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'Historical artifact': Calgary man buys old transit bus for historic restoration project


A passion that started in junior high has now become reality for a young Calgary man who has a special place in his heart for one of the most essential city services.

Nick Blonski is part of a group in the city that are auto enthusiasts, but they're not interested in fast and flashy sports cars.

"A lot of people don't know this, but there is a whole community of us in this city that keeps track of all the buses and all the trains and kind of documents them online," Blonski said during an interview with CTV News.

He says his love for the vehicles that made up Calgary Transit's fleet for approximately 40 years began when he got into playing bus simulation games.

"There was no particular reason why I played them; I just played them because I thought they looked fun," he said.

"I played them so much that I started to get an interest in buses because of that and started to pay attention to the buses that ran in real life here in Calgary."

Blonski says his interest took him to start taking photos of the buses while in service and learning all he could about the vehicles, their origins and how they've changed over the years.

Part of the hobby that he and his friends enjoy involves looking through the city and area for old buses that might be laying around, unused and forgotten.

That is when Blonski got a hold of his beloved bus, which he calls "1130."

"That was its fleet number with the city," he said.

While Blonski's bus was originally built in 1982, he says it comes from the same series of vehicles that dominated Calgary's roads for between 30 to 40 years.

"This was originally built in 1958-59 and they kept making these until 1986, so they were in production for a really long time," he said.

"Given how iconic it was back then and the fact there's none left now, it's a pretty significant historical artifact."

He says the bus, which had sat on an acreage near Calgary for approximately eight years after it was sold by the city, was in "excellent mechanical condition" and needed very little work to get it going.

"Anything that was broken I fixed on it, but it was just small stuff like the air throttle that I had to replace and a couple of corroded parts here and there.

"Everything else is worthy of passing any safety inspections."

Michael Voss, Blonski's friend who has helped him document the process online, says he's been happy to be a part of the restoration project.

"I was really shocked, I was really excited. I never thought I would actually see this in 2020-21," he said.

"These buses were built to last."

While Blonski can't take any passenger on it because of licencing restrictions, 1130 does have a full complement of seating, all lovingly restored by him and his friends.

But the work on the vehicle isn't done yet, he says.

"Ideally, for long term, I'd like to restore it to what it looked like when it was just refurbished, which was back in around 2004," Blonski said.

"All that rust repaired, all the corrosion repaired, the engine built so that it runs like new."

There's also one part of the iconic vehicle that he'd like to acquire that's so far eluded him.

"Most importantly, the fare box that's inside, I'd like to get an original, blue box like that like all the buses used to have when they were in service."

If you'd like to learn more about Blonski's restoration project – or have a fare box you're willing to part with for a fair price – you can learn more on his website. Top Stories

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