Crossing the Continental Divide through Glacier National Park will get a little quieter for some people next year when the Going to the Sun Road’s popular red buses begin getting an engine upgrade.
Popularly known as “jammer buses” from a driver’s tradition of jamming gears on old, balky manual transmissions, the canvas-topped tour buses provide scenic rides and deliver guests between hotels throughout Glacier Park. Although the National Park Service owns the fleet of 33 White Motor Co. Model 706 buses, hotel concessionaire Xanterra Travel Collection operates and maintains them.
The upgrade will install hybrid gas-electric engines in the Ford chassis. The new 6.2-liter V8 engines with battery assist power should reduce noise and fuel consumption. In addition, the buses will be refitted with new wheels and dashboard gauges that more closely resemble the style when they were built between 1936 and 1939.
“It will be a several-year project,” GNP spokeswoman Lauren Alley said. “We’ll take a few each winter to rehabilitate and return them to the fleet for the summer season. We’re just doing one this winter to see how it comes together.”
The battery system will be charged by deceleration on the downhill runs over Logan Pass. Legacy Classic Trucks, based in Driggs, Idaho, will do the rehabilitation.