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Tennessee Coach Company

Dr. D.B. "Doc" Rushing

©  Copyright, 2009-10, Duncan Bryant Rushing.



A Sharing Arrangement
Between Knoxville and Bristol
Sale of TCC
Merger into Continental Trailways
Related Articles




The Tennessee Coach Company (TCC) was a regional intercity highway-coach carrier, based in Knoxville, Tennessee, USA.  It ran from 1928 until -76, when it became merged into the Continental Tennessee Lines, a subsidiary of the Transcontinental Bus System (the Continental Trailways).


The TCC began in the Volunteer State in 1928, combining the Southern Motor Coach Company, which had started running in 1924 between Knoxville and Chattanooga, and the Safety Coach Company, which had started running in 1925 between Knoxville and Johnson City.


The story of the TCC dates back to 1919 in Ohio with O.B. Baskett.  He drove first for the Cleveland-Akron Bus Company, then for the Cleveland-Elyria-Toledo Bus Company (which, despite its name, ran only between Cleveland and Norwalk, both in Ohio, beyond Elyria but well short of Toledo).  He returned to the previous firm in a management job.

Baskett moved to North Carolina during the winter of 1924-25 and started working, albeit for a short time, for the Carolina Motor Coaches (running between Raleigh and Greensboro), which in November 1925 became a major part of the newly founded Carolina Coach Company.

[In 1940 the latter firm became a member of the Trailways association (and thus became known also as the Carolina Trailways); in 1997 it became a wholly owned subsidiary of the (second) Greyhound Lines, Inc., the (second) GLI.]

[One curious result of that last step is that now a Greyhound subsidiary (the Carolina Coach Company, still called also the Carolina Trailways) is a member of the Trailways association (now named as the Trailways Transportation System).]

While Baskett worked in North Carolina, he met two brothers, Al and M.H. Kraemer, who had become connected, although not as principals, with the Carolina Coach Company in its beginning.

Baskett, seeking an opportunity to start a business of his own, moved to East Tennessee.  In March 1925 he began running between Knoxville and Johnson City along US highway 11E (US-11E) via Jefferson City, Morristown, and Greeneville.  In the next year, 1926, he incorporated his firm as the Safety Coach Company.  He started with two Fageol Safety Coaches and added seven more by the end of 1926.  In naming his firm he took a cue from the brand name of the Fageol Safety Coaches, as did a number of the founders of other early coach concerns, with the pleased approval of the Fageol brothers (Frank and William).  [Fageol is pronounced as "fad-jull", rhyming with "fragile" or "satchel".]

The two Kraemer brothers, Al and M.H., left the Carolina Coach Company in 1927, then they joined Baskett in his firm in Tennessee.


In 1928 O.B. Baskett and Al Kraemer incorporated the Tennessee Coach Company, bought the Southern Motor Coach Company (already running between Knoxville and Chattanooga, to the southwest), then merged that firm and Baskett's own Safety Coach Company (already running between Knoxville and Johnson City, to the northeast) into the new TCC.

The State of Tennessee in 1929 issued a joint certificate (of public convenience and necessity) to the TCC and the Union Transfer Company (UTC), based in Nashville, for service between Nashville and Knoxville along US-70, later redesignated in part as -70S, via Murfreesboro, Woodbury, McMinnville, Sparta, Crossville, Rockwood, and Kingston.

[In 1930 the Consolidated Coach Corporation (called also Consolidated, CCC, or the CCC Lines), based in Lexington, Kentucky, bought the UTC; in 1931 Consolidated adopted the brand name, trade name, or service name of the Southeastern Greyhound Lines (called also Southeastern, SEG, SEGL, or the SEG Lines), while at first retaining its previous corporate name; in 1936 the Consolidated firm became renamed as the Southeastern Greyhound Lines (GL).]

The Tennessee Coach Company in 1929 extended its Johnson City line to Bristol (on the state line between Tennessee and Virginia) and in 1930 to Bluefield (on the state line between Virginia and West Virginia); in 1938 it added service to Atlanta, Georgia, both from Knoxville and from Chattanooga (although along rural backwoodsy routes through lightly populated areas, because Greyhound already ran between Chattanooga and Atlanta through more populous areas in north Georgia via Rome, Dalton, and Calhoun).

The TCC also provided extensive local commuter service from Knoxville to Kingston, Rockwood, Harriman, Oliver Springs, and, especially during World War II, Oak Ridge (still sometimes called the Secret City).  [Oak Ridge was the site of the headquarters of the top-secret Manhattan Project, which in 1945 produced the world's first nuclear weapons.]

