The reliability, quality and performance of Ahrens-Fox fire apparatus is no more vividly demonstrated that by the preservation of the Ahrens-Fox brand into the 21st century on fire apparatus built by HME Corporation. Fire equipment gets, hopefully, little use but needs to be at its best on a moment's notice and function reliably for hours, even days, on end. It was in this context that Ahrens-Fox's reputation was built. The company traces its history to the beginnings of the steam fire engine era when Alexander B. Latta built his first steam-powered fire engine in Cincinnati in 1852. Chris Ahrens was an apprentice in Latta's firm and eventually assumed ownership, later merging with American LaFrance in 1903. Ahrens' son-in-law Charles Fox along with Ahrens' sons and another son-in-law parted company with the combined firm a year later to start another company which became Ahrens-Fox in 1910. While still building a few horse drawn steam fire engines Ahrens-Fox also built the apparatus powered by Walter Christie's pioneering two-wheel tractors, then concentrated on four-wheel gasoline motor-driven units. Its pumpers are instantly identified by the giant chrome sphere pressure-equalizer above the front-mounted multi-piston pumps on which Ahrens-Fox's pumpers' reputations were grounded. Ahrens-Fox proudly pointed out that it built nearly everything on its fire apparatus in its Cincinnati factory, even the giant engines under the long hoods. The pumping power of an Ahrens-Fox is legendary, and they are instantly recognizable.
This 1925 Ahrens-Fox was ordered by the Nashua, NH fire department to protect the city and its Merrimac River mills. It served for a number of years but eventually was pensioned off and bought, it is believed, from Nashua by bandleader Benny Snyder, a pal of Arthur Fiedler, conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra and avid fire equipment fan. The story related by Mel Clark, North Hampton, NH truck graveyard proprietor from whom it was purchased in 1992, is that Benny and Arthur would bring their fire trucks when performing in the other's city, get together and, generally, raise hell with their fire trucks from water hole to water hole. This Ahrens-Fox still bore the legend 'Benny Snyder Orchestra' on its hood when later paint was stripped off. When purchased from Mel Clark this 1925 Ahrens-Fox N-S-4 was stored in a boxcar (Mel had many of them on his property) and largely original. Brought to the new owner's home in Maine it was cleaned up, the pan dropped and cleaned along with the engine and gearbox oil pumps, carburetor rebuilt and fired up. After soaking the pump overnight to wet the leather seals it pumped water the next day. Later extensive restoration down to the last nut and bolt included acquiring a new bottom end and block from a barely used 2,000 mile Ahrens-Fox service ladder truck to the repair the original engine. Original parts and accessories as described on the original Ahrens-Fox order from Nashua were sought out so that today only two items, a pair of 'Ahrens-Fox Steam Thawers', are lacking from its original complement. Later paint was carefully stripped and revealed unique pinstriping on the frame and wheels not seen on other Ahrens-Fox fire apparatus but authenticated in period photos of this Nashua engine. The paint is Grenadier Red and Titanium White as originally specified. The headlights and spotlight also are original and have been repaired rather than being rebuilt with later housings. Even the gauge faces were carefully preserved and repainted rather than being resurfaced.
In all, this is an extraordinary Ahrens-Fox N-S-4 with a colorful history linked to one of America's greatest fire equipment enthusiasts, Boston Pops' conductor Arthur Fiedler. Meticulously and accurately restored from a largely original example in New England service, it will earn pride of place at any display, runs and drive superbly, and still pumps towers of water.
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