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Brothers preserving legacy of Yellowstone National Park tour buses

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Posted at 6:43 PM, Jul 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-08 00:36:24-04

Don and John Mueller are brothers who share a love of the history of the nation’s oldest national park and a love of the old buses that used to tour it in the years before World War II.

Driving down Broadway Avenue in Red Lodge in a bright yellow bus made by White Motors in 1937 is definitely an attention-getter, drawing stares and waves. The bus is one of the four Yellowstone National Park vehicles acquired by the Buses of Yellowstone Preservation Trust.

“We decided we should do something to preserve the history and keep it here close to the park. So that’s how it came about,” explains John. “They are unique in design that they were specifically designed for touring, and they are one of the icons of the park. They are very recognizable worldwide.”

The buses, along with a couple older Lincoln Touring cars and a 1941 Park utility truck, are all on display at this historic former service station in Red Lodge.

In the years before the war and before vehicles became the most popular way of travel, Yellowstone National Park had a fleet of more than 100 buses.

“We started beating the bushes for buses that were sitting on barns and farms, and some people would start to contact us, and we gathered vehicles that way,” says Don.

Both Don and John admit they have had a fascination with the buses since they were young. They rebuilt one for a friend at their body shop in Billings in the early 1980s and it grew into a passion after that.

There’s a story behind each of the vehicles. One of the buses had been stored in a barn for close to 45 years. Even though it’s hard to believe, it started right up after putting in new oil, gas, and battery. “We dropped... the oil out of it, and it looked like it had just been taken out of the can,” says John.

Along with being able to look at these pieces of history, you can also take a ride up the Beartooth Highway in one—a slow ride.

“We don’t measure miles per gallon, but smiles per gallon,” says Don.

The top speed is about 32 miles per hour and they cruise comfortably at about 17—turning heads all along the way.

“I just think this is an important part of our history our local history and our national history and we are just delighted to be able to display it to the public,” says John.

Click here to learn more about the buses and how to take a tour up Beartooth Pass.

You can also watch the video below to get a quick tour of the Buses of Yellowstone Preservation Trust facility.

Web Extra: Tour Buses of Yellowstone in Red Lodge