VIA’s pitmaster crew racked up some big wins on Oct. 21, 2023, at CPS Energy’s GrillsGiving event, where the new VIA “GRILLIG” debuted.

VIA’s “Keep SA Grilling” team came in hot, winning first and third place in the chicken category while helping to raise funds for residents needing assistance with their utility bills. The competition also included brisket and rib divisions.

Hector Aguilera, manager of Fleet Services, said the team of auto-body technicians, mechanics, painters, and welders dreamed up the “GRILLIG” — a 14-foot near-replica of the VIA’s CNG GILLIG 40-foot bus — in mid-September and created the trailer using mostly surplus parts.

It’s made to cook up to 100 hamburger patties at once and will be used at employee and charity events, such as CPS Energy’s GrillsGiving, VIA Roadeo, United Way events and others.

The grill, held within the trailer, is 12 feet long and three feet in diameter. It has three cooking chambers with counterweights for each of the three chamber lids. VIA’s welding shop custom built the grill’s 4-foot-by-4-foot double-walled, insulated fire box that supplies regulated heat and smoke by using a reverse-flow design, ensuring a perfect smoky flavor.

The GRILLIG was built on the bones of the original trolley-inspired grill trailer that has been used for years at VIA events. The new grill design is meant to recognize VIA’s front-line employees, who make sure our service fleet is the most reliable, safest, and best-looking on the road.

When planning the design, the team took meticulous measurements of VIA’s 35-foot GILLIG bus to scale it down to the 14-foot trailer design. Special details are found all over the GRILLIG. The sides resemble passenger windows, the rear of the unit has the same signage and features of an actual rear compartment door on VIA buses, and the front has working headlights and destination sign.

The front, sides and rear all open to create a canopy effect and allow the grill to be seen while in operation. The side doors double as a cutting board, prep area, and servicing surface.

The creativity and renovation of the exterior design and the cooking pit functionality was the results of the hard work, pride, and dedication to quality by VIA’s welding shop, paint and body shops and many other maintenance employee’s imaginations, said Tommy Johns, director of Fleet & Facility Operational Support.

The attitude on the shop floor changed overnight with this project, Johns said, bringing an uplifting spirit and sense of rejuvenation.

“It truly was a team effort with enthusiasm, pride, and a VIA can-do spirt,” Johns said.

Deputy CEO Tremell Brown also applauded the team’s efforts.

“The maintenance team went above and beyond on this volunteer project, showcasing their technical skills, creativity, and teamwork,” he said. “It’s another example of the pride we all take in our work at VIA to serve each other and our community.”