HIGH POINT, N.C. — On June 18, Perley A. Thomas, founder of what is now known as Thomas Built Buses, will be inducted into the North America Railway Hall of Fame, which honors people who have had a significant impact on the railway industry and society.
The history of Thomas Built Buses began nearly 95 years ago, in 1916. Economic hard times created by World War One forced the closing of streetcar manufacturer Southern Car Works. Thomas lost his job as chief engineer for the company, but was contacted several months later by Southern Public Utilities Company and asked to consider putting together a crew to renovate several streetcars that he had designed for his former employer.
Thomas and many of his former co-workers purchased a building in downtown High Point and opened Perley A. Thomas Car Works. Thomas' reputation in the industry helped to grow the business and within a few years, Thomas-built streetcars were carrying passengers in many of North America's largest cities.
By the late 1930s, cars and buses were beginning to make streetcar transportation obsolete, so Perley A. Thomas Car Works adapted and ceased production of streetcars in 1936. That year, the company also launched its first school bus.
As the 1940s began, Thomas continued to provide his design skills to the company even as he began turning over the day-to-day operation of the business to his children. He actively served as a design consultant for the company until his death in 1958 at the age of 84.
The Chatham Daily News reports that the ceremony on Friday will be held in the Canada Southern Railway Station in St. Thomas, Ontario. Thomas will be inducted into the North America Railway Workers category.