The Ironbound Transportation Company

by Ken McMurdo

The Beginning of The Ironbound Transportation Company had its roots With another company, The Clinton Ave line in Newark. The picture above shows two of the drivers of that line, John McMurdo Sr. on the left, posing with Harry Yeager. The buses were believed to be a 1924 A. B. Mack, driven by John McMurdo and a Pierce-Arrow driven by Harry and owned by Pop Moore.


When I saw this picture, I began to ask questions about my grandfather and his career as a bus driver in Newark. My father, John McMurdo Jr., was also a driver for the Ironbound Transportation Company from 1931 to 1950, starting at 21 years old and believed to be the youngest driver in the state. He began by stating that he could remember, just as if it were yesterday, how it all evolved and would be glad to talk about the Company that employed him for close to 20 years, as well as employing my grandfather until his passing in 1948.

On May 7th 2004, my father and I drove those routes as he began naming the streets one after the other before we got to them. He had not been back to those streets for over 40 years. Other than the one way streets, not much had changed, some landmarks still there, others Gone.

Based on his recollections in April/May 2004, at the ripe old age of 93, with a mind as clear as if he were still in his 30's or 40's; I will attempt to put his Thoughts together and provide a history of the Ironbound Transportation Company.


Circa 1924, there was a bus line that provided transportation for the workers and families living "Down Neck" Newark. The name was the Center Market-Lafayette line. The owner of that line was a man named Griffin, who was also known as (a.k.a.) "Apple pie" due to his love of "Apples". It is believed that there were approximately 10 to 12 buses and drivers associated with the line. That number remained until the sale of the Company around 1931 or 1932.

It was around that time that three gentlemen made an offer to Mr. Griffin to buy the Company and its routes. The deal was completed and the new owners Mr. Gould, Mr. Moore (Pop) and Mr. Van Kuren became the new owners of the Company. The three gentlemen had all driven and owned buses on the Clinton Ave line. When the three made the transition to the new company, they made offers to other drivers to come with them and start driving for the new line. The only driver to accept that offer and take a chance on the new venture was John McMurdo Sr. who drove for Mr. Gould on the Clinton Ave Line for 15 years. As stated in the prelude, he drove for the new company until his passing in 1948.

It also stood to reason that with new owners, a new name would be in order and thus gave birth to the new company; The Ironbound Transportation Company. (I.T.C.). The garage was located at 2 Margaretta St down at the lower end of Niagara St. and is still there; the building is now used as the site for a scrap/salvage company. The function of the three owners was the running of the line and keeping track of the daily operations mostly receipts and expenses; they did not drive. It was around that time that they decided to hire a full time dispatcher whose name was Walter Weferling, his main function was the route scheduling and driver assignments; it is believed he stayed with the Company until the sale in 1950.

Harold Gould, the son of one of the owners, became the head mechanic and responsible for all operations in the garage during the prime day shift. The same responsibility for the night operation went to the Brother of one of the owners, Pat Gould. The buses that were used were Mack's and whites, which held approximately 20 passengers. During the War years, the only Company that could Manufacturer buses was the Ford Co. and during that time, 4-6 buses were purchased. After the war, additional buses were purchased from an independent Company in Pennsylvania; the buses were larger and held 35-40 passengers.

There were approximately 20 drivers, on average over those years, employed by the I. T. C.; that is in consideration of both full time as well as part time, days and nights. They had the use of about 12-15 buses that were in constant use over the seven days. Besides my Grandfather and Father names, others such as: Ed Bambrick, Al Ryan, Frank Lord, Charlie Grom, George Flynn, Frank lamb, Eli Kurtz, Pat Farmer, Herman Stockinger (drove the midnight run), Bob Hayes come to mind. Most of these drivers stayed to the end and had seniority over my Father; whose first 14 years of driving was the night shift.

I remember asking my father why he was never in service. He told me that he, and the other drivers, were classified 4-A by the draft board because their job was vital to the country's defense; namely, transporting workers to the industrial plants in the Ironbound section of Newark.

