Kan. firefighters museum finishes year-long restoration of vintage fire truck


BY JOE RODRIGUEZ   
The Wichita Eagle

It took the Kansas Firefighters Museum about one year and $30,000, and now an important job is complete.

A 1921 American LaFrance chain-drive fire truck has been fully restored -- down to the look, sound and feel of the old wooden wheels, crank siren and complicated striping detail.

"It's a knockout, it's a knockout," said Merv Criser, the project coordinator who did much of the restoration work. "I tell you, it turned out just like I thought it would."

That didn't seem possible more than one year ago. The Garden City Fire Department had the truck in storage for many years at an airport hangar and was considering selling it. But someone from the museum, which is dedicated to preserving the history of fire departments, learned of the sale. Museum officials asked Garden City officials if they could have the truck.

The department agreed to donate it to the nonprofit museum, 1300 S. Broadway. City officials had said they wanted to donate the truck to a Kansas museum.

"When we got that one, the tires were flat on it, it was pretty much a rust bucket, in real bad shape," recalled John Coslett, president of the firefighters museum.

But museum officials and volunteers agreed it was worth restoring.

"There are very few of them left," Coslett said. "The bottom line is, I guess a bunch of firefighters thought it was a good project and wanted to see it accomplished."

Criser and several others dismantled the truck to rebuild, clean, polish and paint its parts. Some parts, such as the tires, had to be replaced, and some had to be remanufactured.

"Took a year of my life," Criser said.

But now, the job is complete. Some touch-up painting was the last work to be done.

The truck has a new home at the museum, which is a renovated firehouse at Lincoln Park. Coslett said the truck will be driven in events such as parades.

"It's something," he said, "we're certainly proud of."

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