Restoration of Fire Engine Pump Escape HCB 500 The Story.

It all started in 1980 when the then Station Commander Norman Halliwell approached the serving firefighters at Blackburn Fire Station to see if their was any interest in restoring the vehicle. It was at that time gathering dust and many other things at the Service Training Centre were it had been used to train recruits since 1974 when it was removed with the reorganisation of Local Goverment and Blackburn Fire Brigade became Lancs Fire & Rescue Service. Norman did a lot of work persuading the then Chief Officer Jack Warden that we had enough expertise at Blackburn and the project would be self funded with local companies sponsoring the project.

I remember some of the main sponsors were Crown Paints who provided al the necessary specifications and materials and Hychrome of Colne who replated all the Chromework on the vehicle. Special thanks must go to the Brigades Transport Dept who offered materials and support to the project.

About 20 serving firefighters came forward with different trades to volunteer for the project. among them were Bill Whiteley, Bob France, Alan Pemberton, Jim Kenyon, Dick Holt, Geoff Peacock, John Davis, Ted Bury, Sid Dugdale, Jim Earnshaw Bob Baron and Brian Parker many others. who’s names escape me for which I apologise.

I recall Norman driving into Blackburn Fire Station Yard and it looked a sorry state with the locker doors fastened shut with rope, he informed us that the vehicle once new batteries had been fitted started first time after 5 years of not running a great credit to the engineering of its Rolls Royce B80 8 Cylinder Petrol Engine.

I recall along with Jim Kenyon steam cleaning the underside of the vehicle in the pouring rain at the Blackburn Borough Workshops which were situated next door to the old fire station on Byrom St and had kindly let us use the equipment free of charge. Some of the more amusing moments of the restoration was seeing Alan Pemberton (deceased) running back and forward to the cold water tap to wash of the splashed Nitromors paint stripper from his skin, after removing all the existing paintwork back to the bare metal which was done by wire wool and many hours of painstaking work.

Also I recall Billy Whiteley being short of some special size Chrome wood screws to refit the crew quarters internal locker doors, not to be beat Billy had spotted the same screws in the back  of the station toilet doors, so you guessed it he took one screw from each door handle and one from the coat hooks. No one ever noticed, so now the secret is out.

The underside of the chassis was painted with 3 coats of paint one red oxide and two coats of iron oxide chassis paint, the bodywork was mainly done to a magnificent standard by Bill Whiteley,  who applied some 60 -80 coats of paint and varnish and spent many hundreds of hours perfecting its award winning finish .Billy certainly put his trade as a vehicle body builder to good use but had never painted a vehicle before.

Great credit must go to the members of Blue  Watch who painstakingly restored stripped and restored the  50 ft Wooden Escape Ladder as you can see it was a great team effort that took 8 years to complete.

Its first run out was in 1988 to a rally at the Service Training Centre at Chorley whilst on route I recall it boiling up several times and having to knock on many house doors to ask for water for the radiator, I often think what those people thought when seeing the gleaming fire engine outside their front door. Another amusing moment was when it was road tested after the on going restoration I recall driving it out of the Fire Station yard on to the street and heard this terrible knocking noise on investigation we discovered that the wheel nuts had not been tightened up just imagine the embarrassment after 8 Years of restoration,  pardon the saying the wheels had fell off.

Just a few technical bits the vehicle was fitted with a Rolls Royce B80 Engine which consisted of 8 cylinders and was 6900cc on a good day you would  get about 9 miles per gal. The pump was a 1000 gpm Godiva fitted with a reciprocating primer, it was fitted with dual purpose water tank which held 200 gals and 100 gals in separate compartments. this enabled the vehicle to multi purpose for eg Water Tender or Pump Escape.Whist on the run at Blackburn it carried a 50ft John Morris Wooden Wheeled Escape Ladder and in the early days two Hook Ladders which were believe me  character builders. The Bodywork was timber framed with aluminium panels and believe it or not its colour is Post Office Red.

Getting ready for Cumbrian Steam Gathering
Bob France
Carol Service Blackburn Cathedral
Bob France
NCB100 & HCB 500 First time together for 30 years Harrogate Fire Station
Major 3 & Pump Escape
The Early Days
Bob France
Down to Bare Metal
Bob France
Nerves of steel Firefighter Brian Parker putting the finishing touches, just imagine one slip after all Bills work in obtaining that wonderful finish.
Prince Andrew on his visit to Lancs Fire and Rescue Service Training Centre. From left to right CFO G Russel, HRH, Bob France, A Metcalf, Andy Howard an Pete Aspin
Bob France
Lets just call it memories Retired Firefighters Left to right Ivor Kirkpatrick, Bob France and Wayne Gardner, at Vehicle Rally Fleetwood Tram Sunday.
This page was added by Bob France on 10/02/2014.

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