1929 Williamsport fire engine fondly remembered
After bouncing from state to state over several decades, a 1929 American LaFrance type 145 fire engine with “Station #4 Williamsport, Pa.” stamped on its hood made its way back home in 1992.
The truck was used in Williamsport’s Station No. 4, then at the foot of Railway Street, from 1929 until an unknown year when it was sent to Station No. 5 in Newberry, said Ed Frey, of Warrensville, who brought the truck back from Missouri in 1992.
“As time went by, they declared it was surplus and put it out for sale,” Frey said of the Newberry fire station. “I don’t exactly know when that was, I remember seeing it for sale a long time ago.”
Eventually, the truck went to someone from the lower part of the state. From there it went to Connecticut, then Massachusettes, then Missouri, Frey recalled.
Finally, the owner in Missouri tried to send the truck home.
“Nobody would buy it,” Frey said. “Somehow, he got my name.”
So Frey went to St. Louis to see the vehicle in 1992 and agreed to purchase it.
“I had it shipped back here to Williamsport and I’ve had it ever since,” he said. “I’ve used it a lot for parades and shows but, these last few years, I haven’t been able to do those kinds of things and it’s just sitting in my garage.”
Due to health problems, Frey is offering up the triple-combination engine to auction along with a 1929 American LaFrance type 38 fire truck in original condition and a 1924 Ahrens Fox model NS4 fire truck.
Being a triple-combination engine means the truck has the three main components necessary for battling fires with water.
“In other words, it had a pump to pump water, it had a water tank, and it carried a considerable amount of fire hose,” Frey explained.
Thanks to a creek in his backyard, Frey could pump water “just for fun,” he said.
“One time, I filled the neighbor’s swimming pool,” he chuckled.
The Williamsport truck is almost completely restored to original condition, he said.
The truck originally was made without a windshield, but station No. 4 had the manufacturer, American LaFrance, which was based in Elmira, New York, at the time, add one in the late 1930s, Frey said.
The original radiator also was replaced with a more modern one in the 1950s, he said.
“I took the windshield off and made the necessary changes so it is like it was when it was new,” he said.
However, the wheels — originally woodspoke — also were replaced with a more modern style.
“I’d been looking for a long time for the original style wheels,” Frey said. “I have the parts to put them back on, but I just haven’t been able to do it. If I could have put the original wheels on it, then it would be back to its original shape, but that just didn’t happen.”
Although he was unable to completely revert the truck, Frey recalled moments from more than 20 years of showing it off in parades and shows around the state with fondness.
“Unfortunately, time marches on and it’s time for someone else to get the chance to spend lots of money on it,” he laughed. “But it’s been fun. It’s really been an enjoyable truck to have.”