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Western Springs’ Old Fire Engines—Where Did They Go?

In 1924, Western Springs purchased its first motorized fire engine. Since then, others have followed. But, what became of them after they had served the village?

With Western Springs’ population growing in the early 1920’s, the Village purchased its first motorized fire engine, a 1924 Buffalo pumper built on an International truck chassis. The engine, shown above, was considered “state of the art” for its day. It could pump 300 gallons of water per minute and cost $6,000. That would be $76,000 in 2012 dollars! Interestingly, most of the purchase price was covered by village fundraisers, including a carnival. 

In 1941, to keep pace with the town’s population growth, the Village purchased a second fire engine, an FWD (Front Wheel Drive) “triple combination” pumper. Click on second photo above. Its enclosed cab, white paint scheme, and concealed ladders were considered “leading edge” at that time and its performance was equally noteworthy: 750 gallons of water per minute. The vehicle cost $8,600 and was delivered just days prior to the country’s entry into World War II.

By 1952, the village was experiencing an incredible, post-war population boom. In response, the fire department was authorized to replace the aging 1924 model. The new vehicle was a 1953 Ward LaFrance engine, which cost $20,000 and could pump 750 gallons per minute. Click on third photo above.

What happened to the 1924 Buffalo/International pumper? It was sold in 1953 for $150 to the Maywood, Illinois American Legion Post for use as a parade vehicle. Unfortunately, its eventual fate is not known. 

In 1967, the Village decided it was time to add a third piece of fire apparatus and purchased a 1968 FWD truck for $72,000. It had a 75’ snorkel and 1,000 gallon per minute pumping capacity. This enabled the department to fight fires from an elevated platform. Click on fourth photo above. However, by the early 1980’s, the department concluded that the town would be better served by an aerial ladder truck. As a result, the snorkel was sold to another department and replaced by a used 1977 American LaFrance aerial ladder.

By 1975, it was time to replace the 1941 FWD pumper. This led to the purchase of a new $60,000 FWD/Seagrave pumper. However, the 1941 engine was converted and used as a squad-rescue vehicle for some time before eventually being sold. Sadly, this once-great vehicle fell into disrepair and, as of last month, was sitting on a Wisconsin farm awaiting a collector who might restore it to its original condition. Click on fifth photo above.

As for the 1953 Ward LaFrance, this vehicle remained in service as a back-up unit into the early 1980’s, after which the Village sold it to a collector for $3,000. But, happily, in recent years, the Western Springs Fire & Rescue Association was able to buy it back for use as a parade vehicle. As a result, in warmer months, you can still see this great piece of village history parked outside the fire station by the Village Hall.

Dennis Mason February 08, 2012 at 02:13 PM
Actually, FWD stood for Four Wheel Drive, not front wheel drive. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Wheel_Drive.
John Devona February 08, 2012 at 02:19 PM
You're right ... a major typo. The FWD company eventually acquired Seagrave and, over time, they dropped the FWD name entirely. Thanks for picking that up!

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