65-year-old piece of Utica's history makes its way home


UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) -- Imagine racing to a fire in a convertible 1949 700 series America La France pumper in the freezing cold.

"That's what these guys did, they responded to calls with that truck for forty years," said Ed Welsh, who was instrumental in restoring the engine.

Time and harsh winters wore the engine down and in 1974 it was headed for the junk yard. But an organization called Engine Eleven had a different plan: $45,000 and 18 months of labor by a local craftsman later, and the old engine is finally home.

"A day I really doubted would happen. This project started about 15 years ago and they were spinning their wheels, they weren't getting anywhere, then all of the sudden Ed Welsh got knee deep in it and it was a passion, it was his purpose in life," said Utica Fire Chief Russell Brooks.

It's century-old home itself is special. There were 100 stations built like it in the country but the one in Utica is, "the last one that is being used as a full service fire station so this is a very appropriate place to put this unique part of Utica history," said Chief Brooks.

Technology has changed the way fire fighters battle blazes but they are finding new ways to use the old equipment.

"We'll use it in fire prevention shows, we'll use it possibly in funerals where we'll be able to carry a casket in the back. There are some cities that have restored rigs like this like Chicago and they actually give tours of the city and allow people to ride in the back," said Chief Brooks.

But it will also serve as a thank you to those who have put their lives on the line in Utica for years.

"It will remind everybody of the good history of the Utica Fire Department and it's just a small token of our gratitude from Engine Eleven to the fire department for its dedicated service to the people of Utica," said Welsh.

The 65-year-old engine is shiny, but there are still missing parts. Engine Eeleven is still raising money to make it complete.

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