Main Fire Truck Museum
Art & History at the Museum
Fire Truck Museum
1914 American La France fire engine
In 2001 the question was asked, “Whatever happened to Lindsay’s 1914 American La France fire engine that was part of the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, California, commemorating the opening of the Panama Canal?” A small group of people came together to find the answer to that question. After a search of the Lindsay city records we discovered that it went to the Fresno firefighters’ union hall where it was taken apart for restoration and never finished. A collector in Auburn had purchased it from Fresno and after getting his name we found he had been killed in a work-related accident. His widow informed us that she had two fire engines from the Pan-Pacific Expo, and that someone in Colorado wanted to buy them and convert them to road racers. She liked the idea that we were going to restore the fire engine and decided to sell to us, but we had to buy both. Her price was $10,000.00 and the other party was willing to pay it. So after finding this out, a member of our city offered to loan us the money to purchase the engines. A local business owner donated the diesel truck it took to get the two frames and boxes of parts home. We formed our group as part of the Lindsay Cultural Arts council and with the name “Restore the Fire Truck Committee,” and spent the next 12 years raising money to repay the purchase price, and buying or fabricating parts. During our research on the two engines we discovered that both fire engines have history in Lindsay, They are consecutive registration numbers from American La France, Reg #541 and Reg #542. Reg #541 went to Fresno after the Expo, then to Woodside in 1918, and then to Lindsay in 1933, where it was in service until 1960. After it was retired, it went to the Tulare county museum where it was left outside and fell into disrepair. In 1967 a group of volunteer firemen brought it back and spent three years getting it back in running condition. This is where it stayed until the 1980s when it went to Fresno. Reg #542 was owned by Don Jones in Porterville. The Elks Club Dixieland Jazz Band rode on the fire engine in local parades, including our Orange Blossom parade, from the 1950s until 1974, when the engine was sold to the Morro Bay Fire Department. They also disassembled the fire engine to restore, and never put it back together. They traded the 1914 to the collector in Auburn for a restoration of a 1940 Federal fire engine. This is the engine we chose to restore first. It was completed in time to be the centerpiece of the centennial of the opening day of the Pan-Pacific Expo held in the Palace of Fine Arts. By 2010 we had collected other fire engines and equipment, so we opened the Lindsay Fire Museum next to our original fire station and around the corner from our current station.