Planning the Restoration

Engine One is a 1922 American LaFrance pumper that served Larchmont until 1947. The Larchmont Historical Society is undertaking a restoration of the engine back to its condition in the 1920s. In order to complete an historically accurate restoration, the Historical Society‘s Fire Historical Company has conducted an extensive research project about the origins of Engine One and its original technical specifications.

How Do We Know That the Engine One Is – For Sure – the Actual Pumper Larchmont Used in the 1920s?

Engine One’s American LaFrance Registration Number

When the Cooper family contacted Larchmont’s volunteer fire companies in 2002 and offered to return Engine One, they sent photographs including one of the vehicle identification plate and factory serial number that uniquely identifies each American LaFrance fire engine. The American LaFrance museum in South Carolina confirmed that the serial number was the same as the one in their records for the 1922 engine shipped to Larchmont.

Acquiring the Factory Records

Through the American LaFrance museum, the Historical Fire Company acquired a copy of the original factory records of Engine One. They show details of Larchmont‘s original purchase order and the numerous changes made to the order as the engine was built. Click to view the 1922 specifications.

If you think village government in 1922 must have been a model of efficiency, these records will change your mind. The original order was dated October 10, 1922 and change orders came in on November 7, 10, 11 and 13! Change orders always announced to the factory workers: “All data now specified is annulled. The following MUST be installed.” Larchmont ordered changes to the transmission, the pump, the rear fenders, and even the length of the rear step at the back.

What Color Was the Original Engine One?

Engine One, as it left Larchmont in 1947, was painted red. However, the Larchmont Historical Society has a photograph (apparently from 1938) showing Engine One painted white above and a darker color (presumably red) below. We checked the factory record, and it clearly specifies that the body, fenders, seat, and tool box are to be painted white, and the frames, springs, axles and wheels are to be red.

Finding Parts

An important part of the restoration process involves finding replacements for missing or broken parts. The specification provides a long list of parts including lanterns, ladders, fire extinguishers and tools, as well as some rather esoteric equipment such as a chemical tank that worked like a large, old-fashioned fire extinguisher. The tank contained a fluid that was slightly acidic (like vinegar) and the firefighters had a pouch with pellets that were a base substance (reactive with acid, like baking soda.) High school chemistry majors – and Cub Scouts – know that when you mix baking soda and vinegar, you get a fizzy release of carbon dioxide. That‘s the way this tank worked, producing 40 gallons of high-pressure water to apply within moments after Engine One would arrive at a fire. When the Larchmonter Times referred to Engine One as the “very last word in fire fighting machinery” that‘s what they were thinking about.

Engine One’s antique wooden wheels are primed.

How do we locate the parts? Members of the LHS Historical Fire Company have joined historical fire equipment associations and monitor their publications for notice of sales. Ebay.com is another source. We‘ve already located some original lanterns, and a set of six pistons.  When four original-equipment wooden wheels became available, our restorer negotiated a fair price and the Historical Society snapped them up.

Marching Uniforms

Now that Engine One has been restored and returned to its home community, it still does not respond to fire alarms. However Engine One and the Larchmont Historical Fire Company do respond to invitations for local celebrations, parades and educational events. The company arrives in uniforms based on those worn in the past and with vintage illuminated helmets.