Saturday, October 31, 2015

Dear old Engine 8 found

The entire tale of this blog starts with me growing up by Tacoma Station #8, and the special place in my heart for the 1970 American LaFrance 900 assigned there during my childhood.  The direct result of that, as well as other serendipitous events, was my coming into possession of Engine 17, one of the identical siblings of dear old Engine 8.

Engine 8 as I knew her was Tacoma Fire Shop #43, and she started her career in 1970 as Engine 5 at Station #5 in the Hilltop neighborhood.

Shop #43's first assignment at Hilltop Station #5
Photo: Richard Schneider via Thorsten Umbach

Just a few years later, Fire Station #4 near where the Tacoma Dome is today was permanently closed, and Fire Station #5 was renamed as #4.  Engine 4 kept its number and moved to the Hilltop station, and Shop #43 was reassigned to Fire Station #8.  Here is the only picture I have of Shop #43 at Station #8, and below is a much later picture of Station #8 as she appears today in retirement (a new Station #8 opened in 2003).

Shop #43 at Station #8 with my niece, circa ~1984
Photo: Mine

Historic Station #8 today
Shop #43 was replaced in 1987 and moved to reserve status.  I would see her occasionally around town even when she was placarded with a different unit number, because no one ever painted over the large "8" on the rear center compartment door.  But it didn't last long.  Seems that all of the E17 sisters were sold off and gone from Tacoma by 1990 or so.

Where Shop #43 went after Tacoma sold her I don't know.  She may have gone on to serve another agency like Engine 17 did.  At this point all I know for sure is that at some point the sandwich shop Firehouse Subs obtained Shop #43 and repainted her to their signature Dalmation scheme for work down in Florida.  I have no idea how she got to Florida, if she was already there when they bought her, or they transported her there from somewhere else.  I got this picture from company reps back in 2010 - but at that point I did not know it was #43, I only knew that their rig was one of the E17 sisters.

Shop #43 as a marketing tool for Firehouse Subs, circa 2010
Photo: Mike Kelly, Firehouse Subs
This week I reached out to the SPAAMFAA community on Facebook to try to track down any of the other remaining E17 sisters.  The only other hint I have for any of them is one that was photographed around 2000 in Seattle, which brings us up to accounting for three of the eight sisters.  And then I started trolling the Internet for anything new since the last time I looked years ago.  What I came up with was a batch of photos of the Firehouse Subs engine, one of which was a clear shot of the rear compartments, .... and there in plain sight was my answer to which one she was.

Shop #43 looking pretty rough, January of 2013
Photo: Flickr user VinceFL
There she is, dear old Engine 8.  Now we know where she went.

Have to admit, the deterioration in condition from 2010 to 2013 is significant: Peeling red stripes, quite a bit of rust, flat tire (!).... kind of hard to look at.  Here are some more pictures from 'VinceFL' with some finishing effects applied to the images.

Yesterday I sent an email to the contacts I made with Firehouse Subs back in 2010 to see if they still have Shop #43, and if so how she is doing and where she is.  Not sure what I think I want to do with that info if she is still around.  She would be a much bigger project now than in 2010, and I haven't been able to make any realistic headway on the fire engine I already have!  But it would be nice to know.  Fingers crossed that she still has a future and isn't already gone.  Will post more when I know.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Hello there

I still have E17, no worries!  Can't believe it's been well over two years without an update, so sorry!

Just have been very busy, and one of my children was diagnosed with brain cancer a little less than a year ago, and working through his treatment has been all-consuming for our family.  That is all being documented on a different blog:

Current concerns: Air pressure warning keeps coming on even though air pressure is OK. I kranged a compartment door.  Honestly, I've been driving fire apparatus of all sizes up to and including a 102' aerial platform quint back in the late '90s, and I've never seriously kranged any of them.  But then I get my own, and rack up two?  Frustrating.

Replaced the front tires last year.  Got more equipment, mostly but not exclusively old hose.

Mostly she sits under her cover.  Starts and runs, and can be driven, I try to get her out and moving around at least every other month or so.

Until Mark's cancer is resolved, not much is going to move forward, but we're still here.  Thanks for reading.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Q2B Installed

Well, that was more of a chore than I anticipated.

First off, let me just gripe a bit about the rats nest under the dash.  Surely some of this is leftover from the removal of radios at some point, but... really?  I looked it over when I brought 17 home and was annoyed at the time, but it had been a while and I forgot how annoying it was.  Look at this mess!

So there was a random, small, single-conductor wire sticking out where the Q used to go.  Much too small to be a supply for a Q, so I thought maybe it was for the siren brake.  Verified that there was power to the siren brake button, but wherever it went after the siren brake (disappeared into an anonymous wire bundle), it did not come out at the pedestal.  Starting at zero, then.

Also, there was still a wire to the Q's foot pedal, which also still had power.  And once again, the sending end disappeared into an anonymous bundle never to be found again.

Clipped back both the random wire at the pedestal, and the siren pedal wires, and securely capped off the hot ends until such time in the future the more complete rewiring can be done and those removed.  Unlike the old stewards of E17, who just disconnected random crap and left it to lay there, dead ends and random-access grounding lugs and such.  GAH!

Ran a new 4-gauge wire right from the battery selector switch to a new 150A circuit breaker, then under the cab to a new starter solenoid.  Stole a hot lead from the solenoid's source and ran a 12-guage to the foot pedal then back to the solenoid actuator terminal.

