Sunday, November 7, 2010

Wearing a Fire Engine Disguise

I took my daughter to the high school playoff football game, so she could hang out with her friends. I dropped her off in our little car. The lot was beyond full when we arrived, and the entrance was barricaded. I pulled up alongside the barricades, completely outside of any moving traffic, to let her out. She was rummaging for something for a minute, and a school security person walked over and rapped on my window, telling me to move along.

Now maybe there was a legitimate reason I couldn't be there, but I haven't thought of it yet. I was still in the driver's seat, she was getting out, the car was running, lights on, not remotely appearing that I might be thinking of parking there. But OK, no problem, she grabbed her stuff and I left.

Near the end of the game, she called to tell us she was almost ready to be picked up. I heard her friends chattering, and offered to bring 17 down to pick her up and take some of her friends home. She was all aboard for that plan.

I had completely forgotten about the barricades and security people by the time I arrived, but just as I approached and saw them, trying to figure out where to park, they saw me and just automatically grabbed the barricades, moving them out of the way and waving me through.

Well, OK then!

So I picked up my kid and several of her friends right at the ticket gate. It made quite a scene, not unlike when I picked my boys up after school one day.

Picking your kid up in a fire engine and also taking some of her friends home raises her stock, as well as your own in her eyes and those of her friends, especially the guys. For real? Your dad owns a fire truck? Big fun was had by all, especially since the home team won big.

I promise I wasn't trying to play the traffic folks, really, but that was just too funny to not share.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Ripening of Squad 6

One of the biggest tasks in the Engine 17 project is getting her painted red again, or "ripened", from the lime-yellow coat she currently wears.

While that major task awaits, the other unit at my place was successfully ripened today.

As a result of a consolidation of fire protection agencies, the older apparatus in the district still bore markings from the two previous agencies that came together to form a new one. Squad 6 was one of them.

In every other case, the contractor was able to simply remove the old markings and apply new ones, in some cases extending a white stripe on the door with stock decal material. Squad 6 was the only unit, in the 22-vehicle fleet of various colors, that was white with a painted lime-yellow stripe, and the contractor had no stock lime-yellow that would match.

Solution? Cover the entire stripe with a new color. Hey, how about red?

She looks nice with her new stripe, doesn't she?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Welcome, PNW SPAAMFA members

I got my periodic SPAAMFA PNW newsletter the other day, sat down with the pile of mail to peruse through it.

There, on the second page, with no advance warning, was a couple of paragraphs about Engine 17, her history, and how she came to be in my possession.

I didn't write it. I don't know who did, but they seem to know a lot about me. Oh wait, I think I've about spilled my soul right here in this blog. I'm a bit crazy and I own my own fire engine. What else is there?

What's new? Well, 17 has been given a clean bill of health following a detailed inspection. A few air lines need to be moved so they don't rub, but otherwise she is in remarkably great condition, mechanically. Also found some vintage (heavy!) 2.5" hose sections that are loaded so she isn't quite as naked. Love the classic brass couplings.

That's really all there is for now. If you came here from the SPAAMFA newsletter, nice to see you here. Things will be slow over the winter unless I get some historical stuff to talk about. Otherwise, the project is going into hibernation until Spring. Stay tuned.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Parade Report

When we left off, I was trying to install the Whelen Commander strobe light and found things not exactly in a plug-and-play configuration.

The very next day the job was completed, with help from my very-helpful six year old. Seriously, this is no joke. He was a huge help, holding hardware in the right place for me on the roof while I fiddled with bolts and ratchets down in the cab. Plus, his random stories about unrelated topics diverted my attention from irritating but uninteresting problems that cropped up here and there.

Here he is on the cab roof, making sure we know where the new base is installed. You can see the dirty ring in front of the new base that shows where the previous light was installed, forward of the original beacon placement when 17 was new.

A couple of days later, 17 was patiently hanging out at my fire department's Station 1, out of the way, waiting for parade day. May I take you for a trip down Memory Lane, regarding the First Krang? On the day of the Krang, 17 was parked on this side of the building like this, but pulled all the way up by the yellow bollard guarding the corner of the building. Yes, that's the one I clipped. Embarrassing. Not at all a coincidence that she was parked so far back this time, either.

