ExploreNorth, your resource center for exploring the circumpolar North

Return to the Home Page The ExploreNorth Blog About ExploreNorth Contact ExploreNorth

Search ExploreNorth

The Story of Canadian Coachways

Growth In An Expanding Economy

    Originally published in the Canadian Utilities magazine "Transmitter", this article is reprinted from Volume 1, Number 1 of The Coachways Thunderbird, "a magazine for and by employees of the Coachways System", published in June-July 1966. The magazine was published every two months by the Coachways head office at 10040 - 104 Street in Edmonton, Alberta.

    The type of highway bus on the magazine cover, the "Canuck", was built by Western Flyer Coach between 1955 and 1968. This is probably a Canuck 500, a 35-37 passenger coach produced from 1964-67. It was powered by a Detroit Diesel 6V71N, with a Spicer 6454B transmission.


    Almost thirty-four years ago Canadian Coachways Limited was known as the Collins Brothers Busline. It could more accurately have been called Collins Brothers Bus for the 'running stock' of the new firm, established by John and Percy Collins, consisted of one seven-passenger bus on a determined (if not too regular) schedule from Edmonton to Athabasca.

    Despite the lean intervening years the brothers worked toward enlarging their service and in 1935 formed the company Canadian Coachways Limited.

    Western Motor Coaches, owned by partner A. P. Collins, was merged with the new company in 1941. Vehicles and equipment as well as the valued bus routes were acquired and became the property of Canadian Coachways. By 1946 the firm was in a position to bid for the Dawson Creek route and was granted the certificate by the government over some stiff competition.

    The Edmonton to Peace River and Fairview line as well as Peace River to Hay River became the property of Coachways through the purchases of Peace River Lines in 1947 and "Gateway to Yellowknife" Bus Lines in 1950. The picture was beginning to take shape as several more new routes were added and several others were extended. It was a red-letter-day for Canadian Coachways when the Valleyview-Whitecourt cut-off was completed in 1954. Now the Valleyview-Whitecourt area could be economically and efficiently served via the new route.

    On April 1, 1962, Northern Stages Ltd. was acquired. This added the highway route from Prince George, B.C., to Dawson Creek, B.C., in addition to the transit service in Prince George and a fleet of school buses serving this immediate area.

    January 1, 1963, an operating agreement was worked out with Alaska Motor Coaches for virtually the entire State of Alaska. A new company, Alaskan Coachways Limited, was formed to serve this area.

    Operations area of the Coachways system at the beginning of 1964 encompassed the Pembina Oilfield area to Drayton Valley and south to Lacombe, the entire Peace River block north to Hay River and Yellowknife on Great Slave Lake, northwest along the Alaska Highway to Whitehorse and Dawson City, and within Alaska to Fairbanks, Anchorage and to Homer on the Kenai Peninsula. B.C. Coach Lines at Kamloops were added to the system at the end of the year.

International Utilities Corporation
Buys Canadian Coachways

    At the beginning of 1965 CUL-NLD President I. C. Dale announced that International Utilities Corporation of Toronto had purchased the controlling interest in Canadian Coachways. Mr. Dale was named Chairman of the Board for the newly-acquired company, and Mr. Collins continued on as President.

    During 1965 (June) three more independent bus lines were added to the Coachways system, i.e., Prince Coach Lines at Prince George, Rupert Bus Lines at Prince Rupert and River Bend Trailways at Revelstoke.

All The Trimmings

    Private wire teletype and telex depot-to-depot has been the key to much of Coachways express traffic increase. The company feels that the service more than pays for itself in fast answers to maintenance difficulties, passenger uonvenience, reservation amiiigements and expediting express orders. Coachways telephone and telex facilities in the north are also frequently used by CUL and NLD - another example of operation efficiencies which can be worked out by working together.

    Emphasizing express and mail lines as vital supplements to passenger revenue, Coachways operates a modern shipping and receiving arrangement in their main premises.

The Men Behind The Wheel

    As a member organization of the National Safety Council, Canadian Coachways Limited stress the importance of Highway safety to veteran and novice driver alike. The company boasts a majority of ten-year men, predominantly war veterans who came to the company around 1946 during the period of the firm's greatest expansion in the North. Average driver age is about 37. Canadian Coachways makes it a policy to hire men from the areas the company serves. There are two reasons for this: familiarity with the territory and the fact that they are known by the potential customers within the area.

    Carefully screened applicants, when hired, are placed on two-week student driver tenure with a Coachways veteran. Their performance on this job indicates whether or not they will remain with the company. Successful completion of the term of training on all routes places the driver on the seniority list and bid sheet for future runs.

Excellent Service Standard

    In line with required vehicles condition standards the company maintains a daily inspection service along all routes where buses are "quick checked" to keep them up to par. To supplement this there are ten, twenty and thirty thousand mile checks. Latterly the buses are charted as to mechanical performance for major overhaul as required. Service centres are maintained in Grande Prairie, Peace River, Dawson Creek and Whitehorse. A full-time mechanical staff mans each service centre.

Bus & Motorcoach History: Yukon & Northern British Columbia