The most amazing fact was the fare. I asked my father, "how much was the fare when you started in 1931"? He replied $.05. "That's great," I said; now, "how much was the fare when the Company was sold in 1950"? He replied again $.05. Thinking he was confused, I asked the question again; same answer. He replied, "we did not have a fare increase in all the 19 years that I drove for the line"

One story concerning the fares had to do with Ruppert Stadium, home of the Newark Bears. It seems that Public service had a bus route down Wilson Ave that stopped in front of the Stadium. The problem was that the fare was $.10. After the games however, the crowds would walk the one block over to the Margaretta St. garage to take advantage of the cheaper prices, basically stating two trips for the price of one.

The fare was the good news. Now, the bad news for the drivers; I asked, " how much did you make driving when you started"? He replied $.45 per hour. "O.K." I said, "how much did you make when the company was sold"? he replied $.45 per hour; that was 19 years later. I asked, " How did you make more money"? Simple reply, "more hours"; in other words, overtime. In general, I asked "what was the average take for one bus during an 8 hour shift"? He responded "about $20.00." A great day would be $30.00". He also recalled "the gas at that time was pumped from tanks in the garage so gas pricing was economical since it was not purchased at local stations.

I was very curious as to the make up of the passengers and very simply stated, after a discussion, he felt there were two basic categories, social and workers. It seems that, because of the route structure that interwove through the neighborhoods of the "Ironbound section", people would be able to have access to the "downtown area of Newark". There, as many of us know, were the major stores for shopping, such as Bamberger's, Kresge, Haynes, Michaels -Dept store, etc. The ability to be able to relax was just as easy; who can forget the Movie and theater houses; R. K. O. Procters, Paramount, Lowes, The Branford, The Adams (hosting early Vaudeville), Rialto, The Mosque, little, Capitol and the Lyric. The treat was being able to stop at Nedick's on the corner of Broad & Market for a Nedick's orange drink and a hot dog. The other facet of the line was the ability to transport workers to all the industrial plants in the Ironbound section, whether they were from within the Ironbound, or from other sections of Newark with the main pickup point being Broad St & Raymond Blvd.

As we began to discuss these routes, my father began to mentally run through the routes as if he was going to work that day. There were two main routes; namely, Chapel St, and Avenue L. The following are those routes:

Chapel St.

This route took about an hour in each direction.

Commencing at Broad and Raymond Blvd, down Raymond Blvd towards Penn Station. Under Penn Station making an immediate right on to Railroad Ave.

Continuing to Lafayette St., make a left onto Lafayette going past St James church and Hospital and proceed to Tyler St. (Later changed to Pulaski St., heart of the Polish section), turn right and proceed a few blocks to New York Ave.

Turn left on New York Ave. and continue to Gotthart St., make a left and continue to Wilson Ave.

At Wilson Ave make a right turn and proceed the one block to Rome St. At Rome St., turn left and proceed to St Charles St and then turn left and proceed to Ferry St.

At Ferry St make a right continuing past "The Ballantine Brewery" to Schalk St., make a left and go 1 block to Fleming Avenue. At Fleming Avenue make a right and go 1 block and turn left onto Chapel St.

Continue on Chapel St, crossing over the lower part of Raymond Blvd. to the "ISLAND". Bear right onto Lister St and continue to Ester, make a right and go one block to Albert then make left for one block to Lockwood where the line ended in front of a Tavern used by the drivers as a rest area. When the line continued, the bus would make a left onto Lockwood and go one block to Lister at which time the route would work in reverse.

On the "ISLAND" were: The Farmers Market (on Joseph and Albert St-almost the entire block) as well as companies such as: Sherwin Williams, Benjamin Moore(still there), American Hair Felt, Fisk, Stanley Tool.

There also was only one bus for that line that ran from Midnight to 8:00 A.M in the morning, mostly to accommodate the shift workers.

Avenue L.

