The City of Nanaimo is fortunate to still possess one
of the two original motorized fire engines used in its
The two fire engines (163 and #189) were shipped from
Elmira N.Y. to Nanaimo by American LaFrance Fire Engine
Company in September 1913. These were the state-of-the-art
apparatus at that time. Upon arrival, they were proudly
put on display for two weeks prior to being put into
"Shakey" and it's twin are Type 10 Chemical
Hose Wagons. They carried hose, ladders and a forty gallon
chemical extinguisher. The extinguisher was activated
turning the drum to dump a glass bottle of sulfuric acid
into bicarbonate of soda and water to create CO2 pressure
to expel the water through beautiful brass plumbing and
the rubber hose line.
"Shakey" was used as a working fire truck
until the 1940's and over the years many parts had been
changed and modernized; the truck had been painted over,
the fine gold leaf and pin stripping and many of it's
brass lanterns and hand cranked siren had been removed.
The old truck was original in appearance and still being
driven in civic parades but there never had been a serious
attempt at restoration. Over many years of polishing "Shakey's" brass,
we knew that this was a unique piece of antique fire
apparatus and often talked about what was required to
Contact was made with Captain Alex Matches (retired)
of Vancouver Fire Department. He knew about our truck
and had included it in an article written for "Engine!
Engine" in 1991; he was pleased to hear we were
starting the project.
The restoration has been total, body off, form the ground
up. Old spoke wheels were found in Pennsylvania and sent
to Nanaimo. The wheels probably had lain outside for
many years, the wood was very dry and checked, the metal
parts rusted and some placed very thin. The restoration
process began with stripping the wheels completely down.
The next step was numerous applications of warm boiling
linseed oil to replace the moisture and integrity of
the oak wood. A wheel company was located in Vancouver
with the expertise to rebuild the metal parts and they
were sent off for restoration.
After the boiling linseed oil was well soaked into the
wheels and the quality of the wood much improved, the
wood was sanded, any cracks or other blemishes were filled
with P.P.G. spot putty, sanded, premiered with P.P.G.
DZ3 and fine sanded in preparation for painting.
We were fortunate that this vehicle has always remained
in Nanaimo. We were able to obtain photographs from the
Nanaimo Museum and Fire Department archives; we even
have it's original owner's manual. We have painted it
the original (cranberry) red color and restored the finest
details like the pin stripping, the fabulous 23 kt. gold
leaf scroll work and the seat in diamond tufted black
leather. We've put on the original brass scheibler carburetor,
reinstalled the original 3-speed transmission and built
a new original looking gas tank.
#189 is named "Shakey" because the engine
is a 75 hp T-head, four cylinder, the bore 5.5 " and
the stroke 6 " with a big flywheel. It runs at low
r.p.m. produces loads of torque and is bolted rigidly
to the frame sitting on heavy duty leaf springs with
no shock absorbers -it shakes!.
The restoration group is as follows:
- Captain Stephen Ellis
- Captain Brad Rozzano
We are career firefighters and we did the restoration
over three years of spare on-duty and off duty time.
We are very proud of our accomplishment and enjoy running
it in antique car shows, civic parades and other functions.
"Shakey" now rests in the museum of Nanaimo
Fire Department, Station #1 with a view of the streets
she once clanked and chugged along in response to fire