Dreamliner - VIA Metropolitan Transit

Rolling Back in Time

VIA Metropolitan Transit’s vintage Dreamliner bus has been meticulously restored to look brand new after 57 years in San Antonio. The 1966 Dreamliner maintains its original interior and exterior design and features a special seat dedicated to the legacy of Rosa Parks.

It was the signature vehicle of San Antonio Transit’s fleet throughout the 1960s and ’70s, and is a staple of the city’s celebration of civil right icon, Martin Luther King, Jr.

For the first time this year, the Dreamliner was on display at Pittman-Sullivan Park, where event attendees had the opportunity to tour it, take photos, and learn more about its history and the role of transit in the Civil Right Movement.

A Vehicle of Historic Proportions

VIA’s 1966 Dreamliner bus serves as a “rolling museum” that highlights the role of public transportation in the modern Civil Rights movement, including milestones reached here in San Antonio. VIA has partnered with the San Antonio African American Community Archive and Museum, to tell the story in a timeline series.

In 1955, Rosa Parks galvanized the movement when she refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. This sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, led in part by Martin Luther King, Jr., and helped bring about desegregation of public spaces, including public transportation. In 2018, a group of Freedom Riders rode in the VIA’s Dreamliner bus in San Antonio’s MLK March.

A History of Transportation
Protests and the American
Civil Rights Struggle

1986 Plessy vs. Ferguson
U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of segregated public facilities so long as the facilities were equal in equality, what became know as the “separate but equal doctrine.

1904 Maggie Lena Walker
Walker, an African American entrepreneur and civic leader, organized a boycott in 1904 protesting the Virginia Passenger and Power Company’s segregated streetcars. the boycott resulted in the company going out of business within the year.

1955 Claudette Colvin
At age 15, Colvin was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a public bus.

“I could not move, because history had me glued to the seat. It felt like a Sojourner Truth’s hands were pushing me down one one shoulder and Harriet Tubman’s hands were pushing me down on another shoulder, and I could not move.” – Claudette Colvin

1955 Rosa Parks
Rosa Parks arrestedParks was arrested when she refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on the Cleveland Avenue bus in Montgomery, Alabama.

Rosa Parks looking out the window of a bus“People always say that I did’t give up me seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically . . . No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”

1955-56 Montgomery Bus Boycott
Rosa Park’s arrest on Dec. 1, 1955, sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the ensuing Civil Rights Movement. From December 5, 1955, to December 20, 1956, African Americans refused to ride Montgomery city buses to protest segregated seating.

1955 Martin Luther King Jr.
“We, the disinherited of this land, we who have been oppressed so long, are tired of going through the long night of captivity. And now we are reaching out for the daybreak of freedom and justice and equality.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., speaking on the Montgomery Bus Boycott

Martin Luther King Jr

1956 Browder vs. Gayle
Civil rights attorney Fred Gray and Charles D. Langford filed Browder vs. Gayle in U.S. District Court on Feb. 1, 1956, challenging Alabama state laws and Montgomery city ordinances requiring segregation of city buses.

On Nov. 13, 1956, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a district court ruling that segregation on public buses and transportation was against the law.

1961 Freedom Rides
Freedom Riders were groups of civil rights activists who participated in Freedom Rides – bus trips through the American South in 1961 – to protest segregated bus terminals.

The 1961 Freedom Rides, organized by the Congress of Racial Equality, sought to test a 1960 Supreme Court Decision that segregation of interstate transportation facilities, including bus terminals, was unconstitutional.

Montgomery Alabama Bus Riders

“Rosa Parks inspired me to find a way to get in the way, to get in trouble . . . good trouble, necessary trouble.” – Rep. John Lewis, 5th Congressional District of Georgia and one of 13 original Freedom Riders.

John Lewis

The groups were confronted by arresting police officers— as well as horrific violence from protestors — along their routes, but also drew international attention to their cause.

“In many ways, history is marked as ‘before’ and ‘after’ Rosa Parks. She sat down in order that we all might stand up, and the walls of segregation came down.” – Rev. Jesse Jackson

VIA23 Timeline 008 Rosa Parks

Civil Rights in San Antonio

As president of the Black Minister’s Union, the
Rev. Claude Black teamed with the NAACP and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) to organize the San Antonio community and leaders to integrate San Antonio’s parks, swimming pools and department store lunch counters.

1960 Swimming pools, buses and railroad stations are desegregated in San Antonio.
1965 City Council passes ordinance desegregating all public accommodations.

“The right of a just society is a process. And therefore, we never get through with this job; it’s an unfinished job always. New relationships create new problems. New understanding creates new efforts.” – Rev. Claude Black

Rev. Claude Black

Rosa Parks and Ken Davison1987 Rosa Parks rides a vintage bus in the San Antonio Martin Luther King Jr. March. She is driven by VIA bus operator Kenneth W. Davidson.

2005 In 2005, VIA began its Rosa Parks Seat Program and places a special seat dedicated to Rosa Parks in every bus. Today, all 510 VIA buses in operation feature a Rosa Parks Seat.

2018 A group of Freedom Riders rode in this 1966 Dreamliner bus in the San Antonio Martin Luther King Jr. March.

Freedom Riders
Dreamliner Repair

Restoring the Dream

The Dreamliner restoration was completed in 2022, including a massive engine overhaul, reupholstered seats with material and stitching to match the original design, body shop repair, a fresh coat of paint, and window replacement.

Because many parts for the nearly 60-year-old bus are no longer available, VIA’s Fleet & Facility Maintenance Department custom designed, crafted and built parts, including door and window molding, rubber seals, and metal and aluminum brackets and panels to retrofit the bus.

Dreamliner Snapshot

♦ The Dreamliner was introduced in 1959 by General Motors as the New Look bus and also was commonly known by the nickname “Fishbowl,” for its original six-piece rounded windshield.

♦ VIA’s Dreamliner is one of 31,348 40-foot buses built by GM and runs on two-speed automatic automatic transmission and V6 diesel engine.

♦ The Dreamliner’s innovative design used an airplane-like stressed-skin construction in which an aluminum riveted skin supported the weight of the bus. The engine cradle was hung off the back of the roof, making the bus significantly lighter than competitors’ buses.

♦ Production of the Dreamliner in the U.S. ceased in 1977, when it was replaced by the RTS transit bus, which was the first new bus model used by VIA, when it was established in 1978.

1966 Dreamliner Bus