Thus route took approximately a half hour in each direction.

Commencing at Broad and Raymond Blvd., following the same basic initial route of the Chapel St. line, the lines changed when the bus arrived at Pulaski St., instead of turning right, the bus continued to the end of Lafayette St. to Wilson Ave.
At that point, turn left on to Hensler St (Home of Hensler Brewery) and proceed a few blocks to Niagara St.

Make a right onto Niagara St. (past St Benedict's church and school-My Alma Mater) and continue past the garage at 2 Margaretta St to Avenue L and finish in front of Hayes Tavern.

Note: Bob Hayes, one of the drivers, drove until he took a job in the shipyards during World War II until 1947. At that time, he and his wife Elly took over the family owned business run by his mother Emma who retired and moved to Keansburg. Together as proprietor's of "Hayes Tavern", Bob and his wife Eleanor ran the Tavern until June 1958 when Eleanor and Emma sold the establishment after Bob's passing; the property was sold to John Engelhorn & son. This was a great spot for the drivers, and passengers as well, because of the lunch and diner menu.

Extended Route to the Avenue L---Doremus Avenue.

The routes were also known by the drivers as "Trippers"

Short route

These were special considerations to those who worked in that remote section. One route was only run once, it picked up 5 workers at the end of the Avenue L run and proceeded over the bridge to the Passaic Valley Pumping Station where it dropped off those workers and picked up 5 workers to transport back over the bridge and then continue the normal route.

Extended route

This route ran the entire length of Doremus Ave to the end where the many of the workers were picked up and dropped off culminating at the Western Electric Company.
Most of the drivers did not prefer to drive this route, the less senior drivers would usually get this run.
The shift began at rush hour around 7:30 A.M and continued to about 9:30 A.M. The drivers would then go home or hang out until about 4:00 P.M where they continued to drive until the rush hour was over around 6:30 P.M. One Company along the route was especially unique. The Company, Reilly Tar, manufactured Mustard gas during world war ll, as you would expect, injuries were commonplace to the point an ambulance was on-site at all times.

Uptown extension-Both Lines

Two years before the sale of the Company, around 1948; both lines were extended to provide passengers with a greater ability to have access to the Downtown area. When returning to the Penn Station area from Railroad Ave. (now one way from Lafayette St) the buses would make a left onto Market St.

Continue up Market St, crossing Broad St to Washington St and make a right at that corner where Bambergers was located.

Continue on Washington St, passing the Prudentials two main Buildings, the Washington St. Bldg and the Gibraltar Bldg. To Raymond Blvd.; make a right and cross Broad St to the original starting point.


On Market St., just under Penn station, was a Newsstand frequented by many of the drivers. I myself remember my Father spending more than ample time there and not returning with a paper. I found out many years later that this was a major focal point for what is now known today as "off track betting".

The Sale:

Circa 1950, for whatever reason, the three original owners had decided it was time to sell the Company. Possibly mounting pressure from the competition, The Public service Company that also had routes in the Ironbound, may have led to that decision. The deal was completed and thus came the end of a forgotten line that affected so many lives for those two decades; The Ironbound Transportation Company. Some of the newer buses were used by P. S. and believed to be part of the Elizabeth Line. As for the drivers, most were not absorbed that left them to pursue other jobs. As my grandfather passed away in 1948, he did not have to cope with problems concerning the sale. One of the drivers offered a new position with P.S. Transportation was my father. He made the transfer and lasted approximately 3 months; the problem, it was a non-driving position. After driving all of those years, he could not make the adjustment.

As for the facility, which is still there on Margaretta St., little is known as to the occupants. It is believed that there were some companies that used the space up until 1980, most notably a soldering Co. In 1981. The entire block was sold at a tax auction by John Marzano. The building, being part of that auction was purchased by Anhydrides Corp and is shared by multiple companies for the Manufacturer of chemical type components. When the building was purchased, it had been abandoned for some time and a massive clean-up effort was undertaken to allow the new owners to set up the facility.


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