April 21, 2018
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Antique fire equipment seen at Bangor’s Cole Museum

By Roxanne Moore Saucier, BDN Columnist

BANGOR, Maine — It’s not often that a firetruck gets its own day, but the Cole Land Transportation Museum will open Saturday — a day earlier than usual, so that museum visitors may view its 1908 Amoskeag pumper, which is very similar to equipment the Portland Fire Department sent to help fight the Great Bangor Fire of 1911.

Visitors viewing the 1908 Amoskeag — slightly larger than the one Portland brought to Bangor that April 30 — will get an idea of the equipment that firefighters used during the Great Fire and also can see the other antique firefighting equipment on display.

The Cole Museum’s “first-size” 900-gallons-a-minute pumper was manufactured by the International Power Co. Locomotive works in 1908 in Manchester, N.H. It was sold to the Portland Fire Department and assigned to Engine Co. 3 on Brackett Street.

The 8,000-pound pumper, which had 8½-inch cylinders, an 8-inch stroke and 5-inch pump,  was pulled by two horses until 1924, when a two-wheel 48-horsepower Christie tractor was attached. It fought in many Portland area fires.

In 1929, the tractor and pumper were placed in reserve until purchased in 1946 by Cameron Bradley, who displayed them in the Wolfpen Automotive Museum for decades in West Southborough, Mass. In 1989, Bradley, of West Gouldsboro, donated the tractor and pumper to the Cole Land Transportation Museum.

Portland actually sent a different pumper to Bangor for the 1911 fire, according to Michael Daicy, who served 31 years with the Portland Fire Department and is its historian. Daicy told officials at the Cole Land Transportation Museum that the Portland men loaded on a train that day at 5:51 p.m. with apparatus, a hose wagon, company members of Engine No. 3 and fire equipment very similar to the 1908 Amoskeag pumper now owned by Cole Museum.

The train stopped in Augusta to pick up an Augusta Fire Department steam engine and firemen and proceeded to Bangor. Late the next day, the loaned equipment was returned to its home cities, also by train.

Museum visitors can meet fire historian Michael Daicy 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday at the Cole museum and hear about the Portland Fire Department and its participation in the Bangor fire. An historic film showing scenes of horse-drawn firefighting apparatus leaving and returning to the station will be shown as well, “The Portland Fire Department in Action —1912.”

Visitors will enjoy hearing Daicy talk about old-time firefighting, said museum founder Galen Cole. “Every word he utters — he is just a historian, through and through.”

The 1908 steam pumper is displayed with dozens of other pieces of antique fire equipment and hundreds of historical artifacts in the Cole Land Transportation Museum. Among the museum’s fire trucks are a 1923 ladder truck once owned by the Augusta Fire Department, donated by the Old Port Hook and Ladder Co.; a 1931 American LaFrance quadruple ladder truck, donated by the town of Old Orchard Beach; a 1927 McCann fire truck once owned by the city of Bangor, donated by Raymond Collemer; a 1939 Federal fire truck, once used by the town of Athens, donated by A.J. Cole & Sons; a 1948 Ahrens Fox pumper, donated by the town of Sullivan; a 1935 Maxim engine, donated by the town of Eastport; a 1944 International military fire truck, donated by Oakland Lions Club; and a 1947 Mack pumper, donated by the city of Presque Isle.

Admission to the Cole Land Transportation Museum at 405 Perry Road, Bangor, is $7, $5 seniors and free to those age 18 and under, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily through Nov. 11.

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