Copyright Fire Service Preservation Group 2020
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Fire Service Preservation Group
Preserving Fire Service History for over 50 years
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Dennis F8 –Reg no WLG77 - Water Tender/Pump. Built 1955. Served at Marple, Cheshire (About 6 miles south of Stockport) – A 2 appliance station. Equipped with foam equipment, and partnered by a Land Rover Foam carrier, it is said that its main function was to fight industrial and chemical fires in the surrounding old Mills. At some point late 60s, or early 70s it was moved to Ellesmere Port Stationas a reserve machine, then sold (date unknown) to Bowater Scotts (Mersey) Paper Mill also in
Ellesmere Port. After that little is known - when I bought it in 2008, It came with a “history” which was undated and not signed, but it would appear to have been sold into preservation in the North West, and then vanished. Rumour has it that it was in East Anglia for a while. I bought it from a chap in Brighton who had bought it from a chap (scrap yard?) in Dorset. I can’t find any trace of it being rallied.
Powered by a Rolls Royce B60 4.25 Litre 6 cylinder Engine. The B series engines were the Roll Royce commercial and military vehicle engine of the day and the B60 was very closely aligned to the Rolls Royce Wraith car engine. 4 speed crash gearbox, servo assisted brakes, but no help with the steering! There’s a 350 gallon water tank, 500 gallons per minute pump, 35 foot wooden Ajax ladder. Unique selling points when new were its small size at 6ft 6 inches wide (good for country lanes, and in my case small industrial estates), 10ft 6 inches high, so good for low railway bridges, and a top speed of 60 MPH If my appliance had any notable actions, sadly I haven’t been able to find details of them. Until very recently the only pictures I have of WLG when in service were those of Open days, and the time it was used to fill the newly built paddling pool round the back of the Station! Restoration has been a mission – a mix of naivety, limited facilities, time and health. I started on the engine - only firing on 3 cylinders on arrival - after working through and replacing every part of the ignition and draining off the surplus half gallon of oil from the sump, it ran quite well but immediately overheated - so out with the radiator – single handed with no hoist (which should impress anyone else who has done it). I successfully unclogged it by taking the header and bottom tank off, then standing the Core in the biggest plastic window box I could find – filled with Central Heating Cleaner. After several weeks, I was able to (carefully) pull through each tube. Meanwhile I had been working on locker doors – for the un-initiated each door is rather like a window frame, covered in a skin of aluminium mounted on a steel frame. All doors needed new frames, and bottom members, and 50% needed vertical member replacement. I knew that the roof fabric was torn when I bought it . I started to remove it thinking I was going to re-roof and then the Dennis disease horrors hit.
The curved member on the offside behind the cab looked a bit rotten, so I removed a body panel, then another then another until the whole side was bare. Around 30 % of the ash frame was crumbling mush.The overall programme consisted of rebuilding the framework on large parts of both sides, replacing 30% of the roof, fitting new canvas covering, fitting new “stucco” aluminium on the exterior, having all brake cylinders remanufactured, and of course stripping and repainting finished off by fitting new tyres all round.
Its now fit for purpose but certainly not finished. All wood and metalwork was done offsite (the Dennis is on my drive by the house under its own purpose built “car-port”) at a local school, which, unusually, still has a full set of machine tools – lathes, milling machines, drill presses, ban saws, saw bench, mortising machine etc etc. The facilities were supported by a highly skilled CDT teacher who would advise and help in every way. The snag was that this was only available 2 hours, one evening a week, so it made things slow at times. All was going well and I was on track for road worthiness in 2018, but then health issues wiped out 2016, and slowed me up considerably until late 2019. I was going to push for road running in the spring of 2020 and then we all know what happened !!!. My first brief run was October 2020. Still needs much more work – mostly painting the interior and inside the lockers plus the underside needs steam cleaning & painting - but at least I can drive it now, even if there isn’t anywhere to go!!
“I have no connection with Fire & Rescue services, just a love of what is probably now called “heritage machinery”- pretty much anything pre-1960.
Fire appliances have always had a strong appeal – an interest boosted when I came within a gnats whisker of winning a pre-war Dennis when I was 12 years old.
Without support from FSPG members, restoration of an old appliance would have been near impossible. It’s been the combination of knowledge about how to rebuild and maintain the vehicle plus operational info – like how to repair an Ajax ladder and the difference between a rope and a line!”
Phill Griffin - November 2020