Bidders hit auction for deals

Lawrence Bus Co. sells 50 years' worth of local transportation history

Alex Estrada, left, of Kansas City, Kan., inspects a car Saturday during the Lawrence Bus Co. auction at 837 Pa. The company was liquidating its fleet of vehicles after being forced to close.

Lawrence Bus Co. disbanded its fleet of 24 passenger buses and numerous other vehicles Saturday, as they were auctioned to entrepreneurs and “scrappers.”

Forced to shut its operations after nearly half a century, owner Chris Ogle had no choice but to liquidate the entire fleet of vehicles and everything else, from nuts and bolts to containers of oil and several Mercedes sedans. The death knell came in June when Kansas University dropped Lawrence Bus Co. as its transportation provider in favor of California-based MV Transportation.

As he watched people bid on buses, including the 1948 Ford Transit bus that his father used to start the company, Ogle had little to say, except that it was heart-wrenching.

The dusty lime-colored bus, labeled “Campus Express,” was a rat’s nest of memories, with green leather seats stacked upon each other and old route maps and auto parts littering the floor.

But auctioneer Dan Kull said that wouldn’t deter potential buyers.

“We have people here to buy a little bit of history,” said Kull, owner of Kull Auction and Real Estate Co. in Topeka.

Kull said about 150 people registered to bid on Lawrence Bus Co.’s assets.

“We have other bus companies; if they aren’t here, they’re also bidding online,” he said. “We have people from Oklahoma City; we have an online bidder from Tucson; we have everyday consumers; we have – I call them ‘scrappers’ – guys that buy salvage.”

One bidder – No. 78 – caused some consternation among other bidders, as he gobbled up the majority of the 30-passenger buses.

Mike Wrenn, of Liberty, Mo., said he wasn’t sure what to expect when he arrived at the auction site, 837 Pa.

“It’s a little bit scary in some ways because I’m not sure what I’m buying,” said Wrenn, who was looking to purchase a bus or van to shuttle patrons of his restaurant, near Marceline, Mo., to nearby Lake Nehai.

Wrenn, who had never bid on a bus before, said he was also intrigued by the various advertisements up for bidding, which once hung from the flanks of the buses and provided a glimpse of the city’s history.