In a true blast from the past, an antique, 1938 hook and ladder truck that once served the Rome Fire Department for more than 30 years has been returned to the city from a collector in Canada.
The bright red fire truck is in “fantastic condition” after years of maintenance and “drives like a charm,” said Deputy Fire Chief Timothy W. Reilly, who helped organize the donation. The city’s firefighters hope to use the truck in future parades and other events after a little restoration.
“There was no way we were going to pass this up,” Reilly stated. “We are never going to have this opportunity again.”
According to Reilly, the truck was purchased by the City of Rome in 1938 as the city’s first motorized ladder truck.
All fire apparatus was switching to motorized equipment by the late 1920s, but it wasn’t until a large fire at the former Rome Free Academy in 1938 that the city finally ordered the new motorized truck, which bore the designation “Truck #1.” The cost of the new truck was $17,272 in 1938, with a 75-foot ladder. It had two drivers, one in front and one in the back to drive the rear wheels.
The truck was originally painted white with ornate gold leaf trim. Detailed paintings of Fort Stanwix and a Native American in full headdress are still visible on the sides of the truck.
Reilly said the truck was in service from 1938 to 1971, when it was replaced by a new ladder truck. It received a full refurbishment in 1961, including a red coat of paint. The truck was originally stationed at the Liberty Street firehouse, which was later torn down to make way for the Fort Stanwix National Monument.
After the truck went out of service, Reilly said it eventually came into the possession of Francis Glenn of Ontario, a collector of antique fire apparatus.
“That’s his passion,” Reilly remarked.
Glenn first contacted Rome Fire roughly five or six years ago, asking for any information they might have about the truck he’d added to his collection. Then in June 2021, Reilly said Glenn called back and offered to give the truck back to the city. Glenn was looking to free up some space in his show room and offered to simply donate the truck to Rome.
“He knew us,” Reilly explained. “We jumped at the opportunity.”
Glenn said the only cost would be shipping, and Reilly said the Rome Paid Fireman’s Benevolent Association ultimately paid about $2,500 to ship the truck from Canada back home to Rome. The truck returned to the city on Aug. 13.
Reilly said the truck is currently being stored at the Central Fire Station on Black River Boulevard. He said it will be moved soon to an off-site location, where the firefighters hope to do some restoration.
“We are contemplating a restoration, but for now, we are just happy to have it back in Rome,” Reilly said.