Antique Hose Wagon Undergoes Restoration

An International hose wagon sits in a garage while Lebanon firemen work on restoring the antique vehicle. Photo by Sarah Brown

Lebanon plans to put 1921 International on permanent display

*It should be noted there is some confusion as to the actual age of the wagon. Some believe it is a 1917, while others believe it may be a 1921, and still others think it’s possible the wagon is a 1917 but was acquired by Lebanon in 1921.


Some things haven’t changed in 100 years: When fire breaks out, firefighters still have to get to a hydrant, hook up a hose and spray the blaze until it’s out.

The method for getting to that hydrant isn’t the same, however, and that’s what Mark Fitzwater and John Tacy of the Lebanon Fire District want people to remember.

Fitzwater, division chief of training, and Tacy, division chief of operations, are working with a crew of volunteers to restore the district’s antique 1921 International hose wagon to put on display at the rebuilt Station 31. The plan is to have it completed by mid-June.

“It’s really the only apparatus we have left from the years past,” Tacy said.

“In the fire service, there are a lot of traditions,” Fitzwater said. “With this, we can look back at how far we’ve come.”

In the first 50 years or so of Lebanon’s existence as a city, firefighting still involved getting a hose to a hydrant.

Literal manpower made that work. Men pulled a wooden hose cart – wheels from an early model sit in Tacy’s shop – to the nearest hydrant, which had to be pumped by hand.

From left, the International Hose Wagon, a 1919 Chevy Baby Grand Chemical Wagon and a Gardner car sit at Maple and Park streets in Lebanon in the early 1900s. Photo provided by John Tacy

R.L. Gilson was Lebanon’s chief in 1921, and according to station records, the International was the first motorized piece of equipment the station had, Fitzwater said. It was used until at least the 1930s, when the district purchased a Seagrave.

Firefighters still drove the International, however, for 1970s competitions called “musters,” Fitzwater said. The statewide contests had a motorized hose cart competition, a timed event that Lebanon wanted a better shot at winning. To that end, Fitzwater said, the district had the engine redone, modernizing the motor and transmission to make it run faster.

In the early 1990s, Tacy spearheaded an effort to refurbish the International, particularly its wooden sides. The antique wagon found new service in rolling through parades and carrying toy donations at Christmas.

The district really never had a great place to store the wagon, however, and eventually it was moved into a metal shipping container. Weather took its toll, especially on the wagon’s wooden sides.

The engine compartment of the fire wagon is exposed as restoration of the vehicle begins. Photo provided by John Tacy

When crews broke ground in February 2023 on the Station 31 rebuild, district officials decided to include a display area for the International. Tacy offered room in his shop in the meantime, and this past January he and a group of volunteers began tackling another round of refurbishment.

Tacy, Fitzwater and others have gathered at Tacy’s shop every other week for the past few months, sanding and staining the wooden sides and getting the metal exterior parts ready for primer and paint. Lebanon High School students helped plane the boards.

The district budgeted a small amount for paint and sandpaper, but all tools and labor have been donated, Fitzwater said.

“We just decided we’ll get a group and git ‘er done.”

Tacy’s family has a metal shop, which gave him some experience for the task. Fitzwater said he’s just “looking to people who have done it before.”

“That’s the neat thing about the fire service,” Tacy added. “There’s a wide variety of people with different backgrounds and skill sets. Usually if you don’t know it, the next person will.”

Mark Fitzwater, left, and Nolan Fitzwater, right, use a fine sander to smooth old wood from an antique fire engine while John Tacy, center, watches. Photo by Sarah Brown

The International’s engine still runs, but the plan is to keep it on permanent display once Station 31 is complete. That means draining the fuel – no fuel in the station, Fitzwater explained – and no more parades.

The wagon will still be in service, however – as a reminder.

“This is just a great example of how far we’ve come in 100 years,” Fitzwater said. “I think the history is so important to teach the younger folks. We’ve come a long way.”


LFD will host a grand opening open house on Saturday, June 15, from 1-4 p.m. There will be refreshments and a guided tour of the new station, located at 1050 W. Oak Street. Fitzwater and Tacy will try to have the wagon finished and installed by then.