10/10/10 — Fire department plans to restore 1919 fire truck

View Archive

Fire department plans to restore 1919 fire truck

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on October 10, 2010 1:50 AM

Not many people can claim to have a nearly 100-year-old vehicle that's still rolling, but the Goldsboro Fire Department's 1919 American LaFrance fire truck still cranks up.

However, it also needs a new radiator and a coat of paint, and other work, Goldsboro Fire Department Assistant Chief Eddie Sasser said.

The fire department recently asked for the Wayne County Historical Society's assistance in restoring the truck, and is seeking advice from restoration experts about how to preserve a piece of Wayne County history.

The engine, known as "the 1919" by the firefighters, was the city's very first motorized fire engine. It was purchased from a company in New York on Sept. 30, 1919 and shipped to Goldsboro by rail.

"It shows the history of Goldsboro. At the time the truck was bought, it was very revolutionary," Chief Gary Whaley said.

The city used the truck in various ways for nearly 60 years. The engine pumped about 1,000 gallons per minute, which was the standard for pump trucks until the early 1990s, he said.

The last time it was used, 1979, it served as an impromptu water pump at the city water department when one of the utility pumps failed, Whaley said.

After being retired from active duty, the 1919 engine was in former state Gov. Jim Hunt's inauguration and served for years as Santa Claus' sled in the Goldsboro Jaycees Christmas parade.

Former Goldsboro mayor the late Hal Plonk took an interest in completely restoring the engine, but he passed away before it could be completed, Sasser said. The engine was left sitting underneath a shelter, covered with a tarp, for about seven years.

The time outdoors rotted away the paint, and although the metal is in fairly sturdy shape, the radiator needs to be repaired and the entire truck restored and painted.

Unfortunately, it's hard to find companies that have the knowledge to rehabilitate an old fire engine, and it's also challenging to find money to pay for the work, Sasser said.

The department plans to contact a division of the prison system in Salisbury that works on restoring classic vehicles in hopes of finding a way to return the old fire truck to a working condition. While the engine is actually driveable, it overheats quickly, Sasser said.

Fire department officials will first find out how much money it will take to restore the engine, and then might hold fundraisers to take donations toward the project.

Even if the department can't return the engine to its former glory as Santa Claus' ride in the annual Christmas parade, the firefighters hope to see it protected from further deterioration.

"We've always wanted to restore it," Sasser said.