Northborough’s Maxim fire engine celebrates 100th birthday

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Northborough’s Maxim fire engine celebrates 100th birthday
Northborough Firefighters Association members Paul Fiske, Shay Bailey, Peter Stone and David Hunt stand in front of the town’s 1923 Maxim fire engine. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

NORTHBOROUGH – The red paint of the 1923 Maxim fire engine glistened in the afternoon sunlight as it stood in front of the Northborough fire station.

“It’s more than just a truck. It’s more than just steel on wheels,” said Shay Bailey.

Members of the Northborough Firefighters Association are celebrating the engine’s 100th birthday.

“There’s a lot of pride in this truck,” said Paul Fiske.

Inside the hood ornament bears the name Maxim Motor Companies, which was headquartered in Middleborough, and from which the town purchased the engine in 1922.

According to David Hunt, at that time, the Northborough Fire Department was all-volunteer. The engine, which cost $8,000, was custom made by Maxim.

“We were a very big Maxim fire department, but this is the first and the best pump that they had at the time when they went to gasoline-powered equipment,” said Hunt.

Northborough’s Maxim fire engine celebrates 100th birthday
The hood ornament of the Maxim. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

The engine was one of the first motorized trucks in Northborough. One of the first major fires that the truck responded to was at Northborough Hotel. It also responded to the fire at the First Parish Church Unitarian Universalist, which made the cover of Life magazine in 1949.

It’s participated in parades and weddings and it has transported firefighters on their last rides. For Fiske, it transported his father, Ronald, who served as the deputy chief of the Northborough Fire Department, to his final resting place.

“We’ve taken care of it, and that piece of equipment has taken care of us, but [also] taken us to our final resting place,” said Bailey. “… It means a lot.”

After the town retired the engine, the Northborough Firef ighters Association purchased it in 1966.

“We’ve been maintaining it, keeping it running,” said Fiske.

The association used to take the engine to parades and local fire musters.

As Fiske described it, about 30 years ago, the engine began to get “tired.” The association members took the truck apart down to its frame and engine.

Northborough’s Maxim fire engine celebrates 100th birthday
Northborough firefighters sit on the Maxim engine in this photo from the 1920s. (Photo/Courtesy Northborough Firefighters Association).

When asked what it took to take it apart, Bailey said, “Stupid kids who didn’t know any better.”

According to Bailey, the group went to the association and asked if they could take the engine apart.

“Not knowing what we’re doing, we just started to take screws out and taking out piece by piece,” he said.

Bailey took pictures of the different parts along the way, which the others said helped when it came time to put the engine back together.

Bailey brought the parts to a stripper, who stripped off the paint.

The association worked to sand it down and remove the dings before taking it to an autobody shop. At the shop, piece by piece the engine was separately repainted. After the association members put the truck back together, it received its final coat.

It wasn’t a full-time endeavor, and the work took several years as the members worked on it after work or on the weekends.

“That’s our baby,” said Fiske.

The association plans to keep the engine alive for another 100 years. Fire Chief David Parenti said one of the things he loves about the fire service is the tradition. While some departments may have a similar engine that they acquired from another department, Northborough’s is original.

“This crew has done an amazing job taking care of it and keeping it running,” Parenti said.

Members are working on reincarnating the Northborough Firefighters Association. Any past members are encouraged to join by reaching out to the Northborough Fire Department.

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