Retro Buses: Altoona Amtran’s GMC Fishbowls

The GMC T6H-4523A a.k.a. New Looks or Fishbowls aren’t a common sight anymore. Most remaining Fishbowls are now part of historical fleets or part of museum pieces. There is still one place in the America where Fishbowls are still seen running on fixed routes and school trippers – Altoona, Pennsylvania. Amtran still has six GMC T6H-4523A left. However, these Detroit Diesel 6V71N powered beasts have their days numbered.

Currently, Amtran’s fleet of 26 buses is powered by diesel fuel. Amtran is building a compressed natural gas fueling station at their bus garage and will make a gradual shift towards CNG for much of its fleet. Through subsides from PennDOT and the FTA Amtran will be taking delivery of its first six CNG Gillig buses during the middle half of 2018. PennDOT has committed another $5.3 million to allow Amtran to buy another 10 more CNG Gilligs for delivery in late 2019. Amtran also applied for another $1.6 million grant for another three more CNG buses, but if PennDOT agrees to cover half the costs, then it could leverage another six more CNG buses by early next decade.

Amtran looks to begin retiring the six 40 plus year old GMCs once the CNG Gilligs start arriving on the property during the Summer. Meanwhile, the next batch of 10 CNGs to be delivered in 2019 will replace three 35ft 2000 Gillig LFs (700-703) and seven 30ft 2005 Gillig Phantoms (800-807), both of which are past their useful lives or in the case of the Phantoms – suffering from frame corrosion. The 2012 (900-902) Gillig hybrids in Amtran’s fleet will remain until the middle of next decade. Amtran hopes to extend the life of its five 2001-02 Gillig LFs (710-714) which will be rebuilt and rehabilitated through a PennDOT grant. These buses will be regulated to school trippers after the Fishbowls are retired.

Amtran general manager Eric Wolf said, “The GMCs were special — built for longevity in a way that doesn’t happen anymore.”

It will be sad day when the final Fishbowl running for a transit system is retired.

Here are some pictures of Amtran’s fleet:

Old school charm

2005 Gillig Phantoms

2012 Gillig hybrids

2001 Gillig

More from the retro bus series:

Retro Buses: Peoria Citylink’s 1975 GMC Fishbowl

Retro Buses: Muncie Indiana Transit System’s RTS buses

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