Firetruck History
 
1948 International LaFrance/Thibault Tiller
“Really Big Red”
Served Verdun, Quebec
 
This American-LaFrance Type 331 (serial # 7445) was the only one of its kind ever built. Originally a single-chassis tiller, it was delivered new to the city of Verdun, Quebec in February, 1932.

February, 1932 when delivered to the VFD

Sixteen years later, the Pierre Thibault fire apparatus factory removed the front wheel steer/drive (V12) and replaced it with a new, 1948 International KB-8 tractor (built in Chatham, Ontario). The trail portion was cut off rear of the drivers' bench and a goose-neck was added to support the new 75' spring loaded wooden aerial ladder atop the fifth-wheel configuration. The rear racks and fenders are the same as they were when new in 1932.
 

The new “articulating” Verdun Tiller after its 1948 transformation (75' spring loaded wooden aerial)

While in service, this tiller served in a fire hall located in the childhood neighbourhood of retired NHL coaching legend Scotty Bowman. It also responded to the Richard Riot of 1955 in nearby Montreal. In the late 1950's, the tiller was re-painted while the wooden spring loaded ladder was removed and replaced with a modern 75' three-stage hydraulic steel aerial. The tiller would remain in this configuration for the remainder of its service life.
 

Third-generation Verdun Tiller with the modern hydraulic 3-stage steel aerial

It responded to its last call on February 3, 1977 (an apartment fire on the corner of Lesage and Church Streets). All of Verdun's front-line apparatus was at the major fire of a Canadian Tire store so the tiller was called from “reserve” to “serve”. It was traded in to Thibault shortly thereafter on a 1977 Mack Aerialscope (one of 3 in to come to Canada). The aerial ladder was removed to be reconditioned and sold while the tractor and trailer were left in the bone yard.
 

Serving at its last call – February 3, 1977

In the late 1980's, the Pierre Thibault factory went bankrupt and ceased operations. The Verdun tiller was in a back field with a tree growing through the trailer. Rescued from scrap, a comprehensive restoration included sourcing an appropriate American-LaFrance aerial and 26 gallons of paint. It was affectionately nicknamed “Really Big Red” by current owners, the Reg DeNure Family.
 


It made its restored debut in 1990 and has been well enjoyed for nearly a quarter century. Special guests who have staffed “Really Big Red” include FDNY and 9/11 survivor Richard Picciotto while Craig Dougherty (Chief of Fire Operations, Detroit Fire Department and featured in the documentary BURN) has served as Tillerman.
 

“Really Big Red” after restoration

Historical information courtesy of Walt McCall, Ian Stronach, J Gordon Routley and Reg DeNure