Bus Rehabilitation Project

The Cache la Poudre School Wagon/Bus

School Consolidation Requires New Transportation

This photo of the wagons in front of the Cache la Poudre school is now in the Fort Collins Archive (H03019).

A new educational plan was sweeping through rural areas across the United States in the early 1900s. This cutting edge movement called for an end to one-room school houses. Instead, multiple rural schools would be consolidated into one larger school with multiple grade-level classrooms. The Cache la Poudre school was one of the first consolidated schools in the state of Colorado.

But with consolidation came transportation concerns. Whereas before students might walk, ride their own horse to school, or be dropped off by a parent, consolidation required students to travel longer distances. So a wagon making company located in Delphi, Indiana, began making school wagons, to help consolidated districts collect their students.

According to an October 24, 1913 article in the Weekly Courier, District 60 (the CLP school district made up of several smaller districts) ordered six school wagons from the Delphi Wagon Company. The article goes on to explain that, “These wagons are not unlike the wagons used years ago for the conveyance of prisoners from one jail to another. They were known then as Christy wagons or the Black Maria. They are fitted with side curtains to protect the children from the weather, and the driver is taken care of as well.”

This is an example of a school wagon built by the Delphi Wagon Company in Delphi, Indiana. (University of Kentucky)

The six wagons were purchased for six school wagon routes: South Bellvue, Rist Canyon, Pleasant Valley, Glover, Ringling, and Soldier Canyon. When the wagons first arrived, there was no glass in the windows. Only curtains stood between the students and the cold of winter. But over time, modifications were made to the wagons. Glass was added, and the wagon wheels were removed and the wagons were set atop a truck chasis.

They were used for several decades before being retired around 1958. Fred Collamer heard about the buses being decommissioned and acquired two of them. It is likely they were separated from their truck chassis either at that time, or just prior to Collamer taking possession of them. One bus had a side sheared off and was attached to the back of a Fred Collamer’s house at 315 N. Meldrum. The other was eventually moved by Russell Rohrbacker to a warehouse on E. Mulberry (E. Olive Court?) and was later given to the Larimer County Historic Trust (which became the Larimer County Historic Alliance and is now Historic Larimer County) and taken out to the Roberts Ranch in Livermore.

The old CLP School bus sitting behind the Emma Malaby Grocery on the Collamer property. (Image from Jim Burrill.) 

Moving the bus onto a site along E. Mulberry. (FCMoD, T00451)

The bus is currently stored in the old Streetcar Barn on Howes awaiting a Historic Structure Assessment. (But before that, HLC will need to apply for historic designation for the vehicle.) 

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Historic Larimer County
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