Finally, parade day! 17's role in this parade, besides being a, well.... a fire engine in a parade.... was to be the entry accompanying the New Blue Parrot drama troupe as they promoted their upcoming show Thoroughly Modern Millie. If you bother to ask if I play a Chinese laborer in this show, whose lines are pretty much all in genuine Chinese, I may or may not comment.

Unsurprisingly, there were other apparatus in the show. I was impressed with the work done to this old pumper by the Shriners, as can be evidenced by the weathered photograph on display showing how it looked when they started on it. It isn't at all faithful as a true restoration, but I can respect the amount of effort.

Another lime-yellow pumper was in the show, one I had not known about from this area. The driver, however, was merely a hired hand with no special interest, and the rig itself was borrowed or rented from its owner to ferry a political candidate.

I tried to make small talk and ask about their rig, sort of expecting some of the same in return, but they were totally disinterested. To them, the pumper may as well have been a rented Corvette of no special significance. Thankfully, though we started out parked side-by-side, we were far apart in the procession.

Here we are perhaps twenty minutes before the start, still setting up banners and other attachments for the run.

About to get underway. I don't remember what I was irritated about, but it probably had something to do with telling people to sit down for the umpteenth time. Whatever, it didn't last. Irritation doesn't last long when you get to drive your own fire engine in a parade.

And thanks for suffering this long post to see a picture of 17 in the parade, Millie cast members strolling along in front. It was a great day.

The one thing sorely missed? That missing Federal Q2B.... just gotta get my hands on one.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

First Parade Detail Coming Up

Ready or not, the date is coming up fast.

The rotating roof light on 17 usually does not rotate, and it would be rather embarrassing for that to happen in a parade. Therefore, I decided to not wait to put the "new" strobe light up before the rig is painted, because who knows how long we'll wait for that.

I removed a bunch of screws from the aluminum strips that hold the interior roof panels in place, and removed the center panel, exposing the nuts that held the roof light in place. Removing it was not much of a chore at all.

It was not until I brought the original equipment Whelen strobe out that I realized that this was not going to be so simple. In the picture below, with the dome removed, you can see the Fresnel lens strobe unit resting on the base. The lens and strobe components underneath are held down by the clamp ring, along with the dome, when installed, but as shown below they just lift right off of the base. So for installation, all you have to do is secure the base, and then you tie everything down to that. Simple.

It was not until I had exposed the underside of the old light's installation that I realized it was mounted in a different location than the strobe had been. Reviewing old photos of sister rigs, along with considering the evidence of old holes visible from under the roof, I confirmed that the original strobe was mounted roughly in the front/back center of the cab roof. The newer light had been placed closer to the front.

OK, no problem. A little sealer, some new holes, we're good.

Then I looked at the Whelen base. It has three tabs spot-welded to the inside, about halfway up (not along the bottom edge). And there were only two holes in the original installation.

Fabricating something to make this work, or simply using long bolts, will not be a problem. But the two holes on the roof and three inside the base are not plug and play compatible, so I couldn't finish the job with equipment on hand. Probably will just go with three long bolts.

Here's a picture before the old "new" light was removed, and a picture of where the new "old" light will go that I snapped after realizing I couldn't get the job done that day. Until I cobble something together, poor Engine 17 is feeling a little naked without a roof warning light at the moment.

It isn't much, but some work is getting done at last.

Monday, June 28, 2010

17 Gets a Visitor

I am having a heck of a time finding the time to get work done on 17, as the best days of the season slip by with so many other things going on. Hence, the sparse updates, precisely when I hoped to have the most going on.

Disappointingly, of the four or five SPAAMFAA and collector's auto meet events coming up this summer in the area that I would have liked to have attended with 17, every single one is scheduled on a day that I am scheduled to work. What a serious drag! I haven't ruled out arranging the time off, but vacation time is precious, you know. Still, drats!

I still take 17 out every few weeks, though. And she received a visitor a few days ago when Engine 3 made a courtesy call up here to Station 6.

Monday, June 14, 2010

It's an art project, but 17 played a bit part

This is only barely related to 17, but it seems like forever since I've posted, and I have no updates on work or the project at the moment. Hopefully this will tide you over until more news comes along.

