Toys and Scale Models
For many, the easiest way to own a piece of fire apparatus is to buy or build a scale model. Companies such as Ertl, Johnny Lightning, and Matchbox have sold various metal and plastic "toys" for generations. Before these were being produced, larger toys were being made by companies like Buddy L, Kenton, Hubley, and Dent, among others. These larger toys were generally made of cast iron or stamped tin, but occasionally were made of pot metal, lead, or some other metal.
As fire apparatus manufactures changed their designs and introduced new technologies, toy manufacturers followed suit. Horse-drawn steam fire engines, hose reels, hook-and-ladders, and chief's buggies gave way to motorized toys. These newer toys were similar to the Christies and early American-La Frances of the 1900s and 1910s, with a motorized tractor, mounted to the front of a steam engine. As time went on and apparatus changed the toy industry followed suit. Today fire themed toys are some of the most popular children's toys.
Not all toys were made by large manufacturers. In some cases, firefighters and fire buffs took matters into their own hands, building scale models by hand. Cardboard, wire, small strips of wood, and various household items would be combined with glue and paint to create amazingly detailed models. A thimble might become a hose strainer, a small bottle could become a steam boiler, or an empty spool of thread might be fashioned into a hose reel. It takes creativity, ingenuity, and an impressive amount of patience to build many of these models, but the results are often breathtaking works of art. To the right, you can see a small sample of some of the models currently on loan to the Fire Museum from Bill Clague. Bill is a modeler with great skill, and it shows in his models. Click here to learn more about Bill and his models, or select one of the examples on the right.