Yester Epcot at Yesterland World Showcase Buses

Double-Decker Bus at Epcot Center

Photo, 1985, courtesy of Steve Tanner

The World Showcase Promenade makes a 1.3-mile loop around World Showcase Lagoon. That’s a long walk. But there’s an alternative. A fleet of old-fashioned double-decker buses can get you off your tired feet—but not at today’s Epcot, only at Yestercot.

Double-Decker Bus at Epcot Center

Photo by Werner Weiss, 1983

World Showcase double-decker bus in Germany

The ride takes you to Mexico, China, Germany, Italy, The American Adventure, Japan, France, United Kingdom, and Canada. There’s room for a dozen more countries. As you ride around World Showcase, look carefully to see the signs announcing Israel, Spain, and Morocco. It’s easy to imagine that all 21 spaces will be filled up in just a few more years.

Double-Decker Bus at Epcot Center

Photo by Werner Weiss, 1983

World Showcase double-decker bus in Mexico

If you prefer to walk around World Showcase, it might seem as if you’re walking on a wide walkway. However, it’s a road too. You’re sharing it with rather large buses. Stay alert. Keep an eye on your children. Fortunately, the driver has an authentic, old-fashioned klaxon horn, and he’s not afraid to use it.

Double-Decker Bus at Epcot Center

Photo by Werner Weiss, 1983

World Showcase double-decker bus at the American Adventure

The bus moves quite slowly.

If you’re walking, that’s good news. You wouldn’t want a bus barreling toward you at regular road speed.

If you’re a bus passenger, that’s bad news. It will take you a long time to get from one part of World Showcase to another. The bus isn’t much faster than walking.

Double-Decker Bus at Epcot

Photo by Chris Bales, 1996

Double-decker passing Odyssey Center

If you’re in the bus and you see something you want to take a closer look at, wait until the bus comes to a complete stop at a designated bus stop. It may seem safe just to jump off the slow-moving bus, but you’re more likely to be injured doing that than from being hit by a bus when walking.

The double-decker World Showcase buses were a feature of Epcot Center when the park opened October 1, 1982.

Double-Decker Bus on excerpt from 1982 souvenir map of Epcot Center

Excerpt from Epcot Center map © Disney 1982

Excerpt from 1982 souvenir map of Epcot Center

Strangely, the buses were not considered a park attraction or ride. The original Epcot Center guide booklets (which were made of cardboard and included a cardboard wheel which turned) listed the buses as a service on the same page as first aid, baby services, lockers, and telephones:

Transportation within Epcot Center: “Friendship” launches cross World Showcase Lagoon. Buses regularly circle World Showcase Promenade.

Because they weren’t considered a real attraction, the buses remain largely undocumented. They didn’t even have an official name beyond the generic term “World Showcase Transportation” painted on their sides. By googling epcot world showcase bus, it’s possible to find various explanations, some of which are contradictory, of the double-decker buses being moved back and forth between Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom, and Epcot Center.

There’s disagreement about when the buses stopped transporting guests along World Showcase Promenade. Some people remember seeing the buses operating in the mid-1990s, while others suggest that they ceased passenger service long before then. It doesn’t help that the buses were the kind of attraction—excuse me, the kind of service—that could be stored away for months on end and then brought out when it seemed like a good idea.

Junkanoo entertainment bus at Epcot

Photos by Allen Huffman, 1998

Junkanoo entertainment bus (1998 photos)

Even after they ceased being used for guest transportation, a bus could still be seen at Epcot. A decorated bus served as the stage for the Junkanoo Bus Show for four years. Performers—typically a vocalist accompanied musicians playing drums, bass, keyboards, and guitar—on the upper level entertained Epcot guests with lively (and loud) Soca, Reggae, and Latin Pop.

Characters on Holiday double-decker bus at Epcot

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2004

“Characters on Holiday” double-decker bus (2004 photo)

With the increasing emphasis on Disney characters in the new century, Epcot introduced, “Characters on Holiday.” A double-decker bus decorated with luggage, international flags, and Mickey glove hubcaps would make several stops around Epcot. Characters would alight to spend 15 minutes posing for pictures and signing autographs. Guests could depend on seeing Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Pluto, Goofy, and Chip & Dale. A few other characters would join them, such as Donald Duck, Mr. Smee, Pinocchio, Brer Bear, Baloo, Mushu, Winnie the Pooh, Genie, or Stitch.

screen capture

Screen capture of listing © 2011 TrolleyBrokers LLC.

