Smokin' hot fire trucks in Ohio

A small town celebrates 125 years of fire service with help from collectors
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Nicknamed "Pony Wagon Town" after a book written about the town and its once worldly Walborn and Riker Pony Wagon Factory, it changed its focus in late September 2009 to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the fire department it shares with nearby Johnson Township: now called the Johnson St.Paris Fire District. The celebration also coincided with the construction of a new fire house on the west edge of town.

Invited to the parade were fire departments and fire truck collectors and their rigs from throughout the region. Below are a few of the emergency vehicles that were displayed.

The descriptions were researched and provided by fire truck collector John Atkins of Urbana. Photos were provided by Grace and Melvin Davis also of Urbana. Compiled by Sharon Thatcher, Old Cars Weekly.

1884 Horse-Drawn Ahrens Piston Type Steam Pumper

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This is an 1884 horse-drawn Ahrens piston type Steam Pumper, serial number 415, size 5, which also included two hose carts. Steam pumpers are classified by numbers with 6 being the smallest and 1 or 1A being the largest. This piece of equiment was manufactured in Cincinnati, Ohio, and was purchased by the village of St. Paris following a huge fire, which destroyed half of the business district. It was in service until 1935, restored in 1975, and still remains on the property of the JSP Fire District, St. Paris, Ohio.

Rumsey Company Hand Pumper

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This is a hand pumper built by the Rumsey Company and purchased by the village of Fletcher, Ohio (Miami County) in 1886. In order to operate this equipment, the hard suction hose was dropped into a water source and individuals on each side would pump the rail, alternately, to create the pressure to force the water through the hose and onto the fire. The cost was $279.66 and it remained in service until 1919. Today it is still owned by the Fletcher Volunteer Fire Department. The department spent three years restoring this piece of equipment which is seen in area parades and has won many awards.

1892 Ahren's Horse-Drawn Steam Fire Engine

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This is an 1892 Ahren's horse-drawn steam fire engine. It is currently owned by the Jack Selvey Family of Gahanna, Ohio.

It was manufactured by the Ahren's Manufacturing Company of Cincinnati, Ohio in 1892 (Serial #2110). It was listed as the 3rd sized steamer rated to pump 600 gallons of water per minute. The steamer was originally sold to the Wheeling, West Virginia, Fire Department for $4,250 and was delivered on Aug. 13, 1892. It was assigned to Engine Company Number 4 of the Eighth Ward. It was rebuilt in 1909 and taken out of service shortly afterwards.

In 1983, the Selvey's found this steamer in a field north of Oglebay Park (Wheeling, W.Va.). It had been cannibalized for parts and what remained was rapidly rusting and rotting away. In 1988, after many hours of restoration work, the steamer was again fit to be publicly exhibited.

Since 1988, this restored piece has participated in well over 150 events and was used as a prop in the PBS movie "Darrow" starring Kevin Spacey, and a TV documentary "Ghosts of Columbus" staring Bob Singleton.

It has been the goal of the Selveys not only to retore and preserve this antique, but to share and educate the public with this small part of the proud history of the fire service making this unique piece available for everyone's pleasure.

General Fire Truck Company Fire Truck on a 1921 Ford Model L chassis

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This truck was manufactured by the General Fire Truck Company using a 1921 Ford Model L chassis. It has a 350 gallon per minute waterous pump and a 60 gallon water tank. The truck was built with solid rubber tires, but they have now been replaced with pneumatic tires. Its original purchase was by the village of West Liberty, Ohio (Logan County), and was in service from 1922 until 1957. The last documented run for the truck was in 1946. After being sold twice to two private individuals, in 2007 the truck was purchased by its present owner, the Logan County Historical Society.

Central Fire Truck Company Fire Truck on a 1948 Chevrolet Chassis

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This truck is a 1948 Chevrolet chassis which was purchased from the Kirby Garage, Conover, Ohio (Miami County) by the Christiansburg Volunteer Fire Department, Christiansburg, Ohio (Champaign County). The Central Fire Truck Company built the body which has a 500 gallon per minute pump and a 500 gallon water tank. It was in service until 1980 and then sold in 1988 to the Zerkle family, who have had several generations of members/volunteers in the department.

1950 Pirsch Custom Built Tiller 75 foot 'Aerial Hoist' Truck

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This is a 1950 Pirsch custom built tiller 75 foot 'aerial hoist' truck, originally purchased by the City of Beloit, Wisconisn. It has no pump or water tank, but was strictly used as an aerial ladder truck. In 1971, the truck was sold to the Town of Beloit, which is the township area surrounding the City of Beloit. It remained in service until 1994 when it was sold at public auction to Gene Brotzman of Mazomanie, Wisconsin. In 1997, it was bought by John Atkins of Urbana, Ohio (Champaign County), who, in 2008, completed a three-year project to refurbish the truck. The bottom photo, provided by John Atkins, shows the entire unit.


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