Restoring “The Buffalo”

Antique fire engine will lead 100th Anniversary Parade

By Chris Harris

 

“The Buffalo,” purchased new in 1931, was the Town of Northfield’s first
piece of motorized fire apparatus. Now some 75 years old, the Buffalo is undergoing a complete restoration in readiness for a lead spot in the Northfield Fire Department’s Grand Parade on Sunday, August 15th starting at one o’clock.

That it’s still around at all is a tribute to the Department’s fondness for its old workhorse. “If the Fire Department means a lot to you,” says Northfield Fire Department member Andy Boyden, “which it clearly does to us, then the town’s first piece of motorized fire apparatus has a lot of meaning as well.”

After it was superceded by newer vehicles, the Buffalo served as a muster truck. Then it was sold and languished in a garage that suffered a fire. “Ten or fifteen years back,” says Boyden, “Tom Walker, Will Livernois, and a few other people did some work on it and got it running. We’re trying to get it back together so that Mr. Ware can drive it in the parade! I don’t want to think of how many hours we’ve worked on it. You work on it when you can. Some people come up here during the day, some people work on it till late at night.”

The restoration is taking place in Boyden’s garage up on South Mountain. “We’re putting new brakes on it,” says Jack Ware, who will be at the wheel on Sunday, August 15th. “We’re doing $2,000 worth of re-chroming on it, and we’re paying for all that out of the Firemen’s Fund.” The Firemen’s Fund is money raised by the firemen themselves through member raffles, bake sales, and volunteer activities such as filling swimming pools for a nominal charge.

It’s a group effort, according to each member’s expertise. For example, Mark Fortier finds parts on-line at Yahoo. “I found out that there’s an historian who wrote a book on The Buffalo Fire Appliance Corporation,” says Fortier. “This truck is kind of rare, actually; there’s only four of them built on this chassis, so we’re fortunate to have one of those.

“This truck has a lot of history,” Fortier says. “The only firefighter in the town of Northfield who got killed in the line of duty was riding this truck. The truck was declared totaled, but the men put it back together.”

In addition to Boyden, Fortier and Ware, the Buffalo Restoration Committee includes Skip Dunnell, Scott Milton, Mark McDonough, Don Morin, John Otto, Michael Quinn and Tom Walker.

“It’ll be nice to get it out of my garage!” says Boyden.