Vintage Snorkel rescued

A 55 year old Snorkel platform that looked as though it might end up in the scrap yard has been saved.

The 65ft platform, was one of the very first production units manufactured by Pitman in 1959, apparently for the Chicago Fire Department. The fire department had tested a Pitman-built Giraffe the year before and added a fire hose coining the Snorkel name. The story goes that when Pitman presented this first production unit, Chicago rejected it as being too long and so nearby Bedford Park picked it up at a bargain. It was finally delivered to the Bedford Park Fire Department near Chicago’s Midway airport in March 1960 as Snorkel 5 and was later renumbered as Snorkel 712.
The very first Snorkel pictured in the 1960s

It was/is mounted on a tandem axle GMC/Pierce W554 chassis with the body work by Auto Body Works of Appleton, Wisconsin. It features a V8 petrol engine and a manual transmission.

The unit was used regularly for fire and rescue work, until about 1980, when it was handed over to the Bedford Park Public Works Department which used it for the next 20 years or so for street light maintenance. In recent years it has sat in the corner of a parking lot gradually rotting away. The fire fighters began restoring it, but soon found the cost was too high, so it has now been sold for a token one dollar to Smeal Fire Apparatus of Snyder, Nebraska, following its promise to spend $100,000 to fully restore it for its museum.
The old Snorkel sat rotting at the back of the Bedford Park municipal yard for many years

Smeal has an interest because it purchased the assets of LTI in June – following the bankruptcy of its parent company La France. LTI (Ladder Towers Incorporated was founded by Grove manufacturing – but that’s another story) had inherited the Snorkel fire equipment business and Smeal says that it is looking to relaunch the Snorkel product and will use the restored truck in its marketing.
More recently the unit was moved to the Bedford Park Fire station for an attempted refurbishment

Hopefully we will be able to publish some photographs in the not too distant future of this historic unit restored to its former glory.


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