My daughter is a fantastic artist, improving by leaps and bounds every time she takes something new on.

So, do you remember this picture from the February post "Living the Dream"?

Well, the daughter took this picture to school and managed to create the following fantastic bit of work:
Having kids is so cool. So, so cool. They're amazing.

Maybe if you manage to catch a ride in 17, she'll sketch you too.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Another new blog to follow

Randy made the jump from his rig having a Facebook page, to also having a blog for his sweet 1958 FWD pumper. I have no words of value to add on top of what he already has to say about the story of his pumper, so it's best if I don't try.

Check it out:

Engine Company 1102

Sunday, May 2, 2010

We've Moved!

You don't have to update your bookmarks. The old address still will get you here. But the new and much easier to remember address of this blog is now:

Spent part of the day at the semi-annual apparatus re-certification "roadeo". My so-called take-home unit, Squad 6 (center of attention below), made an appearance there along with a sampling of our other apparatus and specialty units.

The "roadeo" course, that you can't see because it is mostly behind the camera, consists of a variety of tests, twists, decreasing clearances, offset alley, backing tasks... always fun. I seriously considered taking 17 and "recertifying" on the rodeo course with her. Dang it... I really should have done that, just because.

It was a fun ride today on the course, thanks for tagging along.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Don't feel pressured

Based on advice handed down by The Happy Medic in a post comment, I have added a PayPal donate button over on the right sidebar, for anyone who stumbles in here and feels moved, by whatever moves them, to contribute to the cause.

I avoided doing that up until now, because I never want anyone to feel pressured to help. If you just want to drop in and read about me fumbling around with something I never tried before, like, you know, owning a fire engine, and laugh at my expense once in a while, well that is totally fine with me. I was goofy enough to get into this and it is my problem to handle it, I know that.

But now that I have gone ahead and added the button, I think it is reasonable to talk a little more about my overall general plans for 17, so anyone who does put a few coins in the hat knows what they're helping to do.

At this time, I am not planning an expensive major strip-to-the-frame, sandblasting and reassembly to like-new condition. Despite some rough treatment in 17's later in-service years, she is still in solid and good running condition. There are no significant rust issues, even in the rear wheel well area compartments. The are no significant bodywork issues, other than the tire chain damage over the right rear wheel well. The engine is running great (I drove her several miles on the freeway today, and she ran straight and true at 63MPH).

Here's what I hope to do, in order of priority:
  • Paint her red (includes repairing tire chain damage, and replica 1970-era TFD markings)
  • Fix the leaking booster tank, and make the pump operational (minor pump shift problem)
  • Replace/restore/repair parts and accessories (the biggest job, after painting)
  • Lastly, after all else is more or less done, stock her with 70's or early 80's vintage equipment
When completed (hah, like that ever happens in a project like this), my intent is that 17 will resemble a well-cared-for but working in-service pumper, not a trailer queen. A few remaining dings, scratches and scuffs will fit that intended character just fine. I will run her in parades in Tacoma as well as local to where I live, take her to SPAAMFAA musters and car shows, and make her available to area firefighters and fire department supporters for weddings/funerals or other events. If you're a local donor, I'm sure we can think of something fun to do with 17 to pay some of it back.

So, I see three major categories of expenses. (1) Paint/Markings, (2) Pump/Tank, (3) Parts/Accessories. The fourth category, stocking equipment, is off the radar right now.

If you feel so moved to contribute to the cause, I will place your contribution into the category of your choice. If you don't choose one, I will place it by highest priority. I do not expect others to fund my folly without my help, though. I will pay for things as my personal budget allows with or without contributions, but note that I will also immediately put in matching funds (up to my fiscal capability) any time donations are received, which should double the impact of anything you feel like putting in.

This post will be updated going forward.

I will list below the amount of donations received to date. Also, under the donation button, I will list the amount of funds currently donated to each category not yet expended. I will also list, with your permission, your name (or any other name you wish to be credited) with the amount of the donation.

Work done will be discussed on regular posts, with costs detailed.

To be clear, again, you don't have to contribute, please feel no pressure. But I would be foolish to not allow others the chance if that's what they really want to do.

Thanks for coming along on the ride.

