Here's an excerpt from my grandfather's memoirs about an unusual vehicle called the Galesville Limited.
In the fall of 1949, we found a 1938 Ford school bus in Little Chute, Wisconsin. We bought it for $255 and drove it home to Galesville without incident. It had a steel body with crank-down windows, but it was too low to stand straight in. I lowered the floor three inches by eliminating the cross channels.
With a few partitions and beds and a fresh coat of gray-green paint, we were all set for a trip to the Black Hills in 1950. The high point of the Black Hills trip was the Schilling family fireworks display on top of the highest hill we could find on the Fourth of July.
Schilling Family with the Galesville Limited, 1951
During the next 12 months, the Galesville Limited grew as much as Mother Goose would let me spend on it. Fortunately, she didn't keep track of the time I spent. It grew five feet longer in front with a homemade auxiliary coil spring suspension. A 1938 Ford 2-door body was cut down the middle and a center section from another 2-door was spliced in to widen the over-engine cab to eight feet. Orville Oanes helped on the structural steel fabrication and Axel Gilbertson built in the closets and other woodwork. A new Chevrolet cab-over truck front hood was rebuilt to the same proportions as the Northwestern 400 diesel train engine.
In 1951, we went to Chicago. When we got a little past Richland Center, the old 1938 V8 engine conked-out. We had it pulled back to Galesville where we took out the old engine and replaced it with the V8 from our 1950 model Ford.
On our second try, we made it to Chicago without incident. We attracted a lot of attention in the Museum of Science and Industry parking lot in South Chicago. When we got back home, we returned the V8 engine to our two-door.
I found a Ford Big Six truck engine and after having it rebuilt, Orville and I installed it. Later that fall, Dad and Mother went with us to the Dairy Cattle Congress at Waterloo, Iowa. That proved to be my "Waterloo." About forty miles from Waterloo, the motor seized up and that was the end of the trip. Orville came down with a truck and pulled us back home again.
Our family had grown, so if we were going to see the USA, the Galesville Limited needed to be expanded again. I ordered body panels and this time the bus was extended five feet to the rear. I was able to get a new Buick complete with Dynaflo transmission for about $500. This was installed in back of a Ford truck rear axle that I modified to run backwards.
The extra five feet gave us room for our full double bed, a crib for the youngest, additional closets and a washer and dryer as well as a light plant and air conditioning. The rebuilt engine was repaired and we were ready to try to finish our honeymoon trip to Washington D.C. in 1952, 16 years and seven children later.
At Brookfield, Illinois, we went to the zoo and stopped to see Jake Stampen. Mr. Merritt recognized the Galesville Limited and stopped for a visit. We soon were more of an attraction than the animals in the zoo.
The next morning, we were off to the east coast. We tried to visit as many state capitols as we could along the way. We were towing a Jeep behind so we needed to disconnect and drive it separately through Indiana because of their 40-foot length limit. The Limited was 33 feet and, with the hitch and Jeep, it totaled 45 feet.
We got to Indianapolis during the afternoon rush hour. I'll never forget how the engines heated up and we got shuttled off to side streets. We finally got through Indiana and were greatly relieved to hook up the Jeep again.
We did get to Washington D.C. Mother Goose was doing her ironing as we traveled down Pennsylvania Avenue. We found a place to park near the U.S. Department of Agriculture Building. We went to see our Congressman and visited with our Senator. For the next couple days, we joined the other "geese" in Washington and did "goosey" things.
The Galesville Limited in Washington, DC
A local photographer spotted us and wanted to take our picture. We arranged to meet him in front of the Capitol early the next morning. After the picture taking, we were off to Elizabeth, New Jersey where our Galesville pastor, the Rev. S. E. Vevang, had served a Lutheran church. When we got there in the afternoon, we needed some service done on the front engine. While at the garage, we got our picture taken and a story written up by a local reporter.
I forgot to mention that we had stopped at the factory in Indiana where the bus was built. Our story had made the Associated Press. Some friends had heard it on the radio and passed it on to us.
At Elizabeth, we visited the Hansons and left the Limited in the church parking lot. We took the Jeep into New York City. When we drove down Wall Street during the noon hour, everyone stopped to notice all of us piled in the little Wisconsin farm Jeep. After goosing around New York City, we drove back to Elizabeth, New Jersey and stayed there overnight.
