1937 American LaFrance “Tiller” Fire Truck Acquired by the Grand Rapids Public Museum

The Grand Rapids Public Museum (GRPM) announced today the newest acquisition to their Collections, a 1937 American LaFrance “Tiller” Fire Truck, originally from the City of Grand Rapids.

This significant piece of Grand Rapids’ rich firefighting history returned home to the City recently. This American LaFrance “Tiller” truck, with an 85-foot extension ladder, was purchased new and placed in service by the Grand Rapids Fire Department in 1937, along with two fire engines. The equipment was purchased from one of America’s oldest manufacturers of fire equipment.

It now rejoins, in the Grand Rapids Public Museum’s Collection of historic vehicles, one of those engines it worked alongside of at some of the City’s most memorable blazes over several decades.

The truck’s multiple ladders provided better access to blazes in ever taller buildings, and aided rescue procedures. The tractor-trailer apparatus is 60 feet long, and incorporates a “Tiller wheel” that controls the rear wheels for maneuvering through narrow city streets and efficient placement at fire scenes.

Retired in 1976, it was sold at a City of Grand Rapids auction to a private collector of historic vehicles. The generosity of an anonymous donor permitted re-acquisition this past month. Key to that re-acquisition is an ongoing partnership with the Grand Rapids Fire Department, which provides storage for both the Tiller truck and fire engine, along with professional assistance with operation and maintenance of both vehicles. Following necessary mechanical upgrades and restoration, the Tiller truck will join the already operable fire engine in community events beginning in the spring of 2017.

“We are thrilled to be working with the Grand Rapids Fire Department and a group of volunteers who helped bring this truck back to its home in Grand Rapids,” said Tom Dilley, GRPM Trustee and Chair of the Museum’s Collections Committee. “At the Public Museum we cannot think of a better place to preserve the history of this truck, but also share it with the public. Plan to see the Tiller truck in parades and at other community events in Grand Rapids as early as this Spring.”

Grand Rapids Public Museum

The Grand Rapids Public Museum is an invaluable, publicly-owned institution that is home to more than 250,000 unique artifacts that tell the history of Kent County and beyond, houses the only planetarium in the region, and is responsible for protecting the Norton Indian Mounds, a national historic landmark. The Grand Rapids Public Museum is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, with its main location in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, at 272 Pearl St. NW. For additional information including hours of operation, admission fees and exhibit/event listings, please visit