Bangshift Visits The Bare Cove Fire Museum: Vintage Firefighting Equipment Galore!

Bangshift Visits The Bare Cove Fire Museum: Vintage Firefighting Equipment Galore!

Here at Bangshift, you know we love big, old trucks, and we especially love the ones that were used to help save lives. Recently, we visited the Bare Cove Fire Museum in Hingham, MA to view their collection of antique firefighting apparatus and memorabilia. Back when I was a kid, I visited this museum a few times with school and family, and I used to see the trucks in various parades throughout the years. As a budding gearhead, these trucks fascinated me and I always appreciated the effort it took to keep these pieces of rolling history up and running. Amid preparations for Hingham’s annual Independence Day parade, the museum’s staff graciously opened the doors to us, and gave us an exclusive look at their extensive collection. Check it out!


The museum itself is located in Bare Cove Park in Hingham, MA, which has an interesting history in itself. It was used for over half of the 20th Century as an ammunition depot by the United States Navy, and the town acquired much of the land after it was deemed surplus by the federal government in the early 1970’s. The Fire Museum operated in an old barn until the 1980’s when they acquired two buildings in the park. One is used to house the museum’s main collection, and the other is to house various trucks and firefighting equipment that is under restoration or surplus. More on that building a bit later.

engine 2 right side full

The museum houses three restored trucks. The crown jewel of their collection is their rare 1935 Ahrens-Fox engine, one of only nine built in this configuration. This is an absolutely stunning truck, and I have a personal history with this one. When I was a kid, this was THE truck that got me excited to attend the annual Independence Day parade. I grew up near the museum, and I could hear the engine’s distinctive sound the moment they fired it up. And even when I was a lot older, when I heard this old beast coming down the road, you bet I was watching for it!


The Ahrens-Fox from this era’s claim to fame was its front-mounted positive displacement pump, dominated by a giant chrome ball. This ball equalized air pressure, while simultaneously looking awesome. It’s quite functional, and gives the truck some serious style. It’s rated for 1000 gallons per minute, and yes, it still works!


It’s powered by a very large 1079ci Ahrens-Fox built gasoline inline six that has three plugs per cylinder. This is the second engine that this truck has had; the original engine threw one of its giant rods long ago.


This is an open-cab truck, and one interesting feature is its inboard windshield wipers. Maybe it’s because I’m too young or not old fashioned enough, but I’ve never seen wipers on the INSIDE of a windshield before.


This chrome thing is called a Bresnan Nozzle. While it looks like some sort of strange sculpture, its function is to distribute water like a sprinkler head to fires that originate in the basements of buildings. It has ball bearings inside and uses the water pressure to spin and shoot water everywhere. Some old buildings built in the early part of the 20th Century actually have a glass window in the floor where this nozzle can be hooked up in case of a fire. Simple, yet effective.


The two other trucks housed in the museum, an early pumper and a ladder truck, were built and delivered in the 1920’s by the Maxim Motor Company in Middleboro, MA. The company started back in 1914. When the Middleboro Fire Department received a Knox fire truck back in 1912, Middleboro fireman Carlton Maxim was not a fan. Something about the truck really set him off, because he made it his mission to build a better one himself! Two years later, he delivered a truck to the town, and other local towns caught wind and started ordering trucks from his company. Hingham, located about 35 miles north of Middleboro, was among the communities that ordered these trucks, and the 1922 ladder truck and a 1924 pumper currently housed in the museum collection rolled out of that Maxim factory.


The bell mounted on the 1922 Maxim ladder truck dates back to the early 1800’s. This bell was mounted on horse drawn fire apparatus and motorized trucks until the modern era, but when it couldn’t be mounted to the newer-designed trucks, it was donated by the town to the museum.


Remember when I said that the Ahrens-Fox’s original motor launched a rod? Here it is! They keep it on display in the museum. This thing is huge, and seriously bent. Yeouch.


The trucks don’t just sit around the museum and collect dust; the museum members drive them! While we were there, they took out the Maxim ladder truck for a spin around the block to stretch its legs a bit before they shined it up for the Independence Day parade. The three trucks that reside in the museum are in good running condition.


The museum has a ton of other historic pieces as well, including this telegraph signal station. This setup used the various telegraph boxes located around the town to send a signal to this desk. The bell would ring a certain number of times, and this would correspond with the part of town the box is located in. The desk operator would reference a chart, noting the bell chimes, and send a crew out to battle the blaze. And yes, it all still works! They have a box set up in the building that is wired to the desk for demonstration.


Each fire station in town had one of these hand-carved and painted signs with the name of the station on it. I remember driving by this sign as a kid when it was still hanging on the station. The museum is planning on restoring it to its former glory.


Ok, you still with us? The museum staff clued us in after we got there that they have a second building that is chock full of even more old trucks, equipment, and miscellaneous apparatus. I had no clue that this second building existed before the tour began! They keep restoration projects in here, as well as store museum member projects and trucks for other local towns. Please pardon the pics, but this place was FULL of stuff, so it was tough to get some of the shots.


Want to buy a fire truck? This one is a 1939 Buffalo Pathfinder, which I was told was built in a Buick factory in Buffalo, NY, and it’s for sale. This was purchased new by the Bourne Fire Department in Bourne, MA, and was housed in an old fire house until it closed down. After sitting outside for a few years, the Bare Cove Fire Museum acquired the truck. It’s in remarkably nice shape.

BO Sta2 Trucks

Here’s a picture of that truck back when it was still in service. It’s definitely the same truck, designated Engine 3 by the Bourne Fire Department. Very cool to see that all of the lights and everything that came on it are still intact.


I love the shift plaque on the dash of this old beast. I want to bolt one of these to every manual transmission-equipped vehicle in existence. Always double clutch!


Remember that Ahrens-Fox engine that shot out a rod that I was talking about earlier? And remember that bent rod? Here’s the rest of it. That’s a BIG hole. The pistons on this thing were large by huge. These engines are very rare these days, so they kept the core around just in case they need parts in the future.


Here’s an old Mack fire truck, probably from the 1940’s. The one interesting feature on this one is that the passenger compartment has no doors. If you want to ride back there, you have to crawl through the hose body!



Tucked into the corner of the building was this old horse-drawn cart. They tow this cart in parades to this day, but usually behind a truck instead of a bunch of Clydesdales.


The detail work on the cart was very cool, especially the bird motifs on the corners of the cart.


This is how they used to do it in the pre-Civil War days. This is one of the town’s pump carts, built in 1952. The wooden handles on the sides extend out, and fire fighters, as well as any able-bodied townsfolk, would help build the water pressure to hose down fires.

If you liked the pictures, and you’re local and want to see the museum for yourself, please visit the Bare Cove Fire Museum’s webpage for museum hours and contact information. You can also become a member of the museum, which gives you access to help wrench on the trucks, and even learn to drive them! It’s very cool to see people preserving the history of these amazing machines. An extra special thank you to Geri Duff and Dave Clark for spending the evening with us and showing us the collection!

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4 thoughts on “Bangshift Visits The Bare Cove Fire Museum: Vintage Firefighting Equipment Galore!

  1. Dan Stokes

    PLEASE tell me you had the boys with you! It would be a shame to do this tour without them and see all this thru a child’s eyes.

    When you’re in The Motor City check out the fire museum in Ypsilanti, between Detroit and Ann Arbor. It’s pretty amazing, too.

    Great tour! Thanks for taking us along.


  2. Tom Damon

    While working I drove by the museum regularly, never stopped in, shame. My home town (Rockland, Mass) had a hand pumper named “King Philip”. Loved it. Great coverage, thank you

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