The TCC late in 1939 became the third intercity highway carrier in the US to run diesel-powered equipment, using six copies of the Yellow Coach (YC) model 1210 (the only diesel-powered 1210s). [Tri-state Transit Company (the Tri-state Trailways) about the end of 1939 became the fourth to do so, using the YC PD-3701, after Greyhound and the Burlington Transportation Company (the Burlington Trailways) had been the first and second, respectively, using the YC 743.

A Sharing Arrangement

The Tennessee Coach Company and the other carrier – first the UTC, later the CCC, even later the Southeastern GL – shared their joint certificate (for the route between Nashville and Knoxville) in an unusual way:  One carrier ran in one direction on any given scheduled trip, then the other carrier ran in that direction on that same sked the next day, and vice versa.  That is, they ran in opposite directions, and they changed directions each day.

That plan continued until 1956, when the TCC joined the Trailways trade association (then named as the National Trailways Bus System).  With the approval of the federal Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), the TCC took over four of the nine daily trips in each direction, and the Southeastern GL took over the other five trips each way.  [The TCC also started one daily trip each way between Nashville and Knoxville along US-70N via Lebanon, Carthage, Cookeville, and Crossville, joining the Continental Tennessee Lines, based in Nashville, another Trailways member company, on that parallel alternate route.]

For a short time during the 1930s, while the TCC operated in cooperation with the Southeastern GL, several of the coaches of the TCC (Yellow Coach long-nose streamliners) appeared (with the consent of Greyhound) in the Greyhound livery, complete with dogs and lettering for the "Tennessee Greyhound Lines" (which never existed at all as a distinct or separate entity).

Between Knoxville and Bristol

In 1929 – the same year in which the TCC and the UTC obtained their joint certificate (for service between Nashville and Knoxville) – another significant neighboring carrier came into existence:

Three major players in the early highway-coach industry organized yet another carrier, based in Roanoke, Virginia, named as the Old Dominion (OD) Stages, using the nickname of the state or Commonwealth of Virginia.  The founders were Arthur Hill (of the Blue and Gray Transit Company, of Charleston, West Virginia), John Gilmer (of the Camel City Coach Company, of Winston-Salem, North Carolina), and Guy Huguelet (of the Consolidated Coach Corporation, of Lexington, Kentucky, which in 1936 became renamed as the Southeastern Greyhound Lines).  They owned the new firm in three equal shares.  The purpose of the new firm was to run between Knoxville and Washington, DC, via Bristol, Wytheville, Roanoke, Lexington, Staunton, and Winchester, all the last six in Virginia, along a route which divided between the territories of the Blue and Gray and the Camel City companies.  Service began on the day before Thanksgiving Day in November 1929.

The Blue and Gray Transit Company and the Camel City Coach Company in December 1929 together became the National Highway Transport (NHT) Company.  NHT soon formed operating ties to Greyhound and began negotiations with the Dog.  Early in 1931 NHT began using the brand name, trade name, or service name of the Atlantic Greyhound Lines (while at first retaining its previous corporate name).  In July 1931 NHT became renamed as the Atlantic Greyhound Lines (AGL).

In May 1932 the Old Dominion Stages leased its route segment between Knoxville and Bristol (on US-11W via Rutledge, Bean Station, Rogersville, and Kingsport) to the Tennessee Coach Company.

Thus the TCC began running between Knoxville and Bristol along US-11W (the leased parallel route) as well as -11E (its own original route).

Later in 1932 Hill and Gilmer bought the one-third interest of Huguelet in the OD Stages, then they merged OD into their Atlantic GL.

The TCC continued to run the leased Old Dominion segment (between Knoxville and Bristol) along US-11W as well as its own original parallel route along -11E.  It took part in through-schedules (interlined pool operations) – that is, the use of through-coaches on through-routes running through the territories of two or more operating companies – in cooperation with the Atlantic GL, the Dixie GL, and the Southeastern GL – including those between Birmingham, Alabama, and Bristol and between Memphis, Tennessee, and Washington.

However, in 1956, when the TCC joined the National Trailways association, the TCC returned its leased right to the OD route (along -11W) to the Atlantic GL (as the successor in interest of the OD Stages) – as a part of the deal related to the dissociation of the TCC from Greyhound.

After that the TCC continued to run between Knoxville and Bristol, but only on its own original route along US-11E (via Jefferson City, Morristown, and Greeneville).

Sale of TCC

In 1960 the Tennessee Coach Company became sold to a new firm, created specifically to buy the TCC, named as the Tennessee Trailways, Inc., owned in three equal shares by three other Trailways member companies.  The investors were the Virginia Stage Lines (the Virginia Trailways), the Smoky Mountain Stages (the Smoky Mountain Trailways), and the Continental Tennessee Lines (a Trailways concern which ran in part between Nashville and Knoxville along US-70N via Lebanon, Carthage, Cookeville, and Crossville).  [That last company was in turn a wholly owned subsidiary of the Continental Southern Lines, based in Alexandria, Louisiana.  The two last firms were members of the Transcontinental Bus System (using the brand name, trade name, or service name of the Continental Trailways).]  Despite the sale the TCC retained its old brand name until 1976.

