Built in 1938 and known as "Old Number One," the fire engine originally belonged to the Champaign fire department, which retired it and sold it to the Tolono volunteer fire department shortly after its incorporation following a 1949 referendum. After the Tolono department stopped using the truck in the 1960s, it went back to the Champaign fire department and ended up on display on Hessel Park's west side. When Champaign Park District officials became concerned about the fire engine not meeting Consumer Product Safety Guidelines, they decided to get rid of it. But there was so much public outcry that the park district postponed the sentimental favorite's removal for a while before finally returning it to the Tolono fire department in 2002. It had no engine mount or drive train and was "just kind of a shell," Tolono Fire Protection District Trustee Denny Davis said.
The Tolono department cleaned it up and put running boards on it. Tolono firefighters had planned to talk to the Tolono park district about putting it on display in a Tolono park but ran into the same problems with liability as Champaign's park district did. The fire truck is still sitting in one of the Tolono fire department's storage sheds. One idea that has been discussed is putting it in a mini-park next to a planned new east side fire station. Another idea is displaying it in a glass enclosure.
Denny Davis says ...
"That (finding a way to safely display the truck) would be a possibility, but it is a lot of money. I would love to have it out but I don't know financially how we could. We're more focused now on getting a new fire station." Davis said while older firefighters appreciate the nostalgia of the fire engine, "some of the younger guys say, 'Why would we want to keep it around?'"