We'd had enough of the city congestion and headed for Niagara Falls early the next morning. We enjoyed seeing the falls again, although it didn't seem nearly as romantic as it had 16 years earlier. Our next stop was Detroit, where we parked in a church parking lot and again had our pictures taken and were interviewed. I believe we also visited Deerfield Village outside of Detroit on that trip.
The Galesville Limited in Detroit, Michigan
Our 1953 trip to the West Coast took us through Rochester, Minnesota, where the mayor had his picture taken with us and the local paper wrote us up. We stayed overnight the second night at Dr. Egge's at Albert Lea. Our trip to Lincoln, Nebraska, turned out to be the hottest part of our travels. We had trouble cooling the rear engine, so we headed north to Bismarck, North Dakota. Orville Oanes was vacationing there and helped us add some air scoops for both the top and bottom radiators for the rear motor.
We sailed along after that until we got to the mountains in Idaho. The rear engine got so hot the distributor cap warped. We met a native family from Cotaldo, Idaho, who helped us find the problem. While we were stalled halfway up the mountain, Alex Thompson and family, who had charivaried us at the Dells 17 years earlier, stopped to see what was wrong. We were surprised to see each other. By that time, we were running again and ready to climb the mountain.
We got to Seattle and found Rev. Vevang's church and parsonage. We stayed there a couple of days before heading back home. The Seattle Times took our picture and wrote another story. Rev. Vevang fed us with some of the best salmon we have ever tasted. He had caught it himself which reminded us of his proficiency as a sportsman while he was our pastor in Galesville.
The Galesville Limited in Seattle, Washington
After we got over the Rocky Mountains on our way home, we averaged 550 miles per day. Our gas tanks held 50 gallons and we averaged four miles to the gallon, so we made a lot of stops for gas. Our meals were served in the mid-section diner. On our trip home from the West Coast, we had our meals as we rolled along at about 55 miles per hour.
Bonnie was our cook. She would often pick up some groceries when we stopped for gas. At one of our stops, we started out without checking. It was getting close to lunchtime when we realized Bonnie was not in the bus. We drove back about 20 miles and were very happy to find her waiting for us at the little store next to the gas station. We tried to be more careful about checking after that.
Bob was our porter. He made up the beds and checked to be sure everyone was aboard. Someone wondered what happened to Bob. We stopped and looked all through the bus. We tried to remember where we last stopped. Our last stop to take pictures was near a bridge but we had no idea how far back it was. We turned around and started driving back. After we had driven about fifteen miles, someone came running and told me Bob was sleeping all curled up under the baby bed in the back. You can be sure we were relieved.
We added another Buick engine and made a trip to Canada and Bemidji, Minnesota, to visit Rev. and Mrs. Megorden and family. They had a cottage on Lake Andrusia with a shallow shoreline extending far out into the lake. Everyone enjoyed visiting the Megordens.
Returning home on Sunday, we were driving through Eau Claire en route to church when the Jeep disconnected as we crossed some railroad tracks. We had just started down a steep grade to the north end of the business section of Eau Claire. The Jeep cleared the back end of the Limited and continued down the steep grade. It seemed to be heading directly towards a group of people coming out of a church on the opposite side of the street. Only some shrubbery separated the people from the Jeep, which was accelerating towards them.
I was helpless, but the good Lord took over in the split second and turned the Jeep into a tree or it would have mowed down dozens of people. The impact bent the heavy channel iron bumper and 12.5 inch solid bar into a horseshoe. The debarked tree showed the wound years later. This was just the beginning of the end of our Galesville Limited travels.
Schilling Family with the Galesville Limited, 1955
Before our Canadian trip, I had installed a new Buick Roadmaster V8 engine in the front where it replaced the Ford Big Six truck engine. It too had a Buick Dynaflo transmission so that the Galesville Limited now started down the road just like a diesel locomotive. I had also developed an automatic control that kept the two Buick engines synchronized by matching the vacuum of the front engine to the rear engine. My hope was that Alet and the older children would be able to drive if they didn't have to shift or keep the two engines in balance with the two gas feed pedals.
It was a fine theory but on the way home after the Eau Claire incident, the new transmission "conked out." We got home on one engine, but I surely lost my enthusiasm for the Galesville Limited. We got the transmission repaired under warrantee but took only short trips after that experience.
