New York City Fire Apparatus Buff Custom-Builds Models

Tom Eve, 63, still remembers the day in 1958 that the firehouse on his South Bronx block got its new pumper: a gleaming new Mack whose cab could fit five firefighters.

It was a Model-C with a Thermodyne engine, compared to the roaring 1939 Ward LaFrance it replaced, recalled Eve, who even at age seven was already a fixture around the firehouse, Engine Company 60 and Ladder Company 17, on East 143rd Street.

He has not lost his enthusiasm for fire trucks, as attested by the dozens of miniatures crowding the shelves in the basement shop of his house, just off the Staten Island Expressway.

Eve, a retired postal worker, custom builds ultrarealistic models for clients who request replicas of pumpers and ladder trucks — historic or current, from the New York Fire Department or, sometimes, other departments.

“My trucks are on shelves all over the world,” he said. “Most of these trucks are ones I’m working on for other people.”

The little plastic models may resemble toys, but they can cost upward of $300, and they reflect a lifetime obsession with, and deep knowledge of, New York fire apparatus.

Eve builds the models to be historically accurate, down to the make and model, type of accessories and firehouse insignia. He currently has about 300 trucks between his own collection and those being built for enthusiasts as well as retired New York firefighters wanting a souvenir of their service.

“Most firefighters have a favorite truck they worked on that meant a lot to them,” he said. “They feel like, ‘This is the wagon I rode to battle on.'”

While some clients may furnish photographs and descriptions of the truck they want replicated, it often falls to Eve to recreate the rig.
For most of New York City’s 218 firehouses, Mr. Eve can tick off a detailed list of the assigned rigs, from the past and present. His mind is its own index of makes and models: Macks, Seagraves, Ferraras, Hahns, Howes, Maxims — and the old Ahrens-Fox rigs.

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