A unique piece of Canadian fire fighting heritage has been given a new lease on life thanks to automotive restorer Stan Uher, of "Classic Coachworks" in Blenheim Ontario.
Stan is putting the finishing touches on a 1917 Bickle Fire Pumper. His final spit and polish completes a year long restoration of the pumper, which is powered by a four cylinder gasoline engine.
Robert S. Bickle got his start in the fire equipment business his career in Winnipeg, Manitoba, as a sales representative for a U.S. fire equipment company in 1906. By the end of that year he formed the R.S. Bickle Company. The firm originally specialized in two wheeled horse drawn chemical carts, and then progressed into more sophisticated motorized equipment like the pumper just restored by Stan Uher.
"I finished this for Wes Thompson," said Stan proudly as he gave a final inspection to the engine compartment today. "It will probably roll out of here Wednesday just in time for the big fire muster coming up in Michigan."
The fire muster Stan speaks of, is the Frankenmuth Fire Muster. A Fire muster attracts vintage fire engines, and often local fire departments become involved too, and showcase their skills while building positive connections with the communities they serve.
In 1913 the Bickle company moved into a new facility in Woodstock, Ontario where it continued to produce hook-and-ladder trucks and chemical wagons. Promotional material said the equipment was "ideally suited to small municipalities". The date of manufacture makes the pumper just restored by Stan Uher one of the earliest motorized pumpers produced by Bickle.
The company continued to grow over the next few years and moved into larger quarters in 1916, which is where the restored wagon was produced. During the First World War it sold two-wheeled fire engines to the Canadian military.
The Bickle company worked with other fire equipment manufacturers over the years, like Seagrave. The company went through some name changes during economic hard times, and eventually went out of business in 1984 under the name King - Seagrave.
The Frankenmuth Fire Muster will be held July 29th, an 30th. Stan says the pumper is fully restored, meaning in a week and a half it will be pumping water again for the first time in decades, and it will be entertaining people at the event in Michigan.