Donations as of 5/2/2009:
  • Paint/Markings: $0.00
  • Tank/Pump: $0.00
  • Parts/Accessories: $0.00
  • Equipment: $0.00

Friday, April 30, 2010

Pictures, a Phone Call, and Getting Over It

We're actually going to do those in reverse.

After re-reading the last post, seeing once again the oft-repeated apologies aimed to the Tacoma guys of days past for being essentially crazy back in the day near the end of it, I felt like those comments derailed the post. It's over. I'm just not going to do that any more. It was over twenty years ago. I was an idiot, I was lucky, some of the guys helped me, I'm way past it, and am now a veteran firefighter who has by now paid it all back. No more apologizing about it.

OK, then.

Last night I got an email from the current owner of one of 17's identical sisters in Florida. You can see a picture of that pumper in her new life here. It seems they might be willing to assist me in the work by sending along photos of their pumper, which theoretically has not been modified or abused as much as 17, so I can set things right and obtain proper matching equipment to replace missing things. That was Good News.

But that was just a precursor to today's out-of-the-blue phone call from the Tacoma Fire Department. Apparently.... apparently.... they may still have one of the other identical sisters in storage somewhere after all. The person I talked to thought TFD's was at the old Station 12, but I was at old 12's about a month ago on my own for this very purpose, and saw no apparatus in the building (though the old Truck 3, a 1980's Mack CF, is sadly rotting away in the weather out back). Still, the figurative door is open a crack that there may still be one of 17's sisters around, and now I know for sure that someone is checking into that for me and will help me arrange access to it -- if the rumor proves true. This may end up being Great News. We shall see. Fingers crossed.

Finally, another batch of pictures. The thumbnails are small because there are so many. Click on any of them for a big version.

I forgot to grab a picture of these before, but for some reason all of the tailboard clearance lights were removed except the corners. All three off the center, and both of the side lights. Did these disappear when the upper lights went away and someone put those amber ones on? Weird. Guess I'm looking for five proper-vintage red clearance lights now.

I was about to back her up from being out today, and asked my wife to spot me since the kids were around. Then I remembered all of a sudden the back-up horn buttons in the back. Before OSHA and whoever else declared the end of tailboard riding - even for backing into quarters - these pumpers had small horn buttons on the back for a riding spotter to signal the driver. How well I remember as a kid, Engine 8 would pull up, the officer would get out and go into the station, while the jumpseat guy would go back and jump onto the tailboard. the engine would pull forward across the road into position, the tailboard guy would give three honks to signal OK to back up, and the driver would acknowledge with three quick chirps of the air horn. When backed in, the tailboard guy would honk once for stop. If the tailboard guy needed you to go forward again, it was two honks, but that was rare.

Anyway, the memory suddenly splashed into my awareness and I went to check for them. Unsurprisingly, the buttons are gone. The picture above shows the hole on one of the sides in back where they used to be.

Here's the little speaker that the current parade siren is hooked up to. You can see that it is positioned effectively to freak out the guy in the jumpseat.

Another loose wire that went somewhere for something.

I thought one of the airhorns wasn't working, and checked the air lines, but they seem all intact. So I had one of my sons test the horns while I stood on the front bumper. To my chagrin, after reporting one of the horns disconnected, I have to report my error: They both work. But they are still out of tune and sound like delivery truck horns.

Another shot of the air line under the cab roof in back. This puzzled me. The air line is tapped here, but the tap is capped off now and goes nowhere. I cannot for the life of me figure out where a third line from the air horns would have gone, or why. To be clear, this is after the valve, so the capped tap shown would only get air while the horns were being blown. Anyone???

I have no idea what this access panel is for, there does not appear to be anything useful that can be seen or manipulated through here. But you get another view of the dashboard, including a better shot of the dash-top gauge with the broken housing.

I have no idea what this is for, either. It involves moving air for something. Another cooling air intake? It seems like every time I poke around on 17 I find something else I don't know about. This is a symptom of being a long time firefighter, too. After five years on the job, many think they know it all, but some of us spend every year realizing how much we still don't know, and it the more you learn the more you again realize you don't know. Seventeen years of this now for's kind of scary and sobering, actually.

And my parting shot, fueling at the local country store up the road from my place. Always creates a minor stir there when I bring 17 over for fuel. The owner is a firefighter himself for a neighboring district, so we always seem to chat about the latest goings on.

