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1929 Fire Truck Is Still Rolling, at 35 MPH

1929 Fire Truck Is Still Rolling, at 35 MPH

Bothell Fire Department Lt. Randy Parkhurst displays the city’s 1929 Ford Model A fire truck. [AP]

Seattle Post Intelligencer via YellowBrix

June 02, 2010

BOTHELL, WA – The application states it is a form for nominations to Bothell’s local register of historic landmarks.

In this case, what is being nominated probably isn’t normally thought of as a landmark. Still, if you’ve lived in the Bothell area for any period of time, you’ve most likely seen it on holidays, in parades or at other municipal events.

“It went to multiple fires and had a pretty distinguished career,” said Lt. Randy Parkhurst of the Bothell Fire Department.

Parkhurst restored and now seems to be the primary caretaker of the city’s 1929 Ford Model A fire truck, recently nominated for formal landmark status. Parkhurst added that with summer approaching quickly, he expects the truck will make the usual warm-weather appearances around Bothell.

According to Parkhurst, the Bothell fire department used the Model A, in one form or another, as a fire service vehicle from 1929 all the way until 1956.

Parkhurst put the original purchase price at $3,711.

“That was a lot of money to pay for this back then,” Parkhurst said.

While the truck was built by Ford, it was outfitted for fire duty by the Howe Apparatus Company, founded in 1872 in Anderson, Ind. The 1.5-ton truck still bears an original sticker from the company.

Originally, Parkhurst said the truck was used to fight fires throughout the Northshore area, not just in what is now Bothell, but also Kenmore, Woodinville and as far north as Everett. It was taken out of direct fire-fighting duty in 1952, when, equipped with a generator and other electrical equipment, it was used as a lighting vehicle. It was completely retired four years later.

The truck features what, in the landmark application, Parkhurst describes as what was for its time an innovative Waterous rotary pump containing no valves, pistons or connecting rods. The pump was capable of moving 300 gallons per minute.

Parkhurst said the truck could be hooked up to fire hydrants or pump water from ponds or lakes using stiff pipes that still sit on the side of the truck. The Model A can reach a top speed of 35 mph, powered by a four-cylinder, 40-horsepower motor with a three-speed manual transmission. While the speed obviously isn’t great, Parkhurst said the vehicle was geared to carry plenty of weight.

In the course of the landmark application, Parkhurst notes the truck is largely in tact, with its original equipment and parts. One alteration: The bell mounted in the hose bed is from an old Bothell school house.

Parkhurst said the truck first was restored in 1964 when it was painted by state prison inmates in Monroe. After a time, it sat in the parking lot of a Bothell fire station somewhat neglected.

Originally having joined the department as a mechanic, Parkhurst had restored a Model A prior to taking on restoration of the Bothell truck in 1999. He said he spent a few years trying to get some kind of budget to support his efforts. The biggest alteration was to change out the old transmission. Previously, the truck had the tendency to die in the middle of parades, possibly due to driver error.

“There’s a skill to driving it,” Parkhurst said.

He added the truck has a manual spark and a hand throttle on the steering column. The starter is operated by a button on the floor. The driver also has to manually adjust the fuel mixture as the truck moves along.

These days, instead of sitting outdoors, the truck makes its home in the department’s mobile museum. In addition to the truck, the oversized trailer carries different types of fire-department memorabilia. The trailer and the Model A are kept going via private fund-raising, which Parkhurst admits is always a challenge.

“I enjoyed bringing it back to its current condition and I enjoy keeping it that way,” he added.


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