By Alyssa Ramsfield
Driving up to Eric Foley’s Boston Harbor area home, his hobby is on full display. Full size fire trucks lined up across the property line. Some are shiny, red, and in running condition while others look like relics of the past straight out of a museum, each one with its own story and importance to Foley’s collection.
“It all started around age 13. My dad and I had been working on classic cars – Thunderbirds and Corvettes mostly,” explained Foley. “We decided that we wanted a fire truck. So, in 1982, my dad bought a truck from Old Village Fire Department of Middletown, New Jersey.”
There aren’t too many 13-year-olds who just ask for a fire truck and get one from their father. While this might be a foreign concept to many, Foley’s father had plans of his own with their new purchase. “He wanted to work as a team in Muster competitions,” said Foley. Muster competitions consist of many different events involving the fire truck. These events include laying out the hose, rolling up the hose, ladder climbs, and response contests. “We usually competed in the event that timed teams against each other to see who could connect their hose the fastest.”
After multiple competitions, Foley discovered the fire truck they had was too slow for response times. Changes needed to be made. “We were getting serious about these competitions. We bought two more fire engines so we could really compete. After our upgrades, we eventually won state contests in both Washington and Oregon.”
Foley teamed with his father through high school in Muster events, but had to take a break during college. “When I came home from college we just picked up where we left off. We acquired more fire trucks for events and for the overall collection,” said Foley. “Many of the fire trucks are from the Midwest and New Jersey. There are a few local trucks that we have too. All of them have importance in the collection.”
This collection of fire trucks is expansive. “I think we have about 15 fire engines now,” estimated Foley. “We have other vehicles in our collection as well, but honestly there are more than I can count off the top of my head.” In 2002, Foley’s father built a sprