Reunion II

This is part 2 of a multipart series. If you missed the beginning, you might want to check out part 1.  
So it was off to northern NH to retrieve the Howe. The current owner said she’s been well maintained and should be ready for the long trip home, but antique trucks can be full of surprises. I loaded the pickup with every possible supply and tool I could conceive of needing: oil, coolant, brake fluid, jumper cables, spare charged battery, air compressor with hoses and chuck, extension cords, fuel stabilizer, lead substitute, Marvel Mystery Oil, and an assortment of basic tools.  
Captain Murphy often rides with me. (I know he’s at least a captain because I’m a lieutenant, and Murphy outranks me.). Whatever breaks, it will be the one thing I didn’t consider. That’s why I also carry the number of a good heavy towing service.  
The GPS says it’s a 3 1/2 hour trip up. It’s pretty accurate, but it translates to a 5 hour return trip at 1963 speeds. It’s gray, foggy, and threatening rain, but at least the weather is still unseasonably warm.  
My first glimpse of her is in her owner’s driveway. We round a corner, and there she is at the top of a small rise. The last 18 years have not been kind to her, but I’ve aged a bit as well. Her body is not as good as I had hoped, but it’s much better than I had feared. If the mechanicals are intact, I can work with this.  
They seem to be OK. She starts quickly and idles well. Her original siren is missing, but I know where it is. Her original seat has been replaced with buckets, but they seem comfortable. She’s lost her 35′ extension ladder, and her nicely matched set of chrome suction hoses has been replaced with a ratty mixed set. The brakes need bleeding. I hope that’s all; it may be a bad master cylinder. The tires are iffy, and I’ll need to find and repair that exhaust leak. And I’m sorry, East Haven, but the lettering job is ugly. It will have to go. Some of the original paint may yet survive under it, though.  
In summary she needs a fair amount of work, but it’s not insurmountable. We take care of the formalities, and then I’m off.  
It’s a blast from the past. Low revving, lots of torque, lots of noise; but she doesn’t seem as hard to drive as I remember. Perhaps I’ve grown up, or perhaps it’s the lack of a deputy chief watching me from the right seat.  
It takes less than a mile for me to realize the first tool I’ve forgotten: duct tape. Fortunately there is a hardware store next to the gas station. With a full tank of gas/Stabil/lead substitute mixture, and with the headliner taped securely out of my field of vision, we begin the long hard climb south out of town on US 3.



3 thoughts on “Reunion II”

  1. […] Reunion I When I was a young recruit, we trained a lot on our reserve engine. Engine 3 was a 1963 International/Howe with a 750 GPM pump and 500 gallons of water. She was a legend in our department. When delivered in 1964, Engine 3 provided an 88% increase in the department’s pumping capacity. Although only rated at 750, she was documented to pump 1100 GPM on multiple occasions. She was physically our largest engine until 1987, even dwarfing 1979′s Engine 1. I learned my chauffeur’s trade with her. She had a Waterous pump with a rotary gear primer. You had to pull a switch to drop the clutch, shift the primer transmission in, then release the clutch to raise water. Pumping required reversing the procedure. Driving her was equally interesting. She was cold and unhappy in the morning. Of course, as a fire engine you had to learn to drive her cold. She had a constant mesh (non-synchronized) transmission which required double clutching all shifts. Shifting up was hard; shifting down near impossible. Missing a shift meant coming to a complete stop and starting over. Legend has it that a synchro-mesh transmission would have cost an extra $17 in 1963. Ahh, small town politics. By my day, Engine 3 ran as our third-due pump and as a tanker to support the brush trucks. In that capacity, I drove her a few times in my first four years. By modern standards she was a bear, but she had character and style, and she was reliable. When she was replaced in 1993, no one wanted to see her go to a collector or to scrap. We eventually sold her to our sister department in rural Vermont. The most they could scrape together was $3000. This week I was contacted by a collector. Our beloved Howe has been in his care for a few years now, but he could no longer afford to keep her. He offered her to me for the grand sum of $3000. You can bet I scraped it together.   The saga continues in part 2. […]


  2. Aurthur Lewis Trained me on this truck.  My farther in law drove it back from the factory to Rowley when she was new. She looks good!  Good old S& H  green stamps!!

    Mike Durkee


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