You may have seen Al Schwoerer’s old fire engine in local parades or car shows.
Now, you can hang it from your Christmas tree.
The Redwood City resident’s 1936 fire engine, which once served with the Woodside Fire Protection District, is now a model for a Hallmark Christmas ornament - the 10th fire engine in the line of ornaments known as the “fire brigade.”
“Don’t call it a fire truck. It is a fire engine,” said Schwoerer.
Schwoerer said Hallmark tells him the ornament is selling well.
“They have a hard time keeping it in stock,” he said.
The ornament, which costs around $20 and is about five inches long, is a replica of the Ford American-LaFrance fire engine that Schwoerer has owned since 1989, when he acquired it from the fire district.
“I use the fire engine in car shows, burn foundation events and any other fun things to do with an antique fire engine,” he said.
Recently, the old Woodside fire engine appeared at the “Horses to Horsepower” classic auto show and fundraiser at Sequoia High.
The 1936 Ford American-LaFrance pumper is not Schwoerer's first fire engine. That honor went to a 1953 Seagrave fire engine that he got from the Daly City Fire Department.
Schwoerer says he only has “time and space” for one engine, adding that he plans to keep the present vehicle “until I am too old to drive.”
Schwoerer said the old “Woodside 36” is “the best of two worlds. It is a classic 1936 American-LaFrance fire engine and a classic 1936 Ford truck.”
He added that he had a tough time parting with the Seagrave, which he said was at one time “one of the faster hill-climbing fire engines in the San Francisco Bay Area” after Daly City "repowered" the engine with a new motor and converted to an air-brake system.
“The improvements made this fire engine a better fire engine, but difficult to restore to the original, which was one of the many reasons I made the difficult decision to let it go,” he explained.
The Woodside engine was in fair condition when he took it over from the district, which was using it as a public relations tool.
Schwoerer, who was once a volunteer firefighter with Woodside, said the fire engine was “tired after many years of service.” The paint was faded, the engine compression was low, and “everything else was just in need of repair.”
He ticked off a long line of technical steps he carried out, including adding adjustable lifters and installing stainless steel valves and guides “in order to burn unleaded fuel.”
The water tank was sand blasted and resealed, the pumps rebuilt with new bearings, and seals installed. He also rewired the fire engine and rebuilt the rear end and two-speed unit.
For the less technical, the most obvious improvement was in the paint, which was a darker red.
“Many fire engines were painted this darker red before World War II,” he said. “I found paint on the frame that confirmed that at one time this fire engine was a darker red.”
Sounds like a lot of work. So why own an old fire engine?
“For me, it is about owning a very interesting piece of automotive history,” he said.
See photos of both Schwoerer's classic fire engine and the Hallmark ornament that was inspired by it in the photos section of this article.
Keep up with the latest news from your local neighborhood - follow Patch!
Sign up for Redwood City-Woodside Patch’s daily newsletter
"Like” us on Facebook
"Follow” us on Twitter
Want to share your opinions with the communities of Redwood City and Woodside? Start your own blog here.