|© 2010 (PAGE LAST MODIFIED ON 02-28-10)
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Although the former D-DOT Route #24 Holbrook never achieved
the familiarity that a number of the city's more prominent bus
routes would attain, this rather little known bus line—-along with
other DSR routes-—played a contributing role in helping Detroit
acquire the status as "The Arsenal of Democracy" during WW-II.
Not only did the Holbrook line provide the needed bus service to
transport workers to the numerous auto plants located along its
route—which were converted to the production of war materials
during the war—but would continue providing its service to auto
workers during most of its nearly sixty-eight years of operation.
THE EARLY YEARS:
Initially, the history of the Holbrook bus line goes back to the early years
of the DSR's Motor Coach Division, which began operations in January
of 1925. In those days, most DSR bus routes were just short feeder lines
used to service the major streetcar routes, and provided a less expensive
mode of transportation to newly developing districts of the city. The first
Holbrook bus service began on Tuesday, September 6, 1927, and only
operated between Woodward Avenue in Detroit and Jos Campau in
Hamtramck. However, because of equipment shortage problems, the line
was discontinued after only seven days. But after improving the schedul-
ing on other lines the DSR was able to resume the service on October 24,
1927, and the route was extended east to Conant, resulting in a two-mile
feeder line, which was initially assigned to the Second Avenue Garage in
Highland Park. However, after three years of operation, the line would fall
victim to the Great Depression and was canceled on February 9, 1931.
WORLD WAR-II ERA SERVICE:
During 1940 and 1941, the DSR began making significant improvements
to its bus operation by extending some lines and adding new routes. As a
result, ten years after it was discontinued, service on the Holbrook route
was restored by the DSR, effective Monday, October 6, 1941. This new
Holbrook bus line would travel considerably farther than the short
feederline which operated a decade earlier. Although this new service
begin at King and Woodward, and travel via Holbrook, the route would now also operate via Buffalo, Charles, Mt. Elliott,
and Eight Mile to Mound Road, providing auto workers with bus service to Chevrolet Gear and Axle (today, American
Axle and Manufacturing (AAM)), Briggs Manufacturing (later, Chrysler Outer Drive Stamping, now Chrysler's Mt. Elliott
Tool and Die), and Chrysler's Warren Truck Assembly Plant. But the United States' involvement with World War II
would soon extend the line well into the northern suburb of Warren Township (later incorporated as the City of Warren
in 1957), where the line would continue to provide bus service for the next 56 years.
Many months before this country's entry into World War II on December 8, 1941, the U.S. Government had complet-
ed construction at two government-owned contractor-operated facilities in Warren Township, which were initially built to
supply arms to the Allied war effort. The first of the two facilities to be serviced by the DSR was the 15-building Hudson
Naval Ordnance Plant —– built in 1941 at Mound and Nine Mile Roads by the U.S. Navy for the Hudson Motor Car
Company to manufacture various types of artillery and shells. Beginning March 2, 1942, the Holbrook Extension bus
route was launched to shuttle workers the extra mile or so along Mound Road, from Eight Mile to Nine Mile Roads, to the
new Hudson Naval Ordnance Plant. (This same facility was subsequently managed by Westinghouse and Ford Motor
Co., before it would later become Chevrolet Division, Warren, but known today as the GM Powertrain Division plant.)
The other government-owned facility was built in late 1940–'41 on 113-acres of farmland, also in Warren Township, and
was known as the Chrysler Detroit Arsenal Tank Plant. This mammoth, 105-building, complex was located within an
area bounded by Van Dyke, Twelve Mile, Mound and Eleven Mile Roads. The facility was built by the Chrysler Corp and
the U.S. Army for the mass production of M3 and M4 Sherman tanks. The tank plant alone measured five city blocks
deep and two blocks wide and was designed by industrial architect Albert Kahn. During World War II the facility built one
quarter of the tanks produced in the U.S. Bus service to the Detroit Tank Arsenal began on April 13, 1942, when the
Holbrook Extension shuttle was extended two miles further up Mound Road and routed via Eleven Mile and Van Dyke
to the tank plant's main entrance on Van Dyke, near Martin Road.
With the U.S. having now "officially" entered into the war, and "war-time" production already in high-gear at auto plants
across the Detroit area, the bus service on the Holbrook route was also being geared up for the war effort. Effective on
September 1, 1942, the Holbrook Extension shuttle route was discontinued after the Holbrook route was extended
north along Mound Road, providing service directly to the Chrysler Tank Plant. Beginning on March 30, 1943, the line
was rerouted via Twelve Mile Road (instead of Eleven Mile) to south on Van Dyke, to the tank plant's main entrance. The
war–time headways on the Holbrook line averaged one to two minutes during the peaks hours and 12 minutes during
the base and evening hours. The owl service to Eight Mile and Mound operated under 30-minute headways.
During the war, the city of Detroit was acknowledged by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as "the great arsenal of
democracy" because of the rapid conversion of much of the area's automotive industry to produce armaments during
the war effort. It should also be noted here that the "Arsenal of Democracy" nickname could not have been adopted
by the city if it were not for the assistance given by the DSR in providing transit services to the area's automobile plants
during World War II.
Information for the above article compiled from data information supplied by Jack E. Schramm, courtesy of "DSR BUS ROUTES, 1922-1932" ("Detroit's DSR,
Part 1" — January–February 1991 edition of Motor Coach Age magazine), "DSR BUS ROUTES, 1932-1945" ("Detroit's DSR, Part 2" — March–April 1992
edition of MCA magazine), and "DSR BUS ROUTES, 1945-1974" ("Detroit's DSR, Part 3" — May–June 1993 edition of MCA magazine). Additional info
obtained from 1950-54 DSR Headway Reports courtesy of Tom Breeding, and from 1951 thru 2005 DSR and DDOT Service Maps and timetables already in
the author's possession. Holbrook route-map, timetable and transfer images courtesy of the Stan Sycko collection. Information on the various Detroit area
auto and military facilities obtained through various online sources.
By 2009, the bus service on the Holbrook line only operated weekdays at 60 minute headways, a far cry from what
it was forty years prior. To get an idea of the amount of service the DSR offered on the Holbrook line back in 1969
click-on HOLBROOK TIMETABLE.
|DSR issued "Free"
from November 8, 1951.
D.S.R. Route #43
|The above map shows the route of the #24 Holbrook line during its last years of operation.
In addition to servicing numerous auto, manufacturing and supplier plants along its route,
two nearby high schools, Detroit's Northern High and Hamtramck High in Hamtramck, were
also serviced by the Holbrook line during most of its nearly sixty-eight years of operation.
HOLBROOK STREET FOOTNOTE:
Holbrook Street, which runs through Detroit and Hamtramck, was named after the Dewitt C. Holbrook family who lived on one of
the nearby farms in what was then exclusively Hamtramck Township. Dewitt C. Holbrook was an accomplished and well respected
lawyer, born in New York state in 1819, but moved to Michigan in 1832. He came to Detroit in 1836 where he later studied law,
was admitted to the bar in 1843, and elected to the position of County Clerk in 1847, while at the same time served as the Clerk
of the Circuit Court. In 1849, Holbrook entered into a partnership with a law firm, while years later was appointed City Counsellor
in 1872. Detroit historian Silas Farmer referred to Mr. Holbrook as a person of spotless integrity, "....an able lawyer, upright citizen
and honorable man." The Dewitt C. Holbrook Award for excellence in the study of law is still awarded today in his honor. Holbrook
Elementary in Hamtramck is also named after Dewitt C. Holbrook.
|This 1966 DSR map displays the route
followed by the Holbrook bus line when the
route operated 5½ miles outside the Detroit
city limits, to Chicago Road in Warren.
