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Overturned: 1921

1921. "Washington Rapid Transit Co. wreck." More vehicular mayhem in the nation's capital. National Photo Company glass negative. View full size.

1921. "Washington Rapid Transit Co. wreck." More vehicular mayhem in the nation's capital. National Photo Company glass negative. View full size.


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The Line Up

Below are a photo of the new buses lined up from a Library of Congress photo, and a close-up of bus Number 2.

Overturned by Big Truck

The Evening Star (Washington, D.C.) of March 10, 1921, page 12, details the accident that is shown in the photo. The Washington Herald, on the same date, page 1, states the ambulance on the way to the accident scene was also involved in a mishap. The full Evening Star article and an extract from the Washington Herald story are below.

Other information found confirms that the Washington Rapid Transit Company purchased 20 chassis and bus bodies from William P. Killeen who was the Duplex Power Company (truck) distributor for the D.C. area. Service with these buses began on March 1, 1921 which is probably why the bottom of the bus is in such good condition. The bus fare was eight cents on the route.

"Built For Business"

I turned the original photo from the LOC sideways and it is possible to read, "THE DUPLEX," at the top of the radiator: Another picture from the LOC shows that the entire set of words on the radiator is actually "THE DUPLEX LIMITED."

The Michigan State University Archives & Historical Collection states, "The Duplex Power Car Company was founded in 1909 and produced mostly trucks and truck related machinery until it was reorganized into the Duplex Truck Company in 1916. The Duplex Truck Company was a prominent builder and supplier of trucks to private companies as well as government agencies during the years between 1916 and 1955. In 1955 Warner and Swasey Company purchased the Duplex Truck Company and the Duplex division closed in 1975."

A picture of a Duplex radiator, their logo, and a truck, all from another LOC photo, are below.

16th and V

Looks like the apartments at 16th and V Street NW. 16th and U is still a pretty treacherous intersection.

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Heated Stairs

Looks like the extra exhaust plumbing goes into the stairs. Probably to keep the ice off of them. There are holes in the bottom of the steps to let the exhaust fumes escape.

Okehed Transportation

Advertisement, Washington Post, Sep 26, 1921.

Washington Motor Bus System

Comparatively few people are as familiar as they should be with the very marked and singular success of the Washington Motor Bus System.

So we wish to give you some of the plain, honest facts about the way all Washington has okehed this most convenient, safe and practical means of transportation.

Yet, in pointing out the success of the motor bus system, we do not for one minute wish to convey the idea that the motor bus is going to supersede the street car. No, indeed. The street car has its place, and a mighty important one. So has the modern; properly organized and efficiently managed line of the motor buses!

But we do wish to let Washington know what only a part of it already knows — that is, the Washington Rapid Transit System has become a prominent factor in the daily transportation of tens of thousands of Washington folks.

This Motor bus system was started only six months ago! Yet in that short time it carried over three-quarters of a million passengers, and mind you, this was when Washington was comparatively empty.

How many of you have stopped to realize what enormous profits there are in a properly organized, efficiently managed municipal motor bus system? For example, are you familiar with the facts in connection with London, New York, Detroit and Chicago? In London, even during the war, they paid over a million dollars a year in dividends. New York is the best "at home" example we have. Here they have carried over 40,000,000 passengers a year.

Less than six months ago the first properly organized and efficiently managed system of motor buses was introduced to Washington. The first installation consisted of a fleet of ten motor buses, and they operated on Sixteenth street northwest. So popular were they with the public that April 20th we had to put for new buses on!

So insistent has the demand been for more buses and additional routes that we have decided to expand the system, and will install sixteen brand-new buses. Ten will go into operation during the next three weeks, the balance soon after the first of November.

On account of the growing popularity of this splendid motor bus service, the Federal Utilities Commission has granted us two new franchises, which require the installation of these additional buses,

First route, starting from Eighth and Pennsylvania to Twelfth street, to Massachusetts avenue, to Sixteenth street northwest, to Harvard street, to Thirteenth street, to Park road, to New Hampshire avenue, to Grant Circle, and return (Petworth Division).

Second route, starting at Eighth and Pennsylvania avenue, to Twelfth, to Rhode Island avenue, to North Capitol street, and return.

Washington Rapid Transit Company

Fourteenth and Buchanan Streets N.W.
Telephone — Columbia 4026

In 1933, Washington Rapid Transit merged with the Capital Traction Company and Washington Railway and Electric Company to form the Capital Transit Company. Route Map of Washington Rapid Transit Company with examples of double-deck and single-deck buses operated by WRT, "Fare 10 Cents" (via):

Slippery When Wet

The undercarriage is incredibly clean, especially considering the condition of roads (and occasional lack thereof) at that time. It's like someone took it out for a test drive right of the dealer's lot! "Yeah, I don't think I'll take this one -- it feels a little lopsided."

Here's Your Problem

You don't have any front brakes. This thing pretty much has the suspension of a covered wagon and a two ton tank engine.


This section is my favorite in the entire photo:

Heat for interior radiator

Just a guess: the piping appears to be too heavy a gauge for exhaust fumes. Perhaps it conveys water to a radiator within the interior, and located by the exit, where the cold air enters the bus.

External plumbing

Very clean undercarriage. Interesting plumbing on the exhaust, very curious.

Re: The extra pipe

I hate to think it's a heater feed, but that's all that comes to mind!

The extra pipe

I see what appears to be an exhaust pipe coming from the engine and going into the muffler.

What is the pipe that looks to be tee'd off of the exhaust, prior to the muffler, running to the area behind what are probably steps to get into the driver's seat?

[The driver's seat is on the other side. The steps are for the passenger entrance. - Dave]


That's an interesting assemblage of pipes on the right side of the vehicle from just in front of what appears to be a muffler. The cleanliness of the underside makes me think the vehicle hasn't been in service long.

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