July 31, 1915, the first vehicle legally allowed into Yellowstone National Park entered through the gates, forever changing the future of the park. While park managers opposed the change from stagecoach to the automobile, it became inevitable to resist the modernization sweeping the nation. By 1917, Yellowstone purchased 116 cars from White Motor Company of Cleveland, Ohio to give wealthy patrons a tour of the park. In the 1930’s, to meet park visitor demands, the park introduced the White Motor Company Model 706 National Park Bus, and the legend of the “Yellow Bus” was born. Drivers, known as “gearjammers,” conducted tours throughout Yellowstone, a service still provided today.
The staff at Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center (HRC), located in Gardiner, Montana at the north entrance of Yellowstone, oversees the responsibility of housing and protecting over 720,000 historical, archaeological, and ethnographic objects, along with 30 historic vehicles such as Model 706. Completed in 2005, the HRC currently is finished with its second phase of a long-term goal to be the leader of national park museums. As of now, the 30 historic vehicles reside at a different facility, but the ultimate aim is to have an addition added to the museum to house and give public tours to these valuable objects, for the point of preservation is for the “enjoyment of the people.”
As an intern cataloging for the HRC, my duties include the proper preservation techniques to preserve these “Yellow Buses” along with several 1890’s stagecoaches, fire trucks, and other models of White Motor Company vehicles. Currently, we are replacing the covers of each vehicle, using new and up to date products to assure no damage occurs due to natural or human elements. It’s a long process, but necessary nonetheless. I was sweaty, dirty, and tired after just a few hours of work on the historic vehicles, but it was all in the name of preservation!