Four Vintage Apparatus in and around Indianapolis (IN)


By Ron Heal

Each April, thousands of participants at FDIC see everything that is new in the fire world. Over the years, there has also been a sprinkling of what is considered vintage apparatus or “old stuff.” A year ago the folks at the Hale booth observed the company’s 100th anniversary by including a vintage Hale pumper. Yes, Hale did build complete pieces of fire apparatus back in the early motorized days. The beautifully restored pumper drew a big crowd of show attendees. Not all that many years ago there was a selection of several vintage rigs displayed in the outer concourse of the Convention Center. The rigs were owned by area Indiana fire departments as well as some private collectors willing to show off their vintage fire apparatus. The vintage apparatus or “old stuff” does add a nice touch of nostalgia to the big show in Indianapolis.

It turned out that FDIC International 2015 produced not just one vintage fire engine but four pieces of apparatus on display in and around the show. The equipment ranged from an early hand-drawn pumper to an almost new rear-mount aerial ladder truck. They represented over a century of firefighting equipment, and each rig had a story to tell.

First and oldest was a 1907 Sutphen hand pumper. Sutphen Corp. is marking its 125th anniversary as a fire apparatus manufacturing operation—owned and operated by the Sutphen family for all 125 years. Through its Michigan dealer, Apollo Fire Equipment Company, Romeo, Michigan, arrangements were made to bring the Dearborn (MI) Fire Department’s 1907 Sutphen hand pumper to the Sutphen booth in the exhibit hall. This piece of fire apparatus has remained with Dearborn ever since C.H. Sutphen sold the Number 3-style pumper in 1906 to the then village of Dearborn for the grand sum of $350. This would be the beginning of a long-term relationship between Sutphen and Dearborn. David Desrochers, Apollo Fire Equipment salesman, advises that today Dearborn Fire & Rescue operates with five pieces of Sutphen fire apparatus in front-line service. The 1907 Sutphen hand pumper was front and center at the Sutphen booth and attracted plenty of attention. When you look at the size and the simplicity of this piece of equipment, you see just how far apparatus has come in just over 100 years.

A short walk from the Sutphen booth brought visitors to the Seagrave booth, where they were greeted by a very nicely restored 1953 Seagrave model 500-B open cab triple combination pumper. The 750-gpm pumper served the Citizens Fire Company Number 1, Mount Holly Springs, PA. Senior Sales Representative Brett Rhomberg says that Seagrave was able to purchase the pumper from a private collector in the northeast. The collector had fully restored the rig. Future plans for the 75th Anniversary Series pumper are to use the rig in a display of Seagrave apparatus that will include one apparatus from each decade that Seagrave has been in business. Obtaining a collection of that size will not be an easy assignment as Seagrave ladder wagons go back into the 1800s. This display would be housed in Clintonville, Wisconsin, at the main Seagrave production facilities and general offices. While there is no timeline as to when this display will be completed, a trip to Clintonville will be on my list. The ’53 Seagrave pumper looked like it was ready to respond to the next alarm!

Anniversaries such as 150-years are important. That is the number that the FDNY achieved this year. Stopping in at the large Ferrara Fire Apparatus booth, a 100-foot rear mount aerial certainly caught your attention. The rig looked brand new—but not so! For sure, it is a bit of a stretch to consider a 2011 Ferrara Ultra as “old stuff,” but at least it qualifies as a partial “refurb.” There will be many activities this year in New York as the FDNY marks its 150th anniversary. A decision was made to return Ladder 24 to the Ferrara factory at Holden, Louisiana. The truck served FDNY in Division 1, sharing quarters with Engine 1 at 142 W. 31st Street, near Madison Square Garden, in lower Manhattan. In three years of service, the truck completed more than 9,000 responses. To mark 150 years, the FDNY is now using this truck at various events all year. The trip back to the factory was to give the rig a special look. Ferrara did a very nice job of new paint and special graphics. The new look features a metallic silver cab top, silver leaf stripping and lettering; and a blue silhouette of the New York City skyline representing the five New York boroughs. The rig is built on a Ferrara Ultra chassis, is powered by a Cummins ISX 500-hp engine, has a heavy-duty stainless steel fire body, has a four-section rear-mount ladder, and features an 8-kW generator. The Ferrara team is honored to have one of its aerial ladder units as a center piece to mark the FDNY’s 150th anniversary.

The fourth and last piece of vintage apparatus I found was located in the lobby of the nearby Marriott Hotel—just across from the Convention Center. The hotel made arrangements to display a 1966 Maxim “S” pumper that served the Indianapolis (IN) Fire Department as Engine 12. The 1,000-gpm open cab pumper is currently owned by Mark Harvey and retired IFD Captain Dave Hartman. They purchased the rig three years ago in an effort to keep the rig in the Indianapolis area. The pumper is in very good condition. The current owners are interested in finding a new home for the rig in the Indianapolis area and would entertain serious inquiries about a possible purchase of the Maxim. Any serious apparatus collector would enjoy having this pumper in his collection.

I sure hope that I did not miss any other vintage rigs that could have been tucked away at FDIC 2015. While it is fine to come across even one vintage rig, finding four rigs is just that much better! I wonder what FDIC 2016 will bring. That is the question that keeps us coming back!

Do you or your fire department have an older rig with a story to share? Your information is appreciated. Contact Ron Heal at: or phone (309) 698-6968.

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

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