POST-WAR YEARS AND BEYOND:
By the 1950's, the majority of the service on the Holbrook line now terminated on Mound Road, just north of Nine Mile
Road, at the Naval Ordnance plant (now the Ford Naval Arsenal), although shift-change trips would continue to travel
via Mound and Twelve Mile Roads to the Chrysler Tank Plant on Van Dyke. According to a September 6, 1950 DSR
Weekday Schedule Analysis Report, 18 to 21 of the 31-passenger Transit Buses were required to operate during peak
hours, while five coaches were required for base operation. Now assigned out of the Woodward Terminal in Highland
Park, a total of 31 runs were required for daily operation weekdays, including 4 straight–day runs, 7 straight-night runs,
14 swing–day runs and 6 swing–night runs, operating under 1–2 minute headways during peak hours and a 15-minute
headway during the base operation. Although two coaches provided owl service to Eight Mile in 1950, 24–hour service
was discontinued shortly afterwards.
By the late–1960's, 24-hour operation had long ceased and Sunday service had also been discontinued. Headways had
increased to 8–-10 minutes during peak hours and 30 minutes during base and evening hours. However, although the
base of the service still terminated at 9-½ Mile Road, at the Chevrolet Division, Warren plant (former Naval Ordnance
plant), effective February 7, 1966, much of the service between 6AM and 9PM was extended even further along Mound
Road, past the General Motors Tech Center, to Chicago Road—just north of 13 Mile Road (see map above). Certain
peak-hour trips also operated to the Detroit Tank Arsenal plant and only a few to the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive
Center (ATAC), located adjacent to the tank arsenal, on Eleven Mile Road east of Mound. But effective on September
9, 1970, all Holbrook service north of Eleven Mile Road was discontinued, as the DSR began scaling back its suburban
operation, and the route was cut back to Eleven Mile and Mound, thus ending service to the tank plant on Van Dyke.
By 1973, all Holbrook service would terminate on Mound Road at 9-½ Mile, with the exception of a few peak-hour trips
operating to Eleven Mile and Mound, to the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Command (TACOM). By this time, service
had dwindled to 14–15 minute headways during peak hours and 35 minutes the rest of the day. After the closing of the
Highland Park Terminal in December of 1970, the operation of the line had been transferred to the Gilbert Terminal,
but was later reassigned under DDOT to the east-side Shoemaker Terminal during the summer of 1979.
Over the next few decades, the service on the Holbrook line would continue to decline. In 1989, the weekday service
was cut-back to peak-hour only operation, terminating after 7PM, and Saturday service was also discontinued (although
the Saturday and mid-day weekday service were restored in June 1997). By the early 1990s, headways were averaging
25–35 minutes. In late 1997, Mayor Dennis W. Archer announced that the city could no longer afford to operate its
buses outside the city limits. Consequently, effective on Saturday, January 17, 1998, all Holbrook service along Mound
Road was discontinued and the route was terminated at Eight Mile Road (the city limits), thus ending 56 years of service
through the northern suburb of Warren.
By the arrival of the 21st century, things would only get worse, as ridership numbers continued to plummet and the line
was threaten with possible elimination of service. Effective April 23, 2005, Saturday service was once again discontinued
and the weekday service now increased to 60-minute headways. As a result, the Holbrook line, which at one time serv-
ed as a major auto–worker route and required over twenty coaches to maintain service, had now been reduced to just
one coach to provide the required service.
After years of threaten elimination due to low ridership, the #24 Holbrook line was discontinued by DDOT after nearly
sixty-eight years of continuous service. Effective Saturday, September 26, 2009, service on the line was cancelled.
|During World War II, a fleet of over 2,235 "small-size" buses supplemented the DSR's fleet of 908 streetcars. Bus routes, such as Holbrook, were|
all serviced by these little buses operating under frequent headways. Over 97% of the city's bus fleet, purchased between 1934 and 1942, were
manufactured through the Ford Motor Company. Over 330 of the old conventional Fords (left), 750 of the front-engine Ford Transit buses (center),
and 1,100 of the Ford Rear-Engine Transit buses (right) all helped the DSR to carry record numbers of Detroiters to their jobs during the war years.