Thanks for coming along on the ride. What else will we realize that we don't know before the day is over?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Back in the Battalion

Not related to Engine 17 in the slightest, but amusing anyway.

I'd been gone from the Pacific Northwest for a long time, but now that I am back, it is nice to make up old connections again.

Sister has now joined the volunteer canteen/rehab unit run by the Tacoma Fire Buffs, is moving along nicely in her bid to change careers and finally get into the emergency services, and is currently hip-deep in EMT class. I had a chance to meet with several of the group members recently, and several seemed amused at the stories I shared of days gone by. It's easy to be amused today at things that were not amusing twenty years ago, though.

Accordingly, I recently got this memo from the group:
Tacoma/Pierce County Fire Buff Battalion

April 17, 2010

Subject: Frank (last name withheld by request)

Dear Sir,

It has come to this club's attention that you seem to have some past and present interests in the Tacoma/Pierce County Fire Buff Battalion. We are a very strictly run club, who not only play by the most serious and strictest rules, but create them.

Therefore your interest raised much discussion amongst our membership, at our last meeting on April 17, 2010. Needless to say some of the membership had met you in person. Yet others had to pass on important observations and insights, some were pro others con. So after several rounds of gut wrenching laughing, I, Cat Urbon, current President of the Tacoma/Pierce County Fire Buff Battalion called for a motion to be placed on the floor. Kenn Smith, long time firefighter, and newly retired (who remembers the crazy kid on the bike) put a motion on the floor to accept you into the club under the guidelines of and as Honorary Member, this motion was seconded by Bob Urbon. Upon voting you were unanimously accepted.

Furthermore you will be entitled to a copy of our monthly newsletter, allowed to respond to fires when in town (NO BIKE, RADIO OR SIREN PLEASE), and will be hereby nicknamed Sparky, Flash's brother. I would like to personally congratulate and welcome you into the insanity.

Cat Urbon, President

I don't even know what happened to that old bike. But I've got my own fire engine now, and they didn't say I couldn't bring that, so who cares?

OK, that was wry sarcasm, all right? Just making sure.

On a serious note, I once again repeat my thanks to Tacoma firefighters of days gone by who tolerated me and kept me alive until I became useful to the service later on, or at least not in the way any more.

If you had told me twenty years ago that I would eventually live in an active fire station and be provided in-service apparatus by the department to run calls - well let me tell you that running an active fire station (chores, maintenance, upkeep, etc) single-handedly while still holding down a full time job, it's a LOT of work - but nonetheless I know it is a very cool gig to have and I am very lucky to have been chosen and have the opportunity to serve my current agency in this way.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

More work to come

I checked the electric hose reel rewind. It works. Hurrah!

I crawled on the ground under the cab to look closer at the hardware behind the leaking air from the brake pedal, which looks fairly straightforward. However, while under there, I took note of two unrelated wires simply clipped off and wrapped around other parts to keep them out of the way. No idea what they were for, where they go, but I suspect they are related to how many things in the cab don't work.

So, that curiosity got me to poke my head under the dash for the first time.

Mother of Hector, I wish I hadn't seen that! Oh man...... it is a jumbled mess. Looks like five or six amateurs, each with different ideas about how things are done, ran wiring to little projects here and there over the years, since 17's Tacoma days (I can't imagine the Tacoma Fire Garage techs allowing this!). Some stuff is hanging or wrapped around other stuff, some wires are clipped short, some terminals simply pulled out. Wires change colors between the butt splices, and are jammed through openings not intended for wiring. Relays and other widgets are affixed under the dash but with no wires attached at all. Wow.

New task: Rewire just about everything under the dash.

What a MESS.

Thanks for coming along on the ride, but hand me those wire strippers, will ya?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pictures of the work to come

Had 17 out for some pictures today, as requested by the new insurance carrier. Here's all four sides. I made these thumbnails, and all those to follow, small, because this post has a lot of pictures. Click any of them for a larger version.

As long as I had her out, I did a walk around to once again get my head around the work to be done.

