November 11th, 2020 ~ Vol. 90 No. 45
Antique Fire Truck Restored to Glory
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Kyle Wilkinson Photo
Local firefighter Mark Cnossen recently took some time to restore a part of Crowsnest Pass’s history. Cnossen restored a 1940/41 fire truck that has been a staple in local parades over the years. The restoration included mechanical, cosmetic and drivability repairs. The restoration ensures that the fire truck will continue to be a part of the community for years to come.
David Selles
Pass Herald Reporter
A part of Crowsnest Pass’s history has been restored.

Local firefighter Mark Cnossen spent parts of two years searching for parts to bring an old relic back to life.

That relic is a 1940/41 fire truck.

The truck was originally purchased by the municipality of Blairmore in 1940 for $1,018.

Cnossen says the municipality bought it as basic as possible to help keep costs down.

“They bought it as a cabin chassis, single wheel rear end. It was as plain as they could get. They didn't want to have the deck built by GM because it was too expensive.”

The deck was built by the brother of Milo Marcial, one of the firefighters who was serving at the time.

Marcial is also the only remaining firefighter who served while that truck was in service.

According to Cnossen, the first deck was made out of rough lumber.

Plenty of other work was needed on the fire truck in order for it to provide everything the firefighters of the time needed.
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“One of the issues they were having with the truck, is that with a single wheel axle, there was no fenders for the firefighters to stand on. Back then they stood on the side of the truck. They still attempted to do so, but they were falling off onto the road. They converted it to a dual wheel rear end and put the wide fenders on it so that they could stand of it without falling onto the road,” said Cnossen.

The station also received a grant that was able to help update the truck.
“The fire station received a grant of 10,000 to improve and restore the truck. With that money, they redid the deck and had it made out of oak, they sent all the metal work to Edmonton and had it all chromed. They changed the engine at that time as well. The original engine was a 216 6 cylinder, which didn't quite have enough power for them so they changed it to the industrial workhorse at the time, which was the 261. That's the engine that's in the truck now.”

The truck was in service until around the mid-1950’s.

Cnossen says it was sitting in different parts of the community until the truck was sold.

“They ran it for a few years after that work was done but then the truck was retired. The truck basically sat in municipal warehouses and sheds for almost 20 years. The Blairmore Fire Department took ownership of it and did a restoration on it in the late 80's or early 90's.”
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Cnossen says at that time, no major work was done.

“They didn't do anything with the powertrain, didn't do anything with the engine. It was all cosmetic work. The truck was hurting. There were no brakes, the engine didn't run well anymore.”

After another gap in the trucks history, we fast forward to a couple years ago when Cnossen first decided to restore the truck to its former glory.

"It took me over the course of two years to find the parts for this truck. It's not easy to find parts for a 1940 Chevy truck. I found a supplier out of Texas, which is where I got almost all the parts from. I stripped the truck right down to the frame, tore the engine and transmission down, tore all the brakes out of it and redid the entire powertrain. I painted the body back to the original 1940's colour as well.”

Cnossen says general cleaning was also part of the process in restoring the truck.

“You couldn't have either hood open because it was just nothing but grease and oil. Year's worth of nothing being done with the engine. So I redid the engine, put original paint on it, shined it up and now you can have the hoods open and see what it actually looked like in 1940 when it was first bought.”

It took Cnossen three months of hard work to complete the restoration.
The decision for Cnossen to restore the truck came from his line of work and love of a challenge.

“I'm a mechanic by trade. I have a big interest in old vehicles. I built a shop here two years ago and thought to myself that I needed something to do in the shop. I like tinkering with old vehicles and we had the truck in the hall and I was talking to our Fire Chief and I said that the truck needs work but that I was willing to take on the project. It kind of escalated and I wanted to tear it down and redo it. It's in my blood. It's not too often you get to take a 1940's truck and get to make it work properly again. It was a challenge and I like a challenge. I think it was more the challenge of can I do it more than anything.”

Fire Chief, Jesse Fox, says he is pleased that community members and firefighters have been so willing to keep this truck a part of the community.

“The fire service has an incredible connection to history and tradition, which we honor through projects like our antique fire truck. It is remarkable how this truck connects people and instantly invokes feelings of nostalgia and community pride. This truck is always the highlight of fire station tours and is a showstopper in our parades. The work that has been put into the mechanical and exterior restoration has been out of a love for the project and the desire to remember the past. It should be recognized that this is the community’s antique truck and the role of the fire department is to preserve and care for it. The Cnossen’s, Ostrensky’s, and other caretakers should be commended for its status today.”
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November 11th, 2020 ~ Vol. 90 No. 45
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