By the way, I found that my cheap hand tool cutters were no match for 4-gauge wire!  Glad that piece didn't put my eye out when it came off!

4-gauge wire - 1  ----  cheap wire cutters - 0

Then there was the siren brake needing attention.  Ran a new 12-gauge line from there to the pedestal before finding that I had a bad section of wire.  Tested for continuity, and it failed.  Wow, was that frustrating, how often do you get manufacturing defects in wire?  What a chore!  Removed the bad section and restrung it.  I am not a fan of butt-end connectors and prefer all-new wires and terminals, and the siren brake was no exception.  While attempting to remove the terminals from the old siren brake, the 43-year-old circuit board lost a chunk.  Thankfully you can still get this exact starter-type switch at NAPA for about $8.  Short delay, but onward.

Original siren brake switch, may it rest in "pieces"
Got it all finished late last night at about 9:30PM.  A little late to play without annoying the neighbors.

So here it is this morning.

Got a sweet video of the beast winding all the way up and waking up the chickens for miles around (sort of obscure C.W. McCall reference there).  Just as soon as we figure out how to get that video off of my son's iPod, we'll post it here.

Engine 17 has a SIREN, baby!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Q2B - with video

Got an excellent deal from a friend for a Federal Q.  In the early days I wanted to do paint before anything else, but this was driving my crazy, taking 17 out and having just a dinky parade siren widget.  People want a SIREN.

This Q was originally a flush mount, but I also got a pedestal and cowl for it.  Trouble was, for some reason the flywheel housing had been rotated 180 degrees, making it impossible for the pedestal and siren brake to co-exist.  Taking it apart to fix that, I got stuck needing an impact wrench to release the bolt holding the flywheel (the four screws to release and rotate the housing are behind the flywheel), and I don't have an impact wrench.

Took it to the shop guys at work and struck a deal.  If they'd give me ten minutes and access to an impact wrench, they could play with the siren.  They just ended up brushing me aside and doing the work anyway, because guys in coveralls are unable to stand and watch a guy in slacks and a tie do anything at the workbench.

Situation resolved, the Federal Q2B is now ready for installation on E17.  Enjoy the show.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Living in a Fire Station is apparently of national interest

We had a structure fire near our place recently, and due to extremely good luck and favorable circumstances, we were able to save the house.

Yeah I got there first, but I do not deserve full credit, as I could not have stopped the fire completely without all of the help that showed up after I did.  I don't have permission to name names, but let's give it up for the other crews that came out and did the bulk of the work.

The local paper decided, instead of an article on the fire, to do a feature on our newly-discovered status as a live-in family at a fire station:

Volunteer firefighter operates out of rural home in Bear Prairie

I guess no one minds a pat on the back once in a while.  But really, I do love this job, no credit or rewards are required, and I honestly would have been happier to continue to fly under the radar.  Anyway, due to how these things work (when one gets spotted in the media and owes the crew ice cream), this kind of coverage necessitated delivering ice cream enough to cover all shifts at six nearby fire stations across four fire districts.  Cha-ching!

But it gets better.  Or worse, depending on how you see these things.  Firehouse Magazine decided to pick it up:

Rural Wash. Station aka Home Has No Siren, No Pole

And now I hear that the Daily Dispatch also has it linked from their front page.

(Update, now Fire Engineering has picked up the story as well: Volunteer Firefighter Operates Out of Rural WA Home)

I am getting Facebook requests for ice cream from friends all over the country.  Wisely, some of them are noting that ice cream doesn't ship well, and are suggesting certain beers instead.

One of my co-workers turned one of the media photos into this hilarious meme:

Through all this, somehow Engine 17 has escaped mention.  If someone can think of a magic way to turn this media attention into a fundraiser to help fund the restoration 17, that would be terrific.

As one good friend reminded me in the midst of this craziness and my fretting about overexposure, I guess this is my 15 minutes of fame and I should just ride it out and enjoy it.

OK, I'll try.

....  gaaaaaah!!!!

Friday, May 3, 2013

The return of Engine 17

Last year late in the Summer I discovered the front tires were deteriorating, and the breakdown was rapid. Without funds handy to replace the 11R22.5's she had to sit. The cracks got so large that I feared a blowout, so I blocked up her front and deflated the tires.

Seeing a fire engine on blocks is a sad, sad sight. I feel so much guilt every time I look at her!

Then, sometime over the winter, one of my rather young children apparently turned the battery on to play with the pretty lights, and didn't turn it off. By the time I discovered this, the batteries had to have been drained completely dead for weeks. Not sure the batteries will be recoverable or not, that is a little outside of my area of expertise.

However, a friendly benefactor has come forward to assist me with purchasing replacement tires and possibly batteries if needed, and I have a good "in" with a local firefighter who works on large trucks who is willing to bring a service rig up to the house to replace 17's tires on the spot.

Hopefully she'll be back on the road soon so that the tales may continue.


A couple of years ago I registered at so I could get help from the members there. At some point I requested a change to my username, which was granted, but my login never worked again. The password recovery script just locked up with a database error for the longest time. Now it appears to go through, but email ever arrives. No email address was provided for the admin. New registrations were disabled. I have been locked out of for well over a year. I've dropped some notes on Facebook to try to find out who runs the place to get that fixed. If any of you, my faithful and patient readers, happen to know who that is, please let me know.