A Unique Type of Motorbus Begins Operations in Montreal

May 11, 1927

An eight-wheeled motorbus that would earn both distinction and derision began its service as a transit vehicle in Montreal, Canada. The vehicle had been built by the New York-based Versare Car Company, a bus-and-trolley manufacturer established in 1925 to produce experimental heavy-duty motorbuses that were intended for city service.

The founder of the company was an engineer and machinist named Oliver F. Warhus. The Iowa-born Warhus chose the Latin verb “versāre,” which is the present active infinitive of “verso” (meaning “turn” or “twist”), as the name for his new enterprise. (In Italian, “versāre” means “to cross, go across, or walk across.”)

An innovative feature of the Versare vehicles involved their combination of diesel and electric engines, which could be operated either collectively or only one at a time. The Versare Car Company relied on the Westinghouse Electric Company for a great deal of the electrical equipment used for the vehicles.

One of the models that the Versare Car Company manufactured was a relatively novel eight-wheeled version. “With buses like the 41-passenger, eight-wheeled Versare-Westinghouse gas-electric giant on the street; the best way for a small car owner to get to-work is to take a bus!” proclaimed a piece appearing in the Utah-based Ogden Standad newspaper. “This model was put in use on Cleveland streets, and is the first to be used in a large city.”

The eight-wheeled model introduced for service in Montreal turned out to have both positive and negative aspects. This motorbus had a longer operational life compared with a number of its counterparts in other cities, for example.  Unfortunately, however, the very size of the bus proved to be decisive drawback over the course of time. The huge distance between the axles on the vehicle prevented the driver from turning corners easily on Montreal’s narrow streets. Consequently, the one transit route that the motorbus could easily travel on was the broader-than-most Atwater Avenue.

The enormous and somewhat intimidating size of the vehicle soon led to its nickname “Le monstre de la rue Atwater“ (Atwater Street Monster). Notwithstanding its overall notoriety, the motorbus remained in service until – exactly seven years after being introduced – it broke into two in the middle of the street.

While sent to the junkyard after that mishap, the motorbus lives on in memory due to its reputation as the “Atwater Street Monster.” The motorbus, along with its fellow gas-electric hybrid models likewise built by the Versare Car Company, also achieved a place in transportation history as an early precursor to today’s dual-mode transit vehicles. ​

Photo Credits: Coachbuilt.com, Inc.

For more information on the Versare Car Company’s motorbuses, please check out http://www.coachbuilt.com/bui/v/versare/versare.htm



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