Welcome aboard, passenger. The glamorous crew of the 1971 Continental Trailways Golden Eagle.
Welcome aboard, passenger. The glamorous crew of the 1971 Continental Trailways Golden Eagle.

AACA Museum and Museum of Bus Transportation

Field review by the editors.

Hershey, Pennsylvania

Aside from its appeal to car buffs and nostalgia fans, what does the Antique Automobile Club of America Museum offer to the average tourist?

Elegant motor cars at the 1930s Palm Beach display.
Elegant motor cars at the 1930s Palm Beach display.

We came for the buses.

They're parked on the lower level, a phalanx of freeway leviathans that represents a mere fraction of the fleet of the Museum of Bus Transportation.

(The Bus Museum's collection can be seen in its entirety only one day a year -- the first Saturday in June, when bus-lovers from around the U.S. gather at the Auto Club Museum, then board a bus to the Bus Museum warehouse.)

The Bus Museum is a permanent tenant, occupying part of one floor of the Auto Club Museum, which gives some sense of the size of its sprawling, $5 million building. The 50-foot-high ceilings allow designers to create impressive decade-specific displays for the cars: a 1930s Palm Beach hotel, a quaint 1940s gas station (with a hose you can step on to ring a bell), a 1950s drive-in theater, a towering Golden Gate bridge.

Model of the Floinn Cafe -- the real thing stands nearby.
Model of the Floinn Cafe -- the real thing stands nearby.

Notable vehicles are everywhere. Whitney Houston's Rolls Royce features a state-of-the-art (for 1986) TV-VCR. Betty White's Cadillac retains its original floor-mounted 1977 mobile phone and the original stuffed cat that sat in the rear window (Betty named the car "Parakeet," owned it for 25 years, and drove it only 18,000 miles). Parked beneath the museum's towering portico is the Hershey's Kissmobile. The now-retired corporate ambassador was driven the equivalent of ten times around the earth during its career; its predecessor, the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, has stopped by on several occasions to pose with it for photos.

Less sweaty, more safety. The 1927 Fageol Safety Coach had wicker seats.
Less sweaty, more safety. The 1927 Fageol Safety Coach had wicker seats.

(The museum also exhibits a more traditional roster of "normal" vintage cars, including a unique triplicate of ultra-rare Tucker Torpedoes.)

Downstairs, next to the buses, is the lemon-yellow Floinn Cafe, formerly of Wichita, Kansas. Proprietor Flo Fortney worked in it from 1948 until she retired in 1983; the diner was then taken apart, stuck in a warehouse for 20 years, then reassembled inside the Auto Club Museum -- after a significant amount of scrubbing to remove the grease. The diner kitchen no longer serves food, but its Formica counters are sometimes stocked with cupcakes during museum special events.

2 sweet 2 B 4-got. The recently retired Hershey's Kissmobile in front of the museum.
2 sweet 2 B 4-got. The recently retired Hershey's Kissmobile in front of the museum.

As for the buses, they're "a favorite of our guests," said Nancy Gates, the Auto Club Museum's marketing director, and are particularly popular with kids. Billed as "the largest collection of buses under one roof in the U.S." (there is one possible rival) it features, among others, a 1927 Fageol bus with wicker seats, the 1959 "peace sign" bus from the film Forrest Gump, and a 1971 transcontinental Golden Eagle from the days when cross-country buses employed stewardesses in loud polyester uniforms.

Buses.

According to Nancy, the Museum of Bus Transportation usually has a "bus guy" volunteer on hand to answer visitors' questions. There's a Timeline of Bus History, a display of historic bus engines, dozens of different 1940s bus timetables, and a miniature model of a Trailways bus of the future, possibly atom-powered, stuck in a bus traffic jam. The clear plexiglass roof of the future-bus, which would have roasted its passengers on a sunny day, perhaps explains why the model has no tiny people.

Nancy pointed out that tourists can visit car museums everywhere, but bus museums are rare. We admire the dedication of the bus collector (they are almost as single-minded as the tank collector), pursuing a hobby that requires a significant commitment in storage space and knuckle-busting maintenance.

And unlike in the rest of the Auto Club Museum, where vehicles often rotate between the display floors and a warehouse, the buses usually stay put. "Buses," said Nancy, "are very hard exhibits to move around."

Also see: Greyhound Bus Origin Center

AACA Museum and Museum of Bus Transportation

Antique Automobile Club of America Museum

Address:
161 Museum Drive, Hershey, PA
Directions:
Antique Automobile Club of America Museum. I-81 exit 77. Drive south 4.5 miles on Hwy 39/Linglestown Rd. The museum will be on the right; turn right onto Museum Drive. AACA Museum
Hours:
Daily 9-5 (Call to verify)
Phone:
717-566-7100
Admission:
Adults $12.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

Boy and the BootBoy and the Boot, Hershey, PA - 2 mi.
Hershey's Chocolate Factory TourHershey's Chocolate Factory Tour, Hershey, PA - 2 mi.
Building Under GlassBuilding Under Glass, Hershey, PA - 2 mi.
In the region:
Centralia Mine Fire, Centralia, PA - 40 mi.

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