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.
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.
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. See photo.
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
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!
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
old engine went is not known. But, in
2012, it was on an Iowa farm and listed for sale on the eBay website. See photo.
old engine appeared to have been painted red at some point after leaving
Western Springs, 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.
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.
Each week, the Western Springs Historical Society presents a “Blast from the Past”. For more information, visit us at www.westernspringshistory.org.