Amish Carriage-Maker Restored Two Hand Pumpers Nearly 30 Years Ago For Fire Company

The Nickle Mine Coach Shop on Mine Road, Paradise, PA

In the mid-1980s, members of the Singerly Fire Company started gearing up for the company’s 100th anniversary in 1992.  One of the tasks for the centennial celebration was the restoration of two old 19th century hand pumpers that had been the hero of many a fight with the smoke and flames in Elkton.  The first piece, a hydraulion, had been built about 1817 and arrived in Elkton in 1827.  The second unit, a suction engine, arrived here in 1859.

These aging relics were in need of work so members of the company started searching for some contacts to help them with the restoration.  They located Jack Robrecht and Al Wills, two experts associated with the Philadelphia Fire Museum.  After visiting Elkton to examine the pieces they suggested we contact an Amish carriage-maker so in 1985 members of the company traveled to Bart, PA and talked with the fire company there.  They suggested we visit the Nickle Mine Coach shop just a mile or two up the road.  At the shop we met a master Amish craftsman, Christian Petersheim, Jr., who was given the job of restoring the firefighting artifacts.

Today I visited Mr. Petersheim, at the shop on Mine Road in Paradise, PA.  He has since retired, but the business is now being managed by his sons.  He recalled working on this project nearly 30 years ago and had a photo album containing some of his fire engine restoration work.  After finishing the Singerly projects, he restored about seven additional pieces of hand-drawn fire apparatus.  The equipment came from VT., FL, PA., NY, and MD and included one hook and ladder.  By-the-way, today he was upholstering two museum-quality automobiles from the first decade of the 20th century.  He has taken up that work since his retirement from carriage-making.

The work of this fine craftsman appears in the Singerly Fire Company museum, looking as good today as it did nearly thirty years earlier when it was returned home to Elkton.

The old hydraulion fire engine before it was restored.

The Nickle Mine Coach Shop near Bart PA.

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