The Seagrave is back

Don Eshleman has driven many fire trucks through the years, and sitting in the newly-upholstered seat of the 1930 Seagrave pumper is a treat. The Rescue Hose Company committed to the $36,500 restoration, and welcomes contributions for the project.

What was old is new again, and Greencastle Rescue Hose Company firefighters are quite pleased. The 1930 Seagrave pumper went out for refurbishment Feb. 8, 2010, and returned  Feb. 26, 2011.

RHC members had wanted to fix up the antique fire truck for years, but the impetus came when it couldn’t be used for rides during Fire Prevention Week due to engine trouble. A task force chaired by Don Eshleman took charge. He, Ben Thomas Jr.,  Brian Barkdoll, Bill Shatzer, Jeff Williams, Ray Mowen, Kerry Jackson and Kevin Barnes found a reputable company to do the restoration work.

Bretzmann’s Garage in Mt. Holly Springs became the home of the Seagrave, and task force members paid visits every couple weeks to track progress. They made decisions democratically as issues arose.

“Our goal was to return it to its original 1930 status,” said Eshleman. “We used old photos and our combined knowledge. Ray did a tremendous amount of research for us.”

Mowen, chairman of the HOCO Fire Museum, also had artifacts on display that became useful, including lanterns and couplings.

The entire body was refurbished - stripped to the core, sanded, painted, and gold leaf applied. A filigree pattern that had disappeared after an accident decades ago was put back on. The engine and pump were also revived.

Greg Bretzmann and his father Ivan have specialized in fire trucks since the early 1980s, as a sideline to their regular garage business, Bretzman said. The day after the Greencastle unit left, another vehicle entered the bay. He commented on the focus of his attention for so long.

“For being the age the Seagrave is, Greencastle took good care of it,” he said. “It was in good running condition. They should be really proud of that.”

The duo and the Greencastle representatives worked as a team to locate parts. Bretzmann found the only company in the United States that could mend the ignition switch. Along with an extra set from Mowen, and the original from the truck, the California firm added more pieces for an operational switch. Mowen spotted the right siren on e-Bay. Eshleman ordered leather buckets from Ohio. Many parts came from the Baltimore area and metal polishing was done in a small town near York.

“It’s amazing what they did,” said Eshleman on a final review.

Cunningham’s Towing provided the towing both ways. Now the pride of the department is ready for its next life.

“We will use it as a museum piece, give kids rides during Fire Prevention Week, and enter it in parades,” Eshleman said. “I may negotiate to be the driver.”

Just retired from active RHC service, at 74, he had a special interest in the project based on his 56 years as a volunteer. He served in many capacities, most recently as chief engineer, and drove apparatus the majority of that time.

Eshleman’s last memory of the Seagrave in action was when Western Auto burned in the early 1960s. The pumper took water from the cistern in Center Square. Mowen recalled it was also used several years later at Sunnyway Foods. The pumping days are over, though from outward appearances the truck could do the job. Now the piece is on display for current and future generations to remember a vital part of Greencastle’s fire history.