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Alaska Hyway Tours

Pioneer Alaska Bus Companies

    Alaska Hyway Tours, which began scheduled sightseeing and highway service in 1955, was the bus/motorcoach branch of an Alaska travel-oriented network started by Chuck and Marguerite West in 1946. In 1957, the companies which included the Gray Line franchise in Alaska, 3 Westmark hotels, and Alaska Cruise Lines, were reorganized as part of Westours.

    December 28, 1961: SEATTLE - Organization of a bus company to operate between Seattle and Alaska, using the new ferry service in southeastern Alaska, was announced Wednesday.
    An application for an Interstate Commerce Commission permit for the service has been filed by Alaska Hyway Tours, Everett W. Patton of Fairbanks, president, announced.
    When ICC approval is received, the company will request the necessary Canadian permits, but there will be no pickup or discharge of passengers in Canada.
    The ICC application requests the right to transport passengers from Seattle to Prince Rupert, where the coach with its passengers would drive aboard a ferry. At Haines, Alaska, the service would tie in with the service operated for the last six summers by Alaska Hyway Tours in conjunction with Arctic Alaska Tours.
    The first of the new Alaska ferries, being built by the Puget Sound Bridge and Dry Dock Co., is scheduled for completion next fall.
    It is hoped that the bus service can begin in 1963, Patton said.

    In 1963, Alaska Hyway Tours was connecting with White Pass & Yukon Route buses to provide service from Whitehorse to many points in Alaska. Click on the image to the right to see the entire 1963 schedule.

    In 1964, Alaska Hyway Tours inaugurated service between Alaska and the State of Washington State. The first bus left Seattle on May 18 and arrived in Fairbanks on May 26. Overnight stops were made at Harrison Hot Springs, Prince George, Dawson Creek, Fort Nelson, Watson Lake, Whitehorse, and the Alaska-Yukon border. A variety of round-trips tours between Washington and Alaska were offered, from 11 to 23 days, with 27 departure dates. To start this service, the company bought "three luxurious new air-conditioned, 38 passenger Sceneramic Highway Cruisers," bringing the number of buses in the fleet to 14.

    In 1973, Westours was sold to Holland America Line, a major player in the Alaska cruise market. The West family stayed in Alaska tourism by starting a tour company and travel agency that eventually evolved into Alaska Sightseeing (buses) and Cruise West (ships).

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Tuesday, September 2, 1958

    Rocks bouncing down a hillside and land sliding under the road on the Richardson Highway near Paxson's Lodge stopped an Alaska Hyways Tour bus carrying nine passengers on Saturday at about 2 p.m. as it was traveling from Valdez to Fairbanks.

    Mrs. Ethel Griffin, 72, of Palo Alto, Calif., was the only passenger who was injured, and she was flown to St. Joseph's Hospital for medical care. Hospital authorities reported that she will be discharged today, following treatment for an injured back, hand and foot, received when she fell over a railing into the bus doorway, according to the hospital report.

Charters Airplane

    When Everett (Pat) Patton, bus driver and part-owner in the firm, hurried into Paxson to call for assistance, the Bureau of Public Roads radio was closed for the weekend and he chartered a plane to fly to Big Delta to telephone for aid.

    A bus and mechanic were sent to the damaged bus and the eight passengers were brought on into Fairbanks. Damage to the bus has been estimated by bus officials at approximately $300. If the bus had not been traveling slowly up a grade, the damage to the bus and the injuries to passengers could have been greater, a bus company official added this morning.