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From Horses to Horsepower


By John M. Malecky December, 2018

From Horses to Horsepower
By Jack Wright

Available from:
The Fireman’s Hall Store

Price $45.00 + Shipping

This book is hard cover, 8 ¾ inch by 11 1/4 inch and has 272 pages of both black and white and color photos. The author is the Philadelphia Fire Department Historian and he has put together extensive, magnificent work!

I've had the privilege and honor to contribute in a small way to the making of this book. In 1979, before I knew the author, I had an interest in Philadelphia fire apparatus and wrote to the fire commissioner for permission to photograph their apparatus for a historical collection for myself. I received the permission and spent the entire year photographing their apparatus, resulting in getting all but four of them, which included both active and spare apparatus except for ambulances and chief cars.

I completed my mission the following year. It was the year that they took delivery of 32 American LaFrance pumpers, so in essence, 1979 was the best year for photos since they had many different makes and models or rolling stock. The author, after meeting me, asked for copies of the trucks which I gladly provided, and many are in this book! It filled many of the gaps in his collection.

Be that as it may, he has compiled nine chapters of history of PFD apparatus which includes every make and model the department ever owned, detailed down to the number of each that had been ordered. Philadelphia through the years has had many interesting units. For many years they purchased pumpers with commercial chassis, mostly with International tilt cab, which was different for a large city. Nevertheless, that is what makes an apparatus buff’s hobby so interesting…to photograph rare makes, models and combinations. You the reader will share all of these as you thumb through this history!

The airport crash trucks are of particular interest because they are purchased by the Department of Commerce and operated by Philadelphia firefighters. A couple of unique apparatus are the Calavar 125-foot Firebird operated by Ladder 2, and a Fire Halftrack that was originally quartered at Engine 62 and Ladder 34, and later at Engine 69 which is near the international airport.

In my many years of reviewing books, this one is one of my favorites. If you purchased it, you will be glad you did!

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John MaleckySenior Columnist

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