Tara Jeffrey Photo and Story
Last fall, Jeff Scott wasn’t sure if the Camlachie Fire Department’s historic hose cart was even salvageable.
“It sat out in front of the fire hall for as long as I can remember,” said the volunteer department’s deputy chief. “Finally, we talked about it and decided, we either have to fix it or get rid of it.”
The hand-drawn hose cart dates to circa 1895 and was originally used at Sarnia’s Imperial Oil refinery. It was acquired by the department, thanks to the late Bill Beatty, a former Camlachie fire chief who was also a Fire Marshall at Imperial.
“When Esso was getting rid of them, Bill took one and set it up in front of the hall. After he passed away, they dedicated it in his memory,” said Scott.
Years of wear and tear left the reel in tatters, but a chance meeting last fall led to its spectacular revival.
Tim Wilkins —owner of Wyoming Tree Service and a Camlachie firefighter — was working at a Corunna home when he spotted a beautifully restored 1900 Wirt Knox hose cart in the driveway.
Homeowner Frank Moore had acquired the cart while living in the Sault, and spent months refurbishing it back in 2010.
“It’s just a passion I got into,” said Moore, who has earned a number of accolades including Best Horse Cart at WAMBO (Wallaceburg Antique Motor and Boat Outing) and Oldest Hand Drawn Cart at the St. Thomas Fire Muster Days.
“I started tinkering with it and that’s where it ended up. (Tim) mentioned that he was on the fire department, and they were ready to throw their old cart in the garbage,” Moore added. “He asked if I’d be interested in restoring it.”
Moore began the painstaking restoration in October.
“When they dropped it off, it was in pieces,” said the retired Corunna resident. “It was bad. Really bad.”
Unlike Moore’s original cart, which was mostly steel, the Camlachie hose reel was made almost entirely of wood.
“I had everything custom made,” said Moore, pointing to work done by Mennonite craftsmen. He spent the next six months building, sanding, staining and painting; every nut and bolt placed to perfection.
He even had hose donated by the Kettle Point fire department — of which his son is a member — and Sarnia Fire & Rescue.
“A lot of people think these carts were pulled by horse, but they weren’t. They were pulled by firefighters,” said Moore, a former volunteer with St. Clair Township.
Few people have seen the finished product. Scott has only seen a photo, and is amazed by the finished product.
“I can’t wait to see it at the hall,” he said. “From what it was, to what it is now, it’s just a miraculous transformation.”
Plans are in the works for a big reveal to the Camlachie squad.
“I’m really pleased with how it turned out. I’m hoping to find a few more out there to work on,” said Moore, who isn’t charging a penny for his work.
“It’s going to be special,” he added, his voice choked up. “This really means a lot to me.”