Who says you can’t teach an old bus new tricks?

The tale of how an old bus from Southern California with more 1-million kilometres on the odometer ended up in the hands of a Metrolinx bus maintenance worker.

Started in Santa Monica and now it’s here.

A nearly 30-year-old MCI TC40-102A “Classic” transit bus is living out not its second or third life but, its fourth life with Metrolinx employee Toby Oronos.

The 1990 Classic Transit bus pictured on the side of the highway

Most transit agencies in Canada have retired their “Classics” – that includes Montreal, Halifax, Toronto, Quebec City, Windsor and Winnipeg.

Oronos started with Metrolinx as a summer student out of Middlefield Stations Operations and is now a stock handler in Bus Fleet Maintenance. Before joining Metrolinx he was a customer service ambassador for the TTC.

To say Oronos is committed to transit would be an understatement. He lives and breathes it. So, it’s no surprise that he set his eyes on a vintage bus and had to make it his own.

“As a kid I was always mesmerized by public transit. It was something I always found interesting and cool,” says Oronos. “So it clicked in me to me that I wanted to play a part to keep a piece of transit history in good working order. Just like how it would’ve been when it was in revenue service.”

Toby Oronos. standing with his 1990 MCI "Classic" transit bus

Toby Oronos. standing with his 1990 MCI “Classic” transit bus

The bus started its career in 1990 down in sunny Santa Monica, Calif., where it served for various agencies. When it was done there it was sold to Fort McMurray Transit, then sold again to Red Arrow to run the Spruce Meadows shuttle in Calgary a few times a year for horse riding enthusiasts.

This American-made classic has travelled more than 686,000 miles over its career, carrying untold thousands of people. For everyone north of the border, that’s 1.1-million kilometres.

“It’s funny. Despite all the paints from various transit agencies it’s served, you can still see some of the original blue in some spots showing its colours from Santa Monica,” says Oronos. “It also has its original fleet number written in Sharpie on the inside of the fuel tank door.”

Being a public transit enthusiast, Oronos knew where to keep an eye out for vintage buses that might be for sale. He follows a bus event that typically happens every year and noticed a posting about the bus for sale. He got the contact details, purchased the bus, and the rest is history. Literally.

“This is the first bus I’ve purchased. I split it with a close friend of mine,” explains Oronos. “We plan to keep this bus as a historic relic. We’ll run it here and there and bring it to bus events/shows but, for now, it stays in a parking spot we’ve rented in Toronto.”

The interior of the 1990 MCI Classic

The interior of the 1990 MCI “Classic” – which was discontinued in 1997.

The bus was purchased out of Calgary so the trip home was scenic but slow. Not surprising, as the old bus tops out at about 65 km/h. Luckily for Oronos, he had friends on the trip with him. Along the way they made stops at various lookouts and historic spots including the North Bay Arch.

“We visited so many towns and cities, so we took pictures with the signs, interesting characters – like a polar bear and a snowman with glasses,” says Oronos.

While this is only his first bus purchase, Oronos isn’t ruling out growing his fleet.

A picture of a double decker GO bus and the 1990 MCI Classic bus side by side

Comparing the old and the new side-by-side. A lot has changed in 29 years.

“The older buses were always something I enjoyed because they were that much more comfortable and the engine characteristics are so cool to me,” he says. “Up next for me and the bus is a nice bus wash, some photo stops around the GTA and just taking care of it; making sure everything stays in great running order!”

As the bus starts the next chapter of its life in Toronto, Oronos hopes to get the old beauty running as smoothly as the GO buses he works on every day.

 Story by: Sara Wilbur, Metrolinx communications coordinator