Line Sightseeing Tours franchises in major markets. Though it no longer owns the firm, Greyhound's fleet is still comprised primarily of buses built by Motor Coach Industries (MCI).

Today's Greyhound in the United States and Canada is not as large or robust as it was at its peak, but it still fills an important niche.

Notable accidents

On May 9, 1980, the freighter ship S.S. Summit Venture struck one of the piers on the northbound span of the original Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Tampa Bay, Florida. 1,400 feet of the steel cantilever bridge collapsed, causing a Greyhound bus among other vehicles to plunge 150 feet into the bay. A total of 35 people died, including everyone aboard the bus.

Greyhound in Australia

In Australia, the primary long-distance bus carrier is Greyhound Pioneer Australia, a company which is not related to the North American Greyhound bus operations.

See also

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