Features, Fire Apparatus

Two Men and a Truck

By Ron Heal

In parts of the Midwest there is a moving company known as “Two Men and a Truck.” They do a great job moving goods from place to place. With that in mind, this feature includes two men and a truck. The men are Brad Corley and John Dreiling. The truck is an almost 100-year-old 1921 Reo Speedwagon/ Boyer chemical truck.

Brad Corley is a retired fire captain from the Wichita Falls (TX) Fire Department and is president of the Wichita Falls Fire and Police Museum. John Dreiling is the owner of Dreiling Field Service in Hays, Kansas. The 1921 Reo/Boyer chemical unit was the first piece of motorized fire apparatus in Hays, Kansas.

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The Reo/Boyer was actually delivered in late fall 1920, making the rig almost 100 years old. It would serve the city of Hays until 1937, at which time it was sold to Brewster. Kansas. The rig would move on to Bazine, Kansas and remain there until 1976, at which time the rig was sold privately. Like so many vintage pieces of motorized fire apparatus, the years following the private sale are a bit murky. Many vintage rigs of that era ended up in scrap yards. Fortunately for the Hays rig, it would find its way to the private collection of a Mr. Lewis. He would complete a frame off restoration that has stayed in great condition right up until now.

Fast forward to 2015 when Brad Corley went to a fire museum in Lawton, Oklahoma, to purchase a B Model Mack pumper for the Wichita Falls Fire and Police Museum. When Brad got to Lawton, he learned that a 1921 Reo/Boyer chemical rig was also for sale at the same museum. Brad bought the Mack for the ever-growing Wichita Falls museum and bought the ’21 Reo/Boyer for his own. For the last five years Brad has enjoyed the rig, taken great care of the unit, and completely rewired the electrical system to original specifications. He has kept the rig in a climate-controlled storage facility. The rig was a favorite for rides and parades. Brad was aware of the history of the truck and knew of its beginnings in Hays, Kansas. In 2016 he trailered the rig over to Hays for a special event. Members and retired members of the Hays Fire Department were excited to have their first motorized fire truck back in town. Efforts were made to raise funds to try to have the rig returned to Hays. The second and third pieces of motorized fire apparatus are already on display at a local museum in Hays. Efforts to raise the funds needed to bring the rig home were just not all that successful. A rare rig in show condition does carry a fair price. Brad really wanted to see the rig go back to Hays. Earlier this spring Brad advertised the rig for sale on Craigslist. The people at Hays were aware of the listing and feared that the rig would sell far away from the general area. Brad’s thoughts were that possibly someone from the Hays area would see the ad and make an offer.

It turned out that Brad was spot on—and in only a matter of days! John Dreiling learned that the rig was for sale, and yes, he wanted the rig back in Hays. A phone call to Brad and finding out the price, John said “SOLD.”

Days later, Brad loaded the truck and delivered the rig to Hays. There was a big group of firefighters, retired firefighters, and members of the Hays Firefighters Relief Organization as well as interested citizens on hand to see John Dreiling take delivery of the 1921 Reo/Boyer chemical unit that was built in Logansport, Indiana, almost 100 years ago. The truck is in beautiful condition and is in top running order. Top speed is 40 to 45 miles per hour. The one-ton Reo chassis is powered by a 4-cylinder T4 140-hp engine. There are two 45-gallon chemical tanks.

John Dreiling shared that he is a caretaker of the rig and will turn it over to the Firefighters Relief Organization whenever they are successful in raising the funds to purchase the rig from John at his cost. That could happen in five months or five years—whatever it takes. With the rig back in Hays and a July 4 parade and a big September car show, it is a good bet that the funds will be raised sooner rather than later. There is a keen appreciation in the fire service and the Hays community to have this rig back in town.

When it comes to the restoration and maintaining of vintage fire trucks, communities are thankful that there are people like Brad and John to step up and be involved in everything that is needed to keep an old fire truck that is an important part of the community’s history.

Future plans are to display the rig at an expanded museum at the Ellis County Historical Society. That is where the second and third motorized Hays fire trucks are displayed.

This story has a happy ending. Thanks to two men—John Dreiling and Brad Corley—a great piece of Hays, Kansas, history is back home.

RON HEAL compiles the “Apparatus Showcase” and “Recent Orders” departments monthly in Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment.