For nearly three decades, the rusted remains of a 1933 Federal Service Ladder Truck bounced around the fire stations of Toledo - a restoration project that Toledo Firefighters Museum members promised one day to undertake.
About a year ago, they finally were able to get to work.
Using mostly volunteer labor and working from the garage recently built on the museum's grounds, museum supporters have sanded, painted, and rebuilt the old fire truck.
Once a part of the Toledo fleet, the old truck will join several others already restored and on display at the museum's Sylvania Avenue site.
"It will be a parade rig," said Jamie Ferguson, an active firefighter and paramedic who volunteers at the museum. "We hope to have it in the Memorial Day parade."
The state of the truck is a far cry from how the museum received it more than 25 years ago. Photos of the rig show rusty metal, missing parts, and a desperate need of a makeover.
Tim Boaden, a retired firefighter and TFD historian, said the department bought the truck new for $2,090 and put it into service Dec. 27, 1933. The truck was believed to have been used by the department until the 1960s.
The department received a call from the curators of the Ypsilanti Fire Museum, who had an antique ladder service truck with "Toledo" still visible on the hood.
"I had always wondered about that truck," Mr. Boaden said recently as fellow volunteers worked on the rig. The Ypsilanti curator "sold it to us for what he paid for it, plus what he put into it. That was about $1,200."
Members of the museum were excited to get the truck back home, but could do little with it for decades because they didn't have the money or the space to begin the restoration project.
That changed about seven years ago when active firefighters volunteered portions of their paycheck to help fund the museum, Mr. Ferguson said.
Founded in 1976, the Toledo Firefighters Museum preserves the history of the fire department and teaches fire prevention and safety. Built in the "Old Number 18 Fire House" at 918 Sylvania Ave., the museum houses memorabilia, five fire vehicles - including To-ledo's first fire pumper from 1837 - and an educational room.
Once the museum had a steady stream of funding, it was able to expand its property and build a workshop.
With more space and money, there was nothing stopping the restoration project.
Although much of the work is done in-house, the volunteers enlisted the help of area businesses to turn the rusty truck into a street-worthy vehicle painted the well-known and appropriately named fire-engine red.
"They did it just meticulously all the way through, including all the little extra stuff. They're doing an incredible job," said John Fackler, owner of Hogg Collision & Auto Glass Inc. on Berdan Avenue, who was hired to help do some of the body work.
So far, the group has put about $30,000 into the rig, which one day will be on display at the museum while other trucks get some time in the repair shop.
Although not quite finished with the task, the volunteer crew has its next project on hand.
Sitting in a corner, waiting for new paint, new parts, and some TLC is a 1919 Model T chemical fire truck that was used by the Trilby Township Fire Department, before the township was annexed by Toledo.
The Toledo Firefighter Museum is free and open to the public from 12-4 p.m. Saturdays or by appointment. For more information, call 419-478-FIRE.
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