Mechanically, these are the issues I know of that one can't easily take pictures of:
  • There is a minor but audible air leak while the brake pedal is pressed. - had this one explained in the comments.
  • Major crack in plumbing from tank to pump, tank cannot carry water.
  • Pump will not engage, prior owner indicated a (minor?) actuator problem.
  • Engine surges up and down for about 15 seconds after a cold start. - also had this one explained in the comments.
  • Primary air system leaks, takes about two minutes to build pressure to release the brakes.
  • One of the air horns is not operating, the other is not tuned correctly. - turns out both work, but both are out of tune.
  • Left windshield wiper operates only one direction. If you put it back and turn it on again, you get one swipe.
  • The compression/retard brake pedal has no effect, and does not act to slow the pumper.
  • Rotating red light on the roof sometimes stalls and will not rotate. Being replaced anyway, so no big deal.
  • Officer's side spotlight power is tied to the same source as the high beam wig-wag flasher. Wig wags off = no officer's spotlight.
And then here are the visual items requiring attention of various priorities:

Capped outlet for Stang water cannon visible over the crow's nest. Just under that, a capped outlet into the hose bed, and right there in the forefront, a capped outlet at the rear step. The left side rear outlet is still in service, though.

Not sure why someone put amber DOT clearance lights back here, as they should be red. The directional alternating flashers used to be here, but Tacoma removed them and installed newer style 360 strobe lights (amber on the right, red on the left) around 1985 or so. The flat bracket just above the clearance light is a TFD custom job, installed to hold those new strobes. Unsurprisingly, the strobes are now also gone, skyped by a previous owner to use somewhere else.

Argh. Tire chain damage. This body/paint area is the worst of the entire pumper.

Rust on the tow hooks. Not hard to fix. There's incidental rust elsewhere, of course.

The Krang. A nice ALF Owners Network member sent me a clearance light to replace the one I sheared off. From the sounds of things that I've heard while figuring out how to fix this, it probably won't be too hard to handle. Also obvious here is the scratches and rust on the fender kick plate, and the naked pedestal waiting for a Federal Q2B to once again be installed.

A pathetic amount of booster hose, and an equally pathetic booster hose nozzle. The more I am around 17, the more I think she must have been relegated to mostly grass fire duty before her final retirement.

Hose bed needs a new oak tray. I forgot again to test to see if the electric hose reel rewind is operative.

Dashboard is a bit rusty, along with gunk from previous sundry things glued/taped to the dash, and the defrost air vent directional vane insert is missing from the officer's side.

Other side of the dash. Ladder rack down indicator light is missing. More rust. And one of the dash-mount gauges has a broken housing (but still functions).

Fuel gauge occasionally opts to tell me there is fuel, but usually doesn't. At best, with a full tank, it once told me I had a quarter tank.

I don't know what used to be in this blank hole. The little black box on the lower left is a momentary siren controller, connected to a wimpy electronic speaker mounted behind the left jumpseat. My guess is that it was intended to be used for parade sound effects. It makes four authentic sounds depending on the button pushed, but you have to hold the button down to keep it going. It's main use now is startling the yeebers out of a passenger in the left jumpseat. It will go away at whatever point I obtain and reinstall that Q2B.

I don't need to describe what here is non-stock. Several of these toggle switches now go nowhere or do nothing. The console light in top center comes on when it feels like it.

AO's spotlight does not work at all, and would be hard (impossible) to fully manipulate with that major piece of the controller handle missing.

This is not a maintenance issue, but a neat tie to 17's Tacoma past that I only noticed for the first time today. This is (or rather, was) the phone number to the Poison Information line at the Mary Bridge Children's Hospital in Tacoma. The age of this label is given away in that the first two digits are letters instead of numbers (BR2-1281 = 272-1281). This label is affixed to the inside center of the cab roof.

Hah! The hydraulic ladder rack works perfectly. Just need some ladders so it doesn't look naked.

All rear tail light, back-up light, and brake light lenses are cracked like this, though thankfully all are still intact with no gaping holes.

Missing a few widgets here on the pump panel.

So...... that's what I'm up against. It's so, so worth it, though.

Thanks for coming along on the ride. Don't forget to read the previous post below, still seeking your thoughts and opinions on the painting project.

