The original Titusville fire engine returns to town - Titusville Herald: News

The original Titusville fire engine returns to town

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Posted: Saturday, August 10, 2019 5:00 am

Attendees at today’s Oil Festival Parade may find themselves surprised to spot an older looking vehicle riding alongside Titusville Fire Department’s trucks. Decades ago, this engine was as much a part of the department’s emergency response duties as any of the modern vehicles.

Titusville Iron Works Owner Bob Joyce was able to purchase a 1935 Ward LaFrance fire truck that was originally owned and used by the Titusville Fire Department for many years. According to Joyce, the city purchased the vehicle when it was new back in the day.

Finding the truck ended up being a purely lucky opportunity for Joyce.

“Joe Lamey, the (Titusville) fire chief, showed me an email one day and somebody had told him about it being on Ebay on sale,” Joyce said. “They wanted to know about the authenticity about it, because it had Titusville on the side.”

After determining that the vehicle was authentic, Joyce reached out to the seller, who was living in Georgia. After roughly a month of negotiation, he was able to purchase the vehicle and brought it back to the Titusville area in spring earlier this year.

“Since we love local historical items, we thought we needed to bring it back,” Joyce said.

Through talking with the truck’s seller, Joyce was able to piece together a bit of the history of the truck. After being sold off by the Titusville Fire Department decades ago, it was purchased by a Pontiac Dealership in Warren County, which displayed it in a show room. It would later be purchased by another Warren County resident, and later, a Russell, Pennsylvania resident.

This latter owner would restore the vehicle and drive it to Titusville sometime in the early 2000s. He would later sell it to the Georgia man who had the vehicle before Joyce’s purchase.

One of the first things Joyce ended up doing upon acquiring the vehicle was bring it to the Titusville Fire Department to show it off to the current staff of firefighters.

“Oh my gosh, I think it was more exciting to see the firemen’s eyes wide open and the smiles on their faces,” Joyce said of presenting the vehicle.

Lamey was among those surprised by the vehicle’s return.

“Honestly, it’s something I never thought I’d see,” he said. “I just thought that truck was lost to time and we’d never see it again.”

According to Lamey, the 1935 Ward LaFrance was the first fully motorized fire engine owned by the Titusville Fire Department, replacing the previous horse-drawn steamer engines that are currently on display at the Drake Well Museum. Lamey said the vehicle was a state-of-the-art machine back in the day. The truck is equipped with redundant systems to prevent failures, dual lighting under the hood and the ability to carry around four firefighters at a time.

“It was remarkably engineered for the year it’s in,” Lamey said.

Fire trucks have, of course, evolved significantly from the day of the original fire engine. While the vehicles used by the Titusville Fire Department in modern day can carry 1,000 gallons of water, the 1935 truck has no inherent carrying capabilities.

Further, it’s an open cab truck, making the vehicle “not the safest” compared to modern engines, according to Lamey. The truck also lacks places to store air packs, a modern necessity of firefighting operations. Lamey also said the transmission is synched differently compared to current vehicles, making the truck a bit harder to drive.

Despite this, the fire chief said that the truck is a smooth ride, and that he was surprised at how well the vehicle handled in modern day given its age. Lamey will be the one driving the truck in today’s parade, an opportunity he said he couldn’t pass up.

Joyce said that minimal restoration was done on the vehicle in an attempt to retain its original qualities. The red paint and gold lettering, which are faded in some places, were applied to the vehicle back from when it was new.

The 1935 Ward LaFrance truck isn’t the first firefighter vehicle Joyce has purchased an restored. The businessman previously acquired a bush truck that was used by the Pleasantville Volunteer Fire Department from the early 20th century until the 1950s.

Nicknamed the “Red Robin,” the 1926 International Huckster was originally purchased by Winitzky’s Grocery & Market, a Titusville business, to serve as a delivery truck. Joyce said he acquired the vehicle seven to eight years ago, and has used it as a display piece or part of parades in the past.

Joyce and the Titusville Fire Department intend to use the 1935 Ward LaFrance fire truck in the Oil Festival Parade every year. Between those times, Joyce said he’ll use it for various events, and eventually find room at the Iron Works to keep it on a more permanent display.

The Oil Festival Parade begins today, at 11 a.m., on Main Street, from Brown Street to Second Street.

Ray can be reached, by email, at

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  • PGFDretired posted at 10:09 am on Sun, Aug 11, 2019.

    PGFDretired Posts: 8

    It is nice to see a piece of history has been preserved. If I remember correctly this truck was still in use in the late 50’s early 60’s when I would visit the Fire station. During that time I think they ran a 1950-ish GMC with a General body (possibly a Civil Defense truck) and/or an International as the first piece out. The GMC may have been involved in an accident while responding to a fire outside city limits and totaled. Hats off to Bob Joyce, for bringing it back to Titusville, you never recoup what you invest in an antique vehicle just the satisfaction of doing it!

  • Jahoba posted at 7:25 am on Sat, Aug 10, 2019.

    Jahoba Posts: 240

    This is nice. But, there better not be any expectations to build a new fire house for this one too!


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