Established in 1887 under the leadership of J.D. Elliot, two years before South Dakota became a state, the Elliott Hose Company #1 in Tyndall became the first chartered fire department in all of the Dakota Territory but the Tyndall Fire Department is also famous for another reason.

The department is home of one of two 1927 closed cab fire trucks in existence. Typically, it wasn’t until after 1935 that closed cab fire trucks began to appear on the scene.

“The truck we have here is one of two that were specifically made in 1927 to go to a fire department for fighting fires,” said Glenn Tycz, senior member of the Tyndall Fire Department. “All the fire trucks made during that period of time were open cab trucks, but the specifications for this truck were for a closed cab because of how cold the weather gets in South Dakota.”

The truck was ordered brand new from Luverne Fire Company by the Elliot Hose Company #1. However, it took some arguing to get the company to put a cab on the fire truck.

The truck itself is a very compact one-ton Chevrolet with a four-cylinder engine and three-speed transmission. It can hold 110 gallons of water between its three tanks and features a 6-volt battery operated siren. There are no seatbelts, turn signals or break lights, but it does feature push-to-start technology, a hand-operated windshield wiper and dual windshields for ventilation purposes.

“When the truck was bought, it was called a chemical truck because the tanks on the back contained sodium bicarbonate and acid in them,” Tycz said. “You would tip the tanks upright after dropping in a sodium bicarbonate canister and it would mix with the acid in the tank, neutralizing it and creating pressure so you could spray water.”

The truck remained in service from about 1927 to 1948 before resting in retirement. It wasn’t until about 1987 that the motor began to be restored and brought back to a serviceable condition. At that time, it was primarily used for parades, until a member of the fire department passed away and requested that he be taken to his final resting place in the old firetruck.

“We already had it put in the bylaws,” Tycz said. “If a person was a member of the fire department for over 10 years, their family could request that firemen load the casket on a fire truck and deliver it to the grave site free of charge.”

In order to get the 1927 fire truck ready for funeral processions, the fire department had to update many of the features on the vehicle and convert the back end of the truck so that it could haul a casket on top of the chemical tanks. The process would involve 15 to 20 people, a totally new paint job, modifications to the chemical tanks, redoing the vinyl roof and upholstery seating, updating the wooden wheel spokes, adding a removable aluminum bed for the casket, replacing the bed of the truck with dimensional oak and updating the sideboards with aluminum sheeting. It would take countless man hours to complete the project.

“We had a member who worked on restoring the truck about to pass away and we weren’t finished with the updates to the vehicle,” Tycz said. “When he was getting really bad, we ended up spending three days busting our butts to get it all done in time for his funeral.”

Since being converted to haul caskets, the truck has been used in three different funerals. It can easily be switched over to funeral mode with the help of three people in a matter of 15 to 20 minutes.

The truck was restored using money from fundraisers and through the donation of time and equipment by many of the Tyndall Fire Department members.

“We wanted to do something to honor our fallen members,” Tycz said. “Using the truck to carry our members to their final resting place is the least we can do for their years of service.”