Wilbur is anxiously waiting for his ride in the sun during the village of Grayslake's annual Memorial Day parade beginning at 9:30 a.m. Monday, May 28.
Wilbur is a 1954 former Grayslake Fire Department fire truck that after many years of service has retired to the Annex of the Grayslake Heritage Center and Museum where it is a major attraction to visitors both young and old.
The bright red engine is complete with ladders, hoses, pumps and other firefighting equipment. Wilbur participates with the help of Grayslake Historical Society members in several parade events in the village each year. He also can be seen cruising the village streets on a regular monthly basis when his brakes and other motoring functions are checked.
Wilbur is a 1954 Chevrolet Model 6400 (6,400 pounds including the cab and chassis). The Chevrolet chassis was built in Janesville, Wis. The year 1954 was a milestone year in fire truck manufacturing because of the motor. It was the first year fire trucks did not have an automobile motor.
Previously, Chevrolet trucks and cars had the same motors. The fire truck body was built by the Grayslake Fire Equipment Company owned by Kenneth Poehler at 122 Center Street in Grayslake. Wilbur cost $7,800 in 1954. It was one of two built for the fire department by Poehler's firm.
The fire truck was the first to have a motor with a high-pressure oil pump. Wilbur served Grayslake from 1954 to 1991 and was on the scene of the fires at the Picket Fence farm, the lumber yard in 1957, the fire that destroyed the bowling alley on Center Street and the Electra restaurant fire on Center Street in 1980.
The truck was built on a two-ton Chevrolet chassis. It has a six-cylinder, 261-cubic-inch engine. The truck could carry 800 gallons of water and the front end pump was capable of spraying 500 gallons per minute.
When in service, Wilbur carried 1,100 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose, 300 feet of 1 1/2-inch hose, a 45-foot, three-section ladder, a 24-foot extension ladder, a 14-foot roof ladder, a portable generator, a portable pump and two-way radio. The tires are 8.25 x 20 x10 ply.
Wilbur is owned by the Grayslake Historical Society and is part of the society's permanent collection. The Grayslake Heritage Center and Museum, 164 Hawley Street, Grayslake, is open from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and during downtown community events.