Online advertisement for a Disney double-decker bus (captured May 2011)

In 2011, you could have purchased your own genuine Disney double-decker Epcot bus for $400,000 (or best offer). According to an online listing from TrolleyBrokers LLC of Estes Park, Colorado:

“$400,000 O.B.O. This double-decker was fully restored in 2008 by its present owner. Unit has power brakes and steering, 4-speed manual transmission. Only six were built. It is a 1920s replica bus last used at the Epcot Center. Perfect for a resort or historic downtown area.”

Think of the fun you could have had driving your friends around.

An original Omnibus at Disneyland (1960 photo)

Photo by Roger J. Runck, 1960, courtesy of Robin Runck

An original Omnibus at Disneyland (1960 photo)

Most of the World Showcase buses look just like the Omnibuses that Disney Legend Bob Gurr designed for Disneyland. In fact, some people have suggested that two of the World Showcase buses came from Disneyland.

There’s one exception. If you examine the photo of the green bus at The American Adventure (with Italy in background), you’ll see that it’s completely different from the others.

In 2011, I asked Bob Gurr about the World Showcase buses:

Werner Weiss: Your Disney Legend bio explains, “In 1981, Bob retired early from Imagineering to launch GurrDesign, Inc.,” so I’m not sure if you were still with Imagineering when the 1982 Epcot Center buses were designed and built. What was your role with those buses?

Bob Gurr: None. But the engineering drawings I made in 1956 were the design used in 1957 for the second Disneyland Omnibus and the 1982 buses. Around 1976, the two Disneyland buses had their bodies removed from the original 1956 and 1957 International Harvester chassis and mounted on Chevrolet truck chassis.

WW: How many new buses were built for Epcot Center?

BG: Have no idea.

WW: Why is the green bus so different?

BG: The green one is unknown to me.

WW: There’s currently a bus for sale for $400,000. It’s odd that a “1956 Disney Double Decker Bus” would have a chassis from a “1982 Chevy.” If, back in 1956, you were able to secure a chassis from 26 years in the future, you’re even more brilliant than I thought. Do you have any comments about that?

BG: The ad is incorrect in that this bus was built for Epcot Center in 1982 on a Chevrolet truck chassis. The owner of the bus contacted me several years ago regarding the missing (at that time) front fenders and headlights. I obtained copies of my original drawings and sent them to him so he could finish the restoration.

WW: So the ad really means it’s a 1982 bus built from a 1956 design. Is there anything else Yesterland readers should know about the World Showcase buses or other Disney double-decker buses?

BG: These were the only double-decker buses ever designed and built by Disney.

While the fate of most of the Epcot Omnibus fleet is unknown, one of them is in Illinois.

Former Epcot Omnibus at the Volo Museum in Illinois

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2022

Epcot Omnibus, in “Characters on Holiday” livery, at the Volo Museum in Illinois

A red Epcot Omnibus is now on display at the Volo Museum, an amazing collection of vehicles (and more) an hour northwest of downtown Chicago. It’s also where you’ll find vehicles from numerous movies and television series, including the 1966 TV Batmobile and the 1989 movie Batmobile. There are even vehicles from Disney parades.

Former Epcot Omnibus at the Volo Museum in Illinois

Photo by Volo Museum, Volo, Illinois

Restoration by the Volo Museum

The Volo Museum purchased the bus for $250,000 in 2014. In a 2018 interview with WLS-Chicago Channel 7 News, Brian Grams, manager of Volo Museum, explained, “It had seen better days. Disney had retired it, and it must have been sitting a long time. The wood was split. The paint was faded and chipped and scratched.”

In July 2018, two 10-year-old boys found the bus in a restricted area on the museum campus, climbed in, and played with the gear shift lever. The bus then rolled 80 feet into a tree, crunching the front of the bus, including the original brass radiator frame. The Volo Museum repaired the damage. The boys and the tree were not hurt.

Former Epcot Omnibus at the Volo Museum in Illinois

Photo by Volo Museum, Volo, Illinois

Ready for a ride?

The Epcot Omnibus isn’t just a museum artifact. The Volo Museum occasionally brings it out to give rides. As of the publication of this article, the Volo Museum website shows that the next opportunity for a ride is Saturday, August 11. It’s free with museum admission. But it doesn’t indicate the year. August 11 was on a Saturday in 2018 and will be again in 2029—but not in any of the years between them,

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Updated August 4, 2023