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Shining a Light on History

What has six 1500 watt searchlights mounted on its roof, over 300 feet of extension cords, 12 outlets, 5 roll up doors, more than ten handheld spotlights, and two engines? A Floodlight Wagon! Built on a commercial Mack chassis, FL-1 served the Baltimore City Fire Department (BCFD) from 1947 until 1984, when it was removed from service and donated to the Fire Museum of Maryland. Since that time, it has resided at the Museum, where it provides a unique opportunity to talk about fighting fires at night and on-scene power generation.

Beginning in the fall of 2014, FL-1 had its 25kW Onan generator and the 226 cubic inch Continental engine that powered the generator removed for rebuilding. The Museum’s mechanic, Brian Fiedler, spent the winter of 2014-2015 cleaning and rebuilding the Continental.

While the “gen-set” was removed, we took the opportunity to have the interior of FL-1 sandblasted, removing decades of grease, oil, and the dirt those fluids attract. While sandblasting, we discovered several layers of paint, which allowed us to determine what we believe to be the original colors. As the BCFD was in the business of putting out fires, rather than painting vehicles, the quickly-painted speckled-olive paint was covering a light blue coat, which was further disguised by years of soot from the exhaust. After the interior was primed and repainted, we moved on to the cradle that supports the gen-set. This was a bright “fire engine red” when we removed it, but after sandblasting we had several areas that showed a bright blue. This was color matched and the cradle was repainted, along with the radiator shroud, generator control panel, and engine cover.

After several months of parts searching, assembly, disassembly, painting, and reassembly, the gen-set was reinstalled in the spring of 2015. This was followed by several more months of wiring, parts sourcing, and trying to decipher what was original to the vehicle. When the Museum received the vehicle from the BCFD in 1984, the generator didn’t work. This meant that we were somewhat limited regarding what we could do with it. Now that the generator is functioning again, we are preparing to make FL-1 available for weddings, parties, and other events where a unique, stand-out vehicle is desired.

Stay tuned for further updates on FL-1, as well as some of our other apparatus!

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