Archive for October 5th, 2013

Western Springs apparatus history

The Doings Western Springs has a nice article with photos in the ‘blast from the past …’ heading chronicling the history of the first motorized engine purchased by the Western Springs Fire Department. A private owner has acquired the 1941 FWD engine and is planning on restoring it.

WESTERN SPRINGS – In 1941, just days before Pearl Harbor, Western Springs took delivery of a fire engine, whose design was years ahead of its time. But, in recent years, it nearly rusted away on an Iowa farm.

Western Springs’ first fire apparatus was a simple hose reel that had to be pulled to each fire scene. But, in 1924, the department acquired a real fire engine, an International/Buffalo pumper. That engine served the village admirably for many years. But, by 1940, the Village had grown considerably. And, the Village Board saw the need for a second, more modern piece of equipment.

While some towns might have simply purchased a fire engine that was readily available, Fire Chief Waldo Erickson was committed to getting the most for the taxpayers’ dollar. Erickson and his team literally designed the engine they needed from the ground up. And, the resulting bid specification read like no other. There would be no external ladders they would be stored in compartments accessible from the rear. And, there would be no open cab the engine would have an enclosed cab capable of holding three firemen. That feature would not become prevalent for another 20 years. And, the new engine would have four-wheel drive, pump 750 gallons of water per minute, and be painted white in order to be more visible to motorists.

Ten different companies submitted bids, with the winning proposal coming from FWD Auto Company in Clintonville, Wisconsin. The company’s proposed price was $9,203, or $150,000 in 2013 dollars.

The new engine was delivered in late November 1941, just days before the start of World War II. Had the village waited even a few weeks to place its order, delivery of the new engine would have likely been delayed until 1946. Amazingly, the basic design was still being offered by FWD some ten years later!

In the 1950’s, Western Springs experienced considerable population growth and, as a result, it purchased another fire engine the white 1952 Ward-LaFrance that you may have seen in the Memorial Day parade. And, in 1967, the town acquired still a third piece of fire apparatus. But, the days of the 1941 FWD were numbered. In 1968, it was retired from service, replaced by a more modern FWD pumper.

Where the old engine went is not known. But, in 2012, it was on an Iowa farm and listed for sale on the eBay website.

While the old engine appeared to have been painted red at some point after leaving WesternSprings, it was in sad shape. But, after its fate was reported in a Western Springs Historical Society story on the internet, a gentleman from St. Louis contacted the Society for the owner’s name and phone number.

He subsequently contacted the owner and purchased the 71-year-old fire engine. In fact, he has already transported it back to St. Louis, where he plans to restore it as it appeared when first delivered to Western Springs in 1941.

The restoration process will likely take many months, or even years. But, for the time being, a great fire engine has been given a well-deserved reprieve.

Tags: , , ,

New ambulance for Skokie

Martin Nowak found this image of a new Horton unit for Skokie Ambulance 17 which was posted on the Horton FaceBook page.

new ambulance for the Skokie Fire Department

Horton photo

Tags: , , , ,