Schilling Family with the Galesville Limited, 1955
Later, when we went back to farming in 1956, the boys used it as their bunkhouse down on the farm. In 1963, the year Bob worked in the Experimental Department at Schilling Electric, we parked it in a shady spot in the valley north of the little house on the farm. We connected water and electricity and Bob and Irene used it as their summer cabin. The Galesville Limited was in demand for Centennials, community celebrations, and parades until vandals broke some windows, let air out of the tires and added sugar to the gas tanks.
After we decided to dispose of it, we noticed an ad in the Wall Street Journal for a unique recreational vehicle. A motel owner in Prescott, Wisconsin, had placed the ad. He came to see our bus and seemed interested if we would replace the windows and flat tires and drive it to Prescott, a city about 100 miles north of Galesville. After we agreed on a price of $1,500, he told me he planned to install a bar in the rear section and bring guests from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul to the motel for the weekend.
We replaced broken windows, aired up the tires and cleaned out the gas tanks. When everything was ready to roll, the buyer and his friend came to Galesville to pick it up. The new owner rode with Orville Oanes and me in the Galesville Limited, Alet drove our car and the owner's friend drove his Cadillac. Everything went fine and we stopped for lunch at Fountain City. The new buyer wrote out a check for the balance and said he could drive it from there. We waved goodbye and started for home. The fellow driving the Cadillac had stopped at a different place for lunch and, assuming the Galesville Limited was ahead of him, drove on to Prescott.
About eight miles up the road, near Cochrane, one of the Dynaflo transmissions conked out. After waiting for some time for his friend with his Cadillac to stop, the new owner arranged for the Cochrane Chevrolet-Buick dealer to tow it to their garage. He left it there for repair and hours later, his friend returned from Prescott to give him a ride home.
We knew nothing about what had happened until we stopped at the motel some months later and found the bus out back with some broken windows and other more obvious damage. We learned the dealer had charged him nearly a thousand dollars and had neglected to connect up the air brakes I had added. There are a lot of hills between Cochrane and Prescott, Wisconsin. Without brakes, the eight-ton Galesville Limited got out of control on the hilly winding road and a tree had unstreamlined the Galesville Limited.
This would have been the end of the story except for what happened in 1977. Most of our family had gathered at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater for Carol's graduation. At the family dinner afterwards, Bob showed us some pictures of Debbie and Doug and asked if we recognized where they had been taken. When we gave up, he showed us some pictures of the outside of the Galesville Limited, which of course were readily recognizable.
Bob related that at lunch with some fellow engineers from 3M one day, one of the fellows started telling about a unique vehicle he had spotted at the salvage yard in Hastings, Minnesota. Bob asked what color it was, how many motors it had and other questions about it. As the fellow answered his questions, Bob became convinced it must have been the Galesville Limited. Bob and the children drove down there one weekend and took the pictures he showed us at Carol's graduation.
Alet and I drove up to have one last look at our former "pride and joy!" We learned that it had been sold to a banker who evidently gave up on it too and sold it to the auto wrecker. I arranged to buy the interior paneling. Bob and Doug met me there on a Saturday and I took home a $60 trailer load of souvenirs. The saddest thing of all was that the three long brass air horns were nowhere to be found.
Debbie and Doug in the Galesville Limited, 1977
We have traveled coast-to-coast and border-to-border, but have never seen the equal of the Galesville Limited. My guess is that it was unique only because of the unlimited hours of designing and fabricating. The dollars that went into it were limited to what Mother Goose would let me spend on it.
One of our goslings summed it up by saying, "I recall our Galesville Limited trips contained a certain amount of agony, but overall they were a super experience that very few people can match and they are a source of family pride today."
Written by John Schilling, circa late-1970s
Here are Debbie's photos from her trip to the junkyard that day in 1977.
In 2016 and 2017, the Galesville Limited was featured in the Lost & Found column of Hemmings Classic Car magazine. I wrote to the magazine to tell them what happened to it, and pointed them to this very page for more information. Click on the magazine photo to see a larger version. For anyone searching for this page using non-standard or misspelled terms (galesvillelimited, gatesville, galesvill), you've found the right place. - Debbie Schilling
Copyright © Deborah Schilling/Thomas Bundy