Pennsylvania National Fire Museum: Fire trucks (and more) for boys of all ages

Pennsylvania National Fire Museum, Harrisburg, Pa., exterior

Pennsylvania National Fire Museum, Harrisburg, Pa., built 1899

One of the most seats most coveted seats in all of driving most coveted by little boys of all ages is the one occupied by the firefighter  at the rear steering position of a tiller ladder truck such as the 1935 Mack AP Model on display at the Pennsylvania National Fire Museum in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

The museum, housed in a Victorian-era fire station built in 1899 contains an extensive collection of firefighting equipment and memorabilia, including old man-drawn pumpers that were pulled to fires by human muscle power and a horse-drawn steam-powered pumper of the type originally kept at the station.

The station, manned by volunteers living in the neighborhood, was set up for automatic operation as soon as the call was electrically transmitted to the station by a fire call box. The main doors were set to swing open when the call came in, along with the stable doors for the horse. The horses were trained to walk to the front of the pumper where their harnesses were suspended from the ceiling. The first fireman–and they were all men at that time–to arrive at the station would attach the harness, with a specially-made horse collar that would slip over the horses’ necks and snap together rather than be slipped over the horses’ heads. Typical response time for the fire station was 40 seconds.

1935 Mack Tiller Ladder fire truck

1935 Mack Tiller Ladder fire truck

What will likely intrigue the automotive buff, however, is the collection of motorized firefighting equipment including the 1935 Mack. This particular tiller ladder was in service with the Harrisburg Fire Department from 1935 through 1958, and then from the Progress (Pennsylvania) Volunteer Fire Company through 1975. The truck was then in private collection until donated to the museum by David and Marsha Buskey in 1995. The Mack has a 35 foot wooden aerial ladder.

Another piece at the Pennsylvania National Fire Museum is a 1935 Hahn pumper. As its name suggests, it provided water pressure (and water) to the firefighters’ hoses. This particular unit was in service with the Union Fire Co. No. 1 in rural service from the Carlisle, Pa., from 1935 through 1954 and then from 1958 through 1984 when it was used by Camp Michaux of Pine Grove, Pa. It then went into private hands until donated to the museum by Susan Pratt in memory of David Pratt in 1995.

The Pennsylvania National Fire Museum is located at 1820 North Fourth Street, Harrisburg, Pa. Parking is free. The museum’s schedule and other information is available at the museum’s website,

And if you’re lucky, veteran firefighter’s Jim Derstine and Don Deitz will be on hand to tell you everything you want to know and more about the exhibits in the Pennsylvania National Fire Museum.

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