SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA CHAPTER, SOCIETY FOR THE PRESERVATION AND APPRECIATION OF ANTIQUE MOTOR FIRE APPARATUS IN AMERICA

Apparatus Feature

2005

1955 Crown Firecoach Pumper-Tanker


SPECIFICATIONS:
Manufacturer: Crown Coach, Los Angeles, CA 
Year: 1955
Serial No.:
F1042
Model: CP-125-93-2500T
Original Powerplant: 935 c.i., 295 HP, Hall Scott gasoline
Tank: 2500 gallons
Pump: Waterous, DCD-R-1250 GPM
Original Cost: $30,000
Original Owner: Huntington Beach Fire Department

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Article by
Mike Britt

Left and Right: The Crown Tanker shown in its 1970s configuration for the Huntington Beach Fire Department, where it served until the early 1980s

This Crown Firecoach was one of only three such tankers made by Crown. It's innovative design (in the 1950s) was the concept of Delbert G. "Bud" Higgins (Huntington Beach FD's second paid fire chief, who served in that position from 1950-1967). Higgins worked with Crown to create a fire apparatus to meet the unique needs of the City of Huntington Beach, which in the mid-1950s was a very different town than the city it is today, with a combination paid and volunteer department serving a small town surrounded by farmland and oil fields. It was the first of many Crowns purchased by Huntington Beach, which during the 1960s and 70s was almost entirely a Crown department. The Crown tanker was designated unit 8201 (numbers it still bears on the front of the cab) and became affectionately known as "the water buffalo" by members of the department. While the rig became a department workhorse, it was equally loved and hated by those who had to operate it. Despite being able to turn around within a 60' circle, it was a monster to drive, with a cab that required climbing skills to get up into and the engine compartment literally right next to the driver inside of the cab.
Left: In the late 1960s, the Crown tanker was one of two Huntington Beach Crowns (units 8201 and 8207) at the old Oceanview station. Following annexations in 1965-66, Huntington Beach took over the former Oceanview Volunteer Fire Department on Beach Blvd. south of Warner Ave. (Larry Arnold Photo)
As delivered, the Crown tanker featured a Timken SQW tandem dual rear drive and power steering. It had two 100', 2-1/2" and four 200' - 1-1/2" preconnected live lines, two electrical rewind hose reels, a permanently connected deluge set, and a hose bed capacity of 1600 feet of 2-1/2" hose.

In its original configuration, the monitor was located between the hose reels, behind and below the cab, and a Mars light was mounted in front of the cab. This allowed the rig to fit inside the old Huntington Beach HQ station (since torn down) and later the Oceanview station on Beach Blvd after it was annexed into the city (this building is now a Subway sandwich shop).

During the 1970s, the Crown tanker's service to Huntington Beach was extended after it was converted into a Crash truck (this was before the term ARFF) and assigned to protect the old Meadowlark Airport (Condominiums and a park now sit at the site of this old general aviation airport). A foam tank was added and the monitor relocated to the top of the cab of the tanker.

Above: The 1992-6 CFE newsletter carried this complete reprint of a December, 1956 Fire Engineering article about the Crown Tanker, written by Huntington Beach Fire Chief Bud Higgins (click image for full size).
Left: The 1995-3 CFE newsletter carried an update article about the Crown tanker and a photo by Chuck Madderom. The cover of that newsletter was the factory delivery photo by Warren Bowen shown at the top of this article.
In the early 1980s, following the purchase of three widebody Crowns by Huntington Beach, the Crown tanker was sold to the Sierra Brooks Volunteer Fire Department in Loyalton, CA. It served there for several years, but almost met its end there too.

In the 1990-6 CFE newsletter, CFE Treasurer Kent Cullom reported: "this unit sits outside in some fairly poor weather. As of July 1990, the unit was out of operation due to mechanical problems. The paint is badly faded, most of the windows are broken or cracked, the deck gun has been removed and some equipment is missing. Sierra Brooks is a rather poor all volunteer fire company in the second or third least populated county in the state. They have plans to repair F1042 as funds become available."

In 1997, the Crown tanker was rescued by CFE member Hewy Wick, who purchased the rig from Sierra Brooks and transported it back to southern California, to his ranch in Sage, CA, to begin the units restoration. In 2001, the rig was purchased by CFE member Mike McDonald, who put his team to work and got the tanker back into parade condition in time for the 2002 SPAAMFAA Convention in San Bernardino, CA, which was hosted by CFE. At the convention, the tanker was used as the water supply for the horse-drawn steamer display by the CSFA Steamer Team.

In October of 2003, the tanker was purchased by its present co-owners and CFE members, Darrell Gilbert and Don Pogue.

Many Huntington Beach firefighters worked on the Crown Tanker over the years and there are many stories told about it. Huntington Beach Firefighter (retired) John Conner shared one such story with current rig co-owner Don Pogue:

"Retired HB Batt. Chief. Ron Beard. was leading a strike team (they didn't call 'em that then) including 8201 to San Diego many years ago. They couldn't find location of the fire, but followed smoke (header) to a house and garage just "taking off". No other units were on scene. An elderly man was leaving his home (now starting to burn) with a very few possessions and tears in his eyes. He came out and "saw the biggest fire truck I've ever seen in my life pull up in front of my house". House saved, old guy happy. He sent a thank you letter with above quote."

Above: CFE member Richard Loff of Fountain Valley, CA, scratch built this scale model of Crown S/N F1042, which was featured in an article about fire apparatus modeling in the 1994-6 CFE newsletter.
Above: The Crown Tanker parked with an apparatus display on "E" Street in San Bernardino, February, 2002 as part of the 2002 Winter SPAAMFAA Convention ("San Berdo in 2002") hosted by the Crown Firecoach Enthusiasts. The tanker pumper as part of the Saturday display.




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