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Brian Horinka recently said goodbye to an old friend.
Horinka, the City of Minot’s transit but shop superintendent, watched one of Minot’s four 1977 AM General Metropolitan transit buses drive away from the Public Works building for the last time. But he knows the sought-after piece of transit history is going to a good home.
The hard-to-find bus is headed to Bangor, Wisc., where it will be displayed in the Midwest Bus Museum. The staff members of the museum were thrilled when they learned Minot had four of the buses. They were even more ecstatic when the City agreed to donate one to their museum.
“We found out from a fellow member through a tip that there was a city that actually had these AM Generals, and was still operating them in service,” Museum President Tom Schwartz said.
“And that blew our mind,” said Museum Vice President Emerson Zentz. “We did know of a couple of AM Generals, but they’re kind of a rare bus because they were only made for a couple of years.”
Only roughly 5,600 AM Generals were produced, and very few are known to still be in existence, let alone be in working condition. Fewer than 10 AM Generals in working condition are known to exist; four were in Minot.
“When we found out Minot was still using them, we said ‘We need to contact Minot and find out about this,’ ” Zentz said. “We got in touch with Brian, and he confirmed that they were still using one or two of them on heavy service days.”
When Schwartz and Zentz arrived in Minot in early June, along with museum secretary and media director Rachel Zentz and fleet director Jon Beckstrom, they were downright giddy to find the bus in such great shape.
“Most of them were sold for scrap 30 years ago. So to have them still here and in such great condition speaks to the maintenance by the staff in Minot,” Schwartz said. “It’s amazing.”
The group, along with Horinka, put a battery in the bus scheduled to donated, and it started right up.
“It’s a testament to how good they were built back then and how well these have been maintained in Minot,” Emerson Zentz said.
After the museum group cleaned the bus, the vehicle was inspected by Beckstrom to make sure it was ready for the road. Then, the group drove the bus back to Wisconsin, the first time the bus had been on the road for a couple of years.
“We’ve driven things that hadn’t been in service for a lot longer a further distance, so we’re going to go through it and make sure it’s mechanically sound, and then drive the 700 miles to our Wisconsin location,” Schwartz said.
While Horinka was sad to see the bus drive off to its new home, he’s also proud that part of Minot’s transit history will be preserved at the museum.
“It’s a good feeling to know they appreciate this bus as much as we do,” he said. “It’s part of our city’s history, and to know that the bus will part of an educational experience for others is great.”
Zentz said Minot’s donation was greatly appreciated, and will play an integral role in the museum’s displays of transit buses from across the Midwest.
“We know Brian has a huge passion for these buses, and he knows it’s going to a good home where someone will take care of it,” Emerson Zentz said. “But he’ll still be keeping the others here because they are part of Minot’s history.”