West End Fire Company to restore 1932 engine
ELSA KERSCHNER/TIMES NEWS Eric Hoffman, assistant chief at West End Fire Company, talks about the Buffalo truck which was the first one purchased by West End.
Dong, dong, dong rang the fire engine bell.
Later a siren was added to West End Fire Company's Buffalo firetruck. But in the early years it was a bell that warned people it was coming.
The West End was a community in serious need of a fire company. The closest and still operating was the Blue Ridge Hook and Ladder in Saylorsburg. A company was formed Oct. 14, 1931, and the first truck was purchased the following year. The company was meeting in Altemose Hall over the Altemose Store on Route 209.
Fire engine companies being considered were the Buffalo, Maxim and Ahrens Fox. The choice was the Buffalo in Buffalo, N.Y. The company began as a manufacturer of fire extinguishers and expanded into trucks.
Eric Hoffman, assistant chief and former chief of the company, said the truck was delivered new on Feb. 11, 1932. It cost $4,950, but its vital role in helping to protect lives and property was priceless. The Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad brought it as far as Stroudsburg and it was driven to its new home, which was next to Snyder Chiropractic on Route 209. The concrete ramp remains from that first firehouse. The first section of the new firehouse on Route 715 was built in 1953.
Hoffman said the gold leaf on the engine cover read Chestnuthill and Polk Township rather than the West End Fire Company which is there now. The original wording was to convey that it was to cover the West End, not just Chestnuthill Township.
Big hoses mounted on the side were to suck water from a pond or stream. It had two water tanks. Mounted on top is a booster line on a reel, and a metal rack on top held additional hoses.
The louvers on the engine point to the truck being from early 1932 because later in the year the type was switched to flat ones that opened thermostatically when the engine became hot.
It had a Waukesha six-cylinder engine with a dual ignition system and used 12 spark plugs. It could be hand cranked but Hoffman knows of only one time when it was.
The rotary-gear Hale pump could pump 300 gallons of water per minute. The pump controls mounted on the side of the truck still work.
Hand-held fire extinguishers are mounted on both sides of the truck. It had a four-speed transmission.
It came with a low Buffalo windshield and the spotlight was mounted in the middle of the dash. Harold Rodenbach and Clayton Featherman, local men, made a taller windshield for the truck. The light was moved to the top and there were two small spotlights on the rear. Also on the back are two hand-held Dietz lanterns which may not have given much light but were "better than nothing" for ground-level lighting at a fire scene.
The hydraulic brakes were added by company mechanic Erv Altemose.
It even served as a ladder truck with a 20-foot extension ladder and a second one with hooks to hold it over the ridge of a roof.
The second truck purchased was a tanker but little is remembered about that piece of apparatus. Then a 1957 Dodge pumper was purchased and still the old Buffalo worked on until it made its last firefighting run in 1968.
A Buffalo nameplate is mounted on the fenders.
West End Fire Company wants to restore the old engine by removing added equipment and repainting it in the old dark maroon red that is now seen only under the dash.
They are raising money for the first step which will be to have a firetruck restoration specialist give the truck a going over to determine what is needed. The restored engine would be used in parades and for firefighters' funerals.
"We will take off everything that is not original except, of course, the turn signals," Hoffman said. We'll buy a cover when we get it fixed. We'd like to have it fixed for its 100th birthday in 2032."
He said using the truck to go any distance is not only hard on it but hard on the driver since it has manual steering.
If all goes well, a day will come when the fire engine bell tolls dong, dong, dong to signal the rejuvenation of an important piece of fire protection and its return to the streets of West End.