1930s Fire Trucks -- probable Kitbashing project

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DairyStateDad

Mumbling in the corner
#1
This message started out to be a post at the Running Bear's Diner thread, but I decided instead to break it out as its own thread here.

I definitely want to have some kind of metalworking plant in one of my communities and have pretty much settled on a firetruck mfg operation. (This to honor a brother-in-law who has a brother in the fire service and who himself has a fondness for and interest in the firefighting profession.)

Although set in Up Nort' Wisconsin (as we like to generically refer to those parts), it would be inspired by (not necessarily modeled on) the old Peter Pirsch fire truck mfg operation that was in Kenosha, Wis., for decades. I've collected a few tidbits about it on the Internet and plan to hunt for more. I've also amassed a bunch of pix of fire trucks from approximately my mid-1930s area to help guide mfg.

Some questions or challenges.....

1. One has been finding inexpensive HO scale truck vehicles suitable to the 1930s that could be modified into a fire truck design.

I see MicroEngineering has come out with a subsidiary making a range of generic early 30s truck vehicles that look promising for kitbashing into this purpose, but other suggestions are welcome. I bought a 1939 Peterbilt Fire Truck in HO on eBay some months back to use as a general guideline,, but it's technically a bit later than my time period. Other suggestions?

2. RE: Fire Truck mfg, especially by smaller cos. outside the Big 3 automakers (if they're even in that business at all):

Has the general business model been that they take another mfr's base truck model and then retrofit it for fire service? [This is the approach that a variety of makers of specialty industrial trucks use.]

Or did they build it from the ground up? So would incoming traffic be loads of the generic trucks and outbound the finished modified trucks, or would incoming traffic simply be stuff like sheet metal, perhaps engines (unless those would be mfr'd in house, too) as well as component materials (rubber hoses, say, or other fittings).

3. Most likely transport means for the finished trucks -- flatcars, or that era's auto carriers, which were longer box cars w/ extra wide doors? (I have an old wooden kit for such a car that I bought for potential use for this purpose... And if it isn't likely suitable, I can always use it for shipping automobiles to the region from elsewhere.)

Welcome thoughts from any and all!
 
#2
The oldest manafacturer of fire apparatus is in your neck of the woods. It is Seagrave Fire Apparatus and started in Detroit in 1881. They are now in Clintonville Wisconsin . In 1963 they moved to their present location. A lot of early 20th century was shipped on flatbed train cars. I think apparatus was built using a commercial chassis and then later using a custom chassis the manufacturer made.
 

DairyStateDad

Mumbling in the corner
#3
The oldest manafacturer of fire apparatus is in your neck of the woods. It is Seagrave Fire Apparatus and started in Detroit in 1881. They are now in Clintonville Wisconsin . In 1963 they moved to their present location. A lot of early 20th century was shipped on flatbed train cars. I think apparatus was built using a commercial chassis and then later using a custom chassis the manufacturer made.
Hey, thanks! I was aware of Pirsch, but not Seagrave! Will look up their history for more details.
 

DairyStateDad

Mumbling in the corner
#5
This will be fun to watch! Have you checked shapeways for printed a chassis, for a starting point?
No, I haven't, but that sounds like it is worth looking into. Especially if someone else has already done the design work .... :D But seriously, will put that on my agenda for that project. It's a longer-term item so probably not going to advance really soon. Still in the "collecting string" phase.... :)
 
#6
Erik: Also check out Pierce in Appleton WI. They were founded in 1913, and are now the largest manufacturer of Fire Trucks.


https://www.piercemfg.com/

Seems like Wisconsin is the center of the Fire apparatus manufacturing universe. Peter Pirsch has some distinctive Ladder trucks.

Boris
 
#8
My personal favorite was the front pump, midship engine pumpers by Ahrens - Fox, of Cincinnati OH. Believe they have been out of business for about 56 years, but numerous survivors of their product are preserved in museums. Jordan Products had kits of a 1920s era Fox, and some are still around.
Our department had several.
hanley_1938_Ahrens_Fox_1000_gpm_Pumper.jpg

1938 Model Engine 4
hanley_1947_Ahrens_Fox_1000_gpm_Pumper.jpg

1948 version Engine 5
Ahren-Fox_Fire_Engine.jpg

From a Museum formerly from the Pennsylvania Anthracite Region

Boris
 

DairyStateDad

Mumbling in the corner
#9
For several months I've been poking around the Internet and on eBay in a futile search for period-appropriate HO scale vehicles that could be modified into fire trucks. Since I am not trying to directly model a particular prototype, after all this would be a fictional manufacturer, I have generally felt I had a pretty wide latitude as long as I found something that would look credible. I have seen some of those 1920s era trucks on eBay, but I haven't yet ponied up for any of them. I did recently discover this line of vehicles, I think relatively new, put out by Micro Engineering. I thought a couple might offer a plausible basis to be turned into a fire engine.

https://www.walthers.com/american-light-trucks-1934-ford-stake-truck-w-decals

It is unfortunate how hard it is to find specifically 1930s era vehicles in HO Scale in my experience.

This is a longer term project, not urgent or anything. Probably a good thing:rolleyes:

And if it's plausible that they would ship covered in tarps, I could probably get away with just having one or two of them rather than a bunch;) ...
 