Monday, April 19, 2010

A bit of a situation, opinions sought

I really don't have the funds to paint 17 red right now. I could possibly go further into debt to get it done, but that is not fiscally responsible. Still, my fellow firefighting friend Art seems ready to do the job and give me a pretty reasonable deal on it. For sure, I can and will do everything I can to bring the costs down, by removing trim and attachments, masking, etc.

But here's the deal. I have discovered that a former Tacoma firefighter who will for now remain un-named, but with a long history at Tacoma Station 8 when I was a kid, still engages in his old moonlighting job and hobby, doing pinstriping and vehicle lettering, with real paint, by hand, the old-fashioned way. It would be sweet poetry to get 17's original markings restored by him, but getting 17 red has to come first. At least the outer cab and body. The cab interior, jumpseat interior and hosebed can wait if necessary for this to happen.

I don't know how much longer he'll be doing this. I don't want to wait years to get it done and miss this opportunity. Certainly I can probably find someone else to do the job if he can't or doesn't want to. Still... it is a neat situation - with an expiration date.

So... looking for opinions. Do I go into further into debt and get it done? Ignore the sentimental side, and stay fiscally smart? Is it pretentious of me to consider allowing donations (I've pointedly avoided this so far), in order to move this along?

I'm glad you're all along with me for the ride. If you could share your thoughts with me now, I would appreciate it very much.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sisters of Engine 17

Thanks to the community at, I have been able to secure photos of two of Engine 17's identical Tacoma sisters, and can finally share closer detailed examples of what she looked like before being painted white over lime green. However, in both cases, the pictures were taken late, so the period touches such as hand-lettered numbers and doors are long gone.

First we have a unit placarded as Engine 7, but if you look at the lower rear compartment you can see where the large decal "16" was either painted over or removed. Engine 7, as I recall, had one of the sisters at the same time Engine 16 did, and they were both replaced close together, in 1989, I think. If I had to guess, extending myself way into conjectureland, this photo is from around 1990, after both rigs had been replaced, and for whatever reason the new E7 was out for maintenance and old E16 was filling in as a reserve rig. There is evidence of body or paint damage, as the AO's compartment and left rear fender are a darker shade of red, as is the nose between the skirt and windshield. This pic does show, however, the Stang cannon and alternating red lights above the windshield that have disappeared from Engine 17. No idea where this rig is today, or if she still exists.

Photo Credit: "Big Dave"

Second is another of the sisters, but I have no idea which one she ever was. The owner of this photo indicated that the picture was taken around 2000, in Seattle. So, ten years ago, one of the sisters was accounted for there. What caught my eye quickly was that the hand-painted yellow trim lines are still on the rear compartment doors, when as far as I knew they had been removed from all the rigs when decals went into vogue. The Stang cannon is gone, the crosslays are empty, the Q2B is gone and replaced with something else. The silver paint over the rear wheel is not original, and the front bumper is pushed up slightly. The pump panel, however, has been "over-restored" with a sheet metal backing that is not original, and as far as I know was never done on one of these sisters while in Tacoma. I wish I knew the disposition of this engine.

Photos Credit: "Brian Birmingham"

Last up is an unrelated treat that also came up at FirePics. This is the 1976 American LaFrance Century Telesqurt that replaced my Engine 17 in 1976, and is the 17 that I remember from my childhood. Since this engine was #17 and bought in 1976 ("17, 76"), she was given distinctive bicentennial markings that included the blue stars on the roof and Squrt, and a "17" on the back of the Squrt circled with blue stars. I love the blue-painted electronic siren on the roof, I had forgotten that touch, and I had also forgotten (or never noticed before) that this engine also had yellow trim lines on her compartment doors like the 1970 batch. If you recall my interpretation of Station 17 history earlier in the blog, you'll remember that Truck 5 was supposed to have been started up there, but never happened. In 1976, this engine, along with Engine 11 (the other side of south Tacoma), were given Telesqurts, and I can only surmise that this was a compromise for never getting Truck 5 in service. No idea where this rig went after her Tacoma service.

Photo Credit: "Big Dave"

With the arrival of the new 17, my Engine 17 was reassigned for the first time, and would respond as Engine 9 for the next four years until being replaced by a Mack CF (one of Tacoma's first lime-yellow apparatus), and then would move to Station 10 for the next seven years to wrap up her Tacoma front-line career.

Bits and pieces...... bits and pieces.