Vehicle restoration program
The Museum of Fire's vehicle restoration program is supported by an able group of volunteers, many who are current and retired firefighters. In 2017 their dedicated work was rewarded when the Museum received a National Trust NSW Highly Commended Award for their efforts on the Museum's Crane.
The Museum’s Crane project saw an original 1930s emergency rescue vehicle, more commonly known as a crane, restored to its original glory by Volunteers. The crane is unique as it is one of only three known to have been built and is the only one that remains intact today.
The Volunteer team at the Museum of Fire were enthusiastic when they heard that a unique heritage vehicle, in need of heavy conservation work was to arrive at the Museum in June 2010. The heritage Fire Brigade Crane came to the Museum from the Fire Services Museum Victoria in Melbourne. The vehicle was in need of serious restoration work to save it from the scrap heap. For over twenty years it had been stored outside causing much damage. The vehicle would need to be painted, re-upholstered, cleaned and extensive mechanical work undertaken so the vehicle could be operational under its own power. The NSW Fire Bridge assisted the Museum by providing transport for the vehicle from Melbourne to Penrith.
The main reason that this vehicle was chosen as a restoration project was due to its significant heritage value, in the mid-1930s the English company Herbert and Morris designed a unique lifting mechanism that when mounted on a truck chassis could be used not only as a crane but as a tow-truck. Recognizing the efficiency of this new crane design three multi-use emergency tenders were commissioned. The first was used as a recovery vehicle in Liverpool, England while the second crane was in the use of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade in London, England. Our crane is the third, which was commissioned by the New South Wales Fire Brigade. Only three vehicles of this kind are known to have been built around the world and our crane is the only one that has remained intact. The crane was shipped to Australia in parts and was used by the NSWFB between 1939-1974. After which time it was sold into private hands and eventually gifted to the Fire Services Museum Victoria.
To begin the project the vehicle was disassembled, cleaned and treated. Repairs were undertaken to the engine and radiator by the Museum’s volunteers who also began bodywork restorations. The vehicle was large and complex, however under the guidance of heritage officers at the Museum the entire project was carried out by volunteers. The only instance when work was outsourced was to complete the ornate lettering on the vehicle.
To ensure that the vehicle was restored to its original glory, extensive research was undertaken into the history of the vehicle with a number of volunteers making it their personal mission to research the uses, external appearance and interiors of the vehicle to ensure they did justice to the heritage of the vehicle. Thus protecting this significant heritage item for future generations.
Through undertaking the project the Museum’s volunteers sharpened their existing skills and developed new ones. Many other motoring Museum’s across NSW and Australia have since contacted the Museum for assistance and guidance in their own restoration projects. Further, the Museum is now in a great place to begin future vehicle restoration projects having an established and tested skill base.
Where possible existing material was cleaned, treated and re-used to preserve the original quality of the vehicle and to ensure that the costs were kept at a minimum.
Throughout the restoration process it was discovered that the cabin structure was not symmetrical. Interestingly, this was discovered to have been an original design flaw and was therefore maintained by the Museum’s volunteers in their restoration endeavors.
The time taken to complete the project reflects the sheer scale of the project as the below timeline outlines:
June 2010 – Vehicle Acquired
September 2010 – Work begins stripping back the crane to a bare body
December 2010 – Mechanical Work begins
October 2014 – Bodywork Begins
July 2016 – Final touches are made on the crane, including ornate decorative lettering