In 1966 the Transcontinental Bus System (operating as the Continental Trailways), based in Dallas, Texas, bought most of the large Trailways member companies along the Atlantic Seaboard.  Those included the Safeway Trails (the Safeway Trailways), the Virginia Stage Lines (the Virginia Trailways), the Queen City Coach Company (the Queen City Trailways), and the Smoky Mountain Stages (the Smoky Mountain Trailways), but not the Carolina Coach Company (the Carolina Trailways) or the Tamiami Trail Tours (the Tamiami Trailways).

Thus the Transcontinental Bus System (that is, the Continental Trailways) acquired the other two-thirds of the ownership of the Tennessee Trailways, which had bought the Tennessee Coach Company in 1960 – through its purchase of the Virginia Trailways and the Smoky Mountain Trailways – in addition to the one-third share which already was the property of the Continental Tennessee Lines, a subsidiary of the Continental Southern Lines, which in turn was a division of the Transcontinental Bus System (the Continental Trailways).]

Merger into Continental Trailways

Eventually in 1976 the Continental Trailways merged the Tennessee Trailways, which had continued to use the brand name of the Tennessee Coach Company, into the Continental Tennessee Lines – at the same time when it merged also the Continental Crescent Lines, another neighboring firm, into the Continental Tennessee Lines.


Thus finally ended the separate existence or identity of the Tennessee Coach Company.


In 1968 the Holiday Inns of America, based in Memphis, Tennessee, bought the Transcontinental Bus System (using the brand name of the Continental Trailways), then later renamed it as the Trailways, Inc., the TWI.

The Holiday Inns in 1979 sold the Trailways, Inc., to a private investor, Henry Lea Hillman Sr., of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who was and is said to be the most wealthy person in Pittsburgh.

In 1987 The Greyhound Corporation, the original umbrella Greyhound firm, which had become widely diversified far beyond transportation, sold its entire highway-coach operating business [its core bus business, known as the (second) Greyhound Lines, Inc., the (second) GLI] to a new company, named as the GLI Holding Company, based in Dallas, Texas.  The buyer was a separate, independent, unrelated firm, which was the property of a group of private investors under the promotion of Fred Currey, a former executive of the Continental Trailways (later renamed as the Trailways, Inc., the TWI, also based in Dallas), which was by far the largest member company in the Trailways association (then named as the National Trailways Bus System, now named as the Trailways Transportation System).

Later in 1987 the GLI Holding Company, the new firm based in Dallas, further bought the Trailways, Inc., the TWI, its largest competitor, and merged it into the GLI.

The lenders and the other investors of the GLI Holding Company ousted Fred Currey as the chief executive officer (CEO) of the GLI after the latter firm in 1990 went into bankruptcy.

The GLI has since continued to experience difficulties and lackluster performance under a succession of new owners and new executives while continuing to reduce its level of service.  The reductions consist of hauling fewer passengers aboard fewer coaches on fewer trips along fewer routes with fewer stops in fewer communities in fewer states, doing so on fewer days (that is, increasingly operating some trips fewer than seven days per week), and using fewer through-coaches, thus requiring passengers to make more transfers (from one coach to another).

Now a few pieces of the route network of the Tennessee Coach Company still exist, but only as unrecognizable parts of the present Greyhound Lines.

Please see also any one or more of the articles (by clicking on any one or more of the links) listed in the navigational bar in the upper left part of this page.


Hixson, Kenneth, Pick of the Litter.  Lexington: Centerville Book Company, 2001.  ISBN 0-87642-016-1.

Luke, William, and Linda Metler, Highway Buses of the 20th Century.  Hudson: Iconografix, 2004.  ISBN 1-58388-121-2.

Motor Coach Age (a publication of the Motor Bus Society), various issues, especially these:

  • August 1977;
  • May 1980;
  • April-June 1995;
  • October-December 1998.

Backfire, the corporate newspaper for the Southeastern Greyhound Lines, all issues, from January 1938 through February 1956.

Jon's Trailways History Corner, a web-based Trailways history by Jan Hobijn (known also as Jon Hobein).

Schedules and historical data at the website of the present Greyhound Lines.

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Posted first at 17:34 EST, Saturday, 05 December 2009.
Revised most recently at 20:02 EST, Sunday, 07 November 2010.


©  Copyright, 2009-10, Duncan Bryant Rushing.