first Platteville Fire Department pumper engine is back in the department’s
PFD member Ron Boldt purchased the truck in an online auction July 26, one day after his wife, Karen, saw mention of the auction on Facebook.
“If she wouldn’t have seen it, we wouldn’t have gotten it,” said Boldt. “We had one chance to get it. I’ve been trying to buy this for a long time.”
The 1921 American LaFrance truck is powered by a Waukesha four-cylinder engine with dual ignition, equipped with eight spark plugs, and a three-speed manual transmission.
The PFD had the truck for 44 years. It sat in the former fire station in the north side of the Municipal Building just after the current fire station on East Main Street was built.
The engine then sat in Legion Park for a few years as a toy until it was damaged and a canopy was put in for the fire truck.
The fire truck was sold in 1969 to a firefighter from Fort Atkinson who wanted the truck because Fort Atkinson had the same model fire truck. Gold letters signifying “Fort Atkinson” will be replaced by the original “P.F.D.” lettering.
Today, the oldest PFD trucks are a 1996 Darley pumper and a 1997 GMC tanker.
Karen Boldt saw the auction taking place on Facebook July 25.
The truck’s reserve price — below which no sale would take place — was $12,500. Once the reserve price was reached, bidding escalated quickly until reaching the sale price of $25,000.
“We ended up being the last bidder at the right time on Live Auction,” said Boldt.
The truck is drivable, though with no power steering or brakes, vehicular technologies that didn’t exist when the truck was built. It has no roof, since nearly all fire trucks lacked roofs then and for decades afterward.
“We’ll do some minor restoration on it,” said Boldt, who plans to drive it in the Platteville Dairy Days Parade Sept. 7.
The pumper is one of three antique pieces of equipment the Fire Department owns. Next to the front entrance of the fire station is an 1896 hose cart, pulled by men or horse. Stored outside Platteville is a 1923 American LaFrance ladder truck, purchased new by the Fond du Lac Fire Department, then sold to Platteville. That truck was discovered in Mount Horeb.
The Fire Department is looking to raise money to cover the cost of the purchase of its newest, and oldest, truck.