No doubt most, if not all, have at one time or another viewed photos of London, England, or other cities across the United Kingdom, and couldn't help but notice all those double-decker buses darting along their roads and highways. But perhaps the most familiar model double-decker bus of recent times were the famous red-colored London Routemaster buses. The Routemasters were very popular with Londoners and tourists alike, and had become one of the most famous icons of London. After 49 years, the last of the London Routemaster double-deckers were retired from regular service in December of 2005, but were replaced by another fleet of red double-decker buses.

Although still quite popular in a number of cities across Great Britain, Ireland, Germany, and even in Hong Kong, the use of double-deckers here in North America has been quite limited. However, many might be surprised to learn that at one time double-decker buses actually operated along the streets of Detroit.

In 1920, the Detroit Motorbus Co. became the first local bus company to operate double-deck buses along the streets of
Detroit.  DMB operated various makes of these double-decker buses on streets such as East Jefferson, Cass, John R.,
Second Blvd. and Dexter.
(Photo sources: DSR Files / WSU)  
The first double-decker buses to operate along the streets of Detroit were operated by the former Detroit Motorbus Co. (DMB) — the privately-owned bus company that operated within the city from 1920 through 1932. The double-deckers first began operating on the company's flagship line, E. Jefferson, but soon saw service on many of their other lines, as the DMB began expanding their routes outward into farther parts of the city. The company's Cass Avenue–Second Blvd, John R. St.–Grand Blvd, and the heavy Dexter Blvd–Cass lines were all assigned double-decker buses.

The first fleet of DMB double-decker coaches were built by the Fifth Avenue Coach Company, and originally came with open-top upper decks. Eventually, they were later semi-enclosed with new tops, with a canvas covering added during the winter. Additional fleets of double-deckers were later purchased from Yellow Coach and the Six-Wheel Company.

This ACF built DSR double-decker (#547) was
suppose to be heading to the Ford Highland Park
plant on Woodward and Manchester, while working
the heavy John R. line.  Unfortunately, it seems to
have encountered a slight problem in the vicinity of
Eight Mile and Oakland, by winding up in a ditch
along E. Eight Mile Road.
(photo courtesy of the S. Sycko Collection)
Needless to say, the coach suffered upper deck damage and was soon reduced to a single-decker. However, this redesigned coach would evidently serve as the model for the others. Due to poor design and construction, the ACF fleet began to encounter problems, ranging from cracked upper deck windows to broken body posts. Consequently, the DSR had to invest $12,050 to redesign the remainder of the fleet. Between Feb. 18, 1929 and Oct. 1, 1930, the upper decks were removed from the entire ACF fleet, resulting in a fleet of fifty 31-passenger single-deck coaches. The last of the ACF converted single-decker buses would continue on in service until 1937.

This photo shows DSR coach #524 — one of the original American Car & Foundry (ACF) duoble-deck
(see top photo)  that were reduced to a single-decker. Between 1929 and 1930 the DSR's
entire fleet of double-decker coaches had their upper-decks removed.
(Schramm Collection photo)
Information for the above article was complied from various sources, including numerous Motor Bus Society Motor Coach Age magazine
articles written by Jack E. Schramm, including
"Detroit's DSR, Part 1" (January-February 1991 edition), and "Detroit Motorbus Co."
(September 1988 edition). In addition, coach fleet information was obtained from various Schramm Collection DSR fleet roster listings.
Click here to return to the "MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS" Main Page.
For Comments & Suggestions Please Contact Site Owner at: admin@detroittransithistory.info
© 2007 (PAGE LAST MODIFIED ON 03-10-07, 01-20-14)
Between November 1926 and early 1927, a fleet of fifty (50) gas-electric double-deck buses, built by the American Car
& Foundry Company
(ACF), were delivered to the DSR. These sixty-passenger buses were placed into service on heavy
lines such as John R. and Chalmers.  An unfortunate mishap would remove their upper decks by 1930.
(DSR files photo)
Since the Detroit Motorbus double-decks proved to be popular with Detroiters, the city-owned DSR decided to acquire a fleet of its own. The first double-deckers for the DSR were actually "leased" from the DUR's People's Motor Coach Co. Beginning in July, 1926, seven of the DUR's two-man open-top Yellow Coach double-deckers were leased by the DSR for peak-hour servive on the busy John R. and Conant lines.

That same year, a fifty coach DSR order went to a local builder, the American Car & Foundry Company, and the buses were built at the company's Detroit railway car plant, located on Russell and Ferry streets. The enclosed upper deck ACF coaches, model 519-4-F1, were sixty-passenger gas-electric double-deckers, and were numbered #501-550. These were the first buses built by American Car & Foundry, and the only double-decker coaches ever built by that company.

The fleet began arriving in November, 1926, and were assigned to a number of the department's more heavy lines. Seventeen were assigned to the Second Avenue Garage to service the heavy John R. route (which serviced the Ford Highland Pk. plant), and the Conant line (which serviced the Dodge Bros. plant). The remainder of the double-deckers were assigned to the Kercheval Garage for service on both the Cadillac and Jefferson Express routes, and on the Chalmers line. The DSR operated these coaches using a one-man operation.

However, a mishap occurred during the summer of 1927 which would change the future of double-decker bus service in Detroit. Evidently, the driver of one of the ACF coaches tried to enter Belle Isle through the Jefferson Avenue underpass on East Grand Blvd., but forgot he was driving a double-decker bus.

(Reformatted 01-20-14)
The unique website which takes a detailed look back at the History of Public Transportation in
and around the City of Detroit.