Pennsylvania RR FD, Altoona, PA. 1895-1985

brucobuff

Assistant Chief
An interesting and unique part of the Altoona FD was the inclusion of a 2-station dept. run by the Pennsylvania RR (PRR). a large Northeastern and upper Midwest railroad that had its main shops complex in the city from the time Altoona was founded in 1854.
PRR supported various volunteer companies with apparatus and buildings, including the city's 1st Amoskeag steam fire engine in 1867. PRR also had a small brigade of volunteers at their shops on 12th street.
In 1895, the volunteer companies were replaced in Altoona by a 4-station paid dept., plus the PRR station which was jointly manned by both city and railroad firemen.
By this time, Company 5 (later #7) was located in a 2-story brick station at the corner of 9th Ave., and 12th street.
Company 8 was formed by 1905 and a 2-bay brick and masonry station was built at 1st street and Chestnut between Altoona and the adjacent borough of Juniata.
While the 1867 Amoskeag was originally at #7, it was moved to #8 and a smaller reserve city steamer used at #7.
4-wheel hose carts were also supplied by PRR.
Horses ruled for the first 20 years of the PRR's fire dept., but motorization was coming quickly.
Note the difference between the 3-horse Amoskeag (they were heavy rigs) and the 2-horse reserve steamer at #7.
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brucobuff

Assistant Chief
Altoona FD started motorizing in 1912. In 1917, the horse-drawn hose wagon and steamer at #7 was replaced by a Buick chemical/hose car. In 1918, PRR bought another Buick chemical/hose car for #8. The advantages of these motor rigs was quickly apparent to PRR, and in the first years of the 1920's, a large Buick truck chassis was placed under the 1867 Amoskeag, ending use of horse in the Altoona FD.
PRR 's next purchase for the dept. would be another large pumper.
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brucobuff

Assistant Chief
PRR spent big $$$ for a big pumper from Ahrens Fox, a 1923 NS4 model #1605 that could pump 1,000 gpm, far above any city engine at that time.
The big Fox would serve at #8 until 1941, move to #7 until the early 1950s, and then go back to #8 as the 2nd piece until retirement in 1965.
Its current ownership is unknown.
This was the only AF to serve Altoona.
Old E8 at Harrisburg muster when owned by Dave Buskey by J.D. Floyd
Line drawing of #1605
The PRR companies would occasionally find itself 1st due at city boxes, in this case E8 overwhelms the scene.img101.jpg001.jpg12728971_1237296179631663_8264518568710115767_n.jpg
 

brucobuff

Assistant Chief
On 12/27/1931, possibly the biggest blaze ever occurred at the Altoona shop complex, with several buildings gutted behind Sta. 7 at the 12th Street shops. The blaze was fought by the entire Altoona FD, and caused $1.25 million dollars in damage, a significant amount during the Great Depression. This would finally persuade PRR to get a replacement for the then- 64 yr. old Amoskeag steamer.
During the 1930s-40s, the city FD was also coping with a huge annexation of Logan Township, having expanded to 10 stations, some were all paid, others had paid/volunteers, there was also former volunteer apparatus in use from the 5 volunteer companies that had shut down.
During this time, the PRR would stop sharing manpower with the city.
This is a picture of STA.8, likely during the WWII years.12744285_1237296122965002_4995626785217654939_n.jpg
 

brucobuff

Assistant Chief
Finally in 1941 came the steam engine's replacement, MACK L-85 750/150, which was assigned to Sta. 8.
After WWII, the 2 Buick chemical/hose cars were disposed of, and Sta. 7 closed in the 1950s.
After the Ahrens Fox was sold in 1965, the Mack was the lone piece of apparatus.
The photo shows the Mack in its original lettering.
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brucobuff

Assistant Chief
During the 1970s, Conrail would own the shops complex, and the poor Mack would be slimed, then lose its station as #8 was closed, and the Mack stored at the Juniata Diesel Shops and manned only by trained rail workers.
Fortunately better times lay ahead for the Mack, which fought its last fire in 1981 at another big shops blaze, and would be placed out-of-service in 1985.

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brucobuff

Assistant Chief
Both Altoona PRR stations survived, Station 7 at the 12th St. car shops became offices for a industrial pipe and steel business that use several old shop buildings.
Sta. 8 would sit vacant for a time, be used for storage, finally was totally refurbished inside for offices for the Home Nursing Agency. Part of the shop property here was converted into a business park.
The 1941 Mack would end up with the city in 1991, and the FD would rebuild, repaint, and letter it E7 IN 1994.
It has been very popular at various events for 25 years, and I would be able to capture it at Bedford, PA. VFD's 200th anniv. in 2004.
Sta. 7 photo in 5/2013 by WW Jenkins
Sta. 8 photo in 1987 by J.D. Floyd
IMG_0102.JPGPRR ALTOONA WORKS FIRE STATION (1987) - B.jpgPA - PRR ALTOONA WORKS ENGINE 7 - 1941 MACK L-85 (2004) - 1-B.jpgPA - PRR ALTOONA WORKS ENGINE 7 - 1941 MACK L-85 (2004) - 2-B.jpg
 
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brucobuff

Assistant Chief
When Norfolk Southern did a locomotive in a special paint scheme several years ago to honor first responders, it was only natural to pose the 1941 Mack, a PRR survivor, with the engine.11188467_1070437419650874_7875595615627690417_n.jpg3993_1431005684.jpg11201131_1070436786317604_1754534478723441488_o.jpg
 
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brucobuff

Assistant Chief
A side story to the Altoona PRR Fire dept. was a small fire brigade at the Hollidaysburg, PA PRR Freight car shops, a huge building built in 1952- 1955.
Along with the fire brigade operating an on-site engine, the Phoenix Fire Co., of Hollidaysburg had a small Gamewell system in their firehouse in case of a fire or incident in the complex. The engine was believed to be a 1949 Ford F/ALF of 500 gpm. It is not known whether the Ford was assigned here when new or was a transfer from elsewhere on PRR. The engine served into the Conrail era and was slimed like the 41 Mack.
Unknown when this was disbanded/rig disposed of.
The Phoenix FC was one of the larger VFDs in the area, when we visited in 1992, they were running 4 engines, aerial ladder, heavy rescue, and a tanker, 5 of 7 were Ford C/Brucos!
PFC of Hollidaysburg photo by J.D. Floyd, 1992untitled.jpg48944762_1277626332384462_3829969784070471680_n.jpg
 
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