#10
Eric: One thing I want to point out is that if you look closely at the three photos of Ahrens-Fox Engines I unloaded, one is a 1938 model and the second is a 1948 model. From the photos there is very little external difference between the two, although they were purchased ten years apart.
Most fire trucks remained in service for between 20 and 30 years, sometimes with several owners, so a 1930s truck could remain in service to 1968, if it met all certifications and had low engine hours. Given that, a model of a 1920s or 1940s engine could fill the bill of a 1930s era truck.

http://sylvanscalemodels.com/Vehiclepage%20new.htm

They have a line of Reisen kits 1940 is in era that may help you out.

Boris
 

DairyStateDad

Mumbling in the corner
#11
#13
At one time, as a now retired Vol FF, I remember firehouse talk of an invoice that was found of the delivery of our '31 Seagrave. It involved 4 RR's between Columbus, OH, and Waterloo, WI. That was years ago and nobody knew what became of the invoice. I've seen a number of photos over the years of deliveries of apparatus in end door cars. Never could see reporting marks or car #s of course as the focus was the "unveiling". Other than the few pics I've seen of the end door cars, I've never seen pics of apparatus shipped open (or tarped) on flats. Not saying it didn't happen but pics are scarce in general. Keep in mind too, if deliveries back then are anything like today, many are delivered naked, or without tools, hoses, ladders, etc, leaving the dept. ordering the truck to stock it as they wish.

Maybe a check with the Milwaukee Road Hist Assoc, C&NW Hist and Tech Society or Soo Line H&TS could answer questions of WI builders you mentioned. Or maybe a fire apparatus group dedicated to one of the manufacturers would have some references.

Google is my friend..lol
https://youngstownfire.com/apparatus/1944-how-to-deliver-a-fire-truck/
https://i.pinimg.com/originals/dc/de/97/dcde97b5e39398047050592ebd1b58ae.jpg
Funny thing about this one I found. I worked a few mutual aid calls with its 1980's Ford Louisville replacement.
 
#14
Accidentally hit the post button after previewing the links and oops....

Most of the apparatus of your modeling era were purpose built from the ground up. Vendor chassis didn't start to see widespread use until the mid 40's (after the war) and then it went wild, or so it seemed. Some builders stayed on their own, others moved to body only using commercial vendor chassis. A group to check out may be https://www.spaamfaa.org/ .
Since you mentioned going fictional anyway, using end door boxcars of the era would cover bases. Vendor chassis in, finished trucks out. A couple chassis and bodies awaiting mounting outside the main plant as a new truck is loaded on the ramp might capture the essence nicely.

Hope this all helps. Good luck and keep us posted on your progress!
Dave
 

DairyStateDad

Mumbling in the corner
#16
dockman_dave ... Thanks very much! That's a wealth of information there! Much appreciated. Especially about shipping practices -- I just downloaded the Youngstown page as a PDF now, and I've book marked SPAAMFAA.

Also, thanks for clarifying on ground-up vs. vendor chassis. It sounds like for my period ground-up is the way to go? I'm fine w/ that, making the incoming traffic to the factory would be more on the raw materials end than parts.

And your scene suggestion is nifty... This is a longer-range project as mentioned earlier, so it may be a while before things come to fruition, but having seen some other conversations here that touched on firefighting, etc., I figured I'd tap into the expertise while I thought of it.

I have an as-yet-unbuilt craftsman kit for a 40-foot door-and-a-half box car used for automobile transport that I got thinking it could be used for the fire truck factory, but even if it isn't appropriate for that purpose (the vehicles would probably be too long even for the door-and-a-half) I will use it in regular freight traffic.

And thanks, too, for pointing out that they'd probably be delivered naked.

Y3a... The problem w/ the Jordan trucks is that they're 10-20 yrs older than my chosen time period. As background scenery they're fine, but fresh out of the factory, not so much. Still, they would be good to provide a base for the kitbash, while updating the cabs to a mid-'30s style.

Once again, everyone here goes to prove why this is the friendliest and most helpful Model Railroading Forum out there!
 
#17
Y3a... The problem w/ the Jordan trucks is that they're 10-20 yrs older than my chosen time period. As background scenery they're fine, but fresh out of the factory, not so much. Still, they would be good to provide a base for the kitbash, while updating the cabs to a mid-'30s style.
Another problem with Jordan Products is they are no longer produced. The principal owner reportedly passed away without making provisions for succession. Of course, there is E-Bay. I have a Jordan Mack ladder from the 1920s, and a 1927 Ahrens Fox Engine. The Fox needs more modern wheels.
If you can, find one, or a photo of one, compare the Jordan Fox with the photoss of the '38 and 48 versions, note the differences and similarities.

Boris
 

DairyStateDad

Mumbling in the corner
#19
I still have over 40 unbuilt Jordan vehicles.
Wow!
It's my recollection that the Jordan products are white metal kits, but are any of them plastic?

We are in a bit of an austerity budget mode around here following the holidays, but if any of your stock is offered for sale, I would entertain the possibility. Bearing in mind that I am going for a 1930s look on the premise that these would be newly manufactured items, and so I would probably be more looking to cannibalize them for parts, if they are more geared to 1920s or earlier.
 

DairyStateDad

Mumbling in the corner
#20
Side note... ever since Boris posted the interesting picture of the End-door boxcar delivering a fire truck, I've been poking around hoping to find a bit more information about that boxcar configuration. As always, I am constrained by my decision to model mid-1930s, so I am sure that has complicated my search.

If anyone has some information on either websites or other sources that would have some historic detail on those designs, feel free to point me in the right direction...
 



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