When the Mekasher Garage served as a bus factory

Moshe Ashkenazi remembers in the good old days when the Mekasher Garage served as a factory for buses with Pergo chassis, armored vehicles, and Leyland Buses.

Photo gallery

Moshe Ashkenazi remembers in the good old days when the Mekasher Garage served as a factory for buses with Pergo chassis, armored vehicles, and  Leyland Buses.

After the Six Days War the garage adjusted Leyland Mark 2 buses for use in the old city roads. "this is an important part of the history of public transit in Israel. It mustn't be forgotten".

Moshe Ashkenazi was born in 1939. His father also worked in the Mekasher Garage. Moshe had an extensive career in Egged and was one of the Cooperative's leadership. Moshe is considered to be one of the founders of Egged's activity in Jerusalem. Moshe decided to commemorate the history of the MeKasher Garage where he worked, and it's employees.

Moshe Ashkenazi

My first encounter with the Mekasher garage was as a child visiting my father, Yossef Ashkenazi RIP. The garage was close to our home in Kiryat Share and served as the Hub of the cooperative it was only natural that I would follow my father footsteps and in 1954 I started working there as an intern, under the management of Yaakov Litvak RIP – a tough yet friendly and attentive boss.

The most significant department in the garage was the Bus mechanics department. It was lead by Moshe Shvili, and his assistant was David Russo. The mechanics Binyamin Gilkrov and Nissim Baruch also worked there and were joined by inturns and other mechanics later on. Back then the mechanics overhauled engines manually, and every one of them was unique and complex. My father, alongside with YItchak Shoshani RIP and Avraham Fadida RIP was in charge of the overhauls.

The garage also had other departments, such as parts' refurbishment lead by Tovim Levy RIP, metalworking and springs, lead by Abu Daud RIP – the father of two of my colleagues – Dabid and Yehuda Russo. The Radiator department was managed by Kabia Aref and radiators' expert – Moshe Ben Artzi. The upholstery department was managed by Haviv Shweky, who was in charge of the canteen. The wheels and tires department was under Ovadia Shabtay RIP supervision and the warehouse was managed by Shimon Tzhania and Ernest Schpizzer.

The coach department construct buses

The garage hed a coach department that was founded in 1939 by Gedalia Eilon. He joined the garage from the Argaz company. The Mekasher differed the other cooperatives since it had a special permit to construct its own buses in Jerusalem to save costs. Gedalia was the right man at the right place. Hw formed a department that included services such as carpentry, welding; bodywork, upholstery etc. his team later dismantled wooden coaches and replaced them with more prominent metal coaches that were built on elongated chassis to enable more places for passengers.

During the second world war, the department started constructing buses on Pergo chassis. The independence war created a need for armored vehicles that were also built by the department. The last and most important project of the department was the construction of two buses, on Leyland chassis. After 1951 the Mercav company took charge of all construction services.

The coach department continued its operations but now it dealt with the cooperative fleet's maintenance. Gedalia Eilon was still involved in bus construction alongside with the ArgaZ company and designed special features for the Mekasher.

New projects: Diesel engines, Shason and Leyland buses

During the years 1949-51 the cooperative incorporated new buses, such as GMC, Leyland Tiger, and MAC, all of them had diesel engines. The new busses implemented the formation of a new department, dedicated to servicing diesel engines. The person in charge was engineer Richard Han RIP who lead a team that included Yossef Meyuchas, Yoske Rosenblum, Meir Levy, Amnon Zamir, Baruch Levy, Meir Avishay, Albert Nassi, and others.

In 1952 the Shason Buses arrived in Israel, with conventional gearboxes. A special department was then founded, with particular service pits. The manager at the time was David Cohen RIP.
In 1957 we received vehicles with semiautomatic gears. Those busses arrived at the same time with the Leyland Mark 2 busses. These new vehicles called for a new department that was lead by Rahamim Albek RIP.

The new buses, models and services in the garage created growing congestion in the garage, built in the 1930s.
Working without appropriated tools

The variety of vehicles caused yet another challenge – the garage personnel did not have all the required tools and did not get the relevant training.
I rejoined the garage in 1961, after my military service. At the time new diesel buses replaced the old ones. This change also affected me – after a year when I serviced the Leyland busses, I was appointed to operate the Dynamometer and in 1964 I was promoted to head Forman.

Nathan Rubin took charge as chief manager at that time and brought a new spirit to the garage. New tools were purchased, training programs were implemented, and a new methodology was formed and rewarded the garage managers with the prestigious Kaplan Reward. The garage was rebuilt and enlarged as well.

At 1966 the Mekasher started preparing for the consolidation with Egged. The agreement suggested that the garage will service Egged's fleet. The manager at the time – Yaakov Kriger assigned me the task of coordination with the Egged team that was lead by Amnon Baron and Binyamin Kedmi. The consolidation was to take place on January 1967, and after it, all systems worked in harmony.

The Six Days War came six months later. While most of the employees of the garage were enlisted, I stayed as a temporary manager with a small team. After the war, I was appointed to the vice manager at the Romema Garage that offered rescue services in the Jerusalem district.

received yet another mission  - adjusting the Leyland buses for the roads in the old city, including changing the tiers and lowering the bus rooftop.

In 1970 Egged Secretaria decided to grant autonomy to the Jerusalem district and I was appointed to head of operations for the new region. At the time new Mercedes buses arrived and were serviced at the good old garage.

I held the position for 11 years, during which I was also a secretaria manager. I tried to shed light on a crucial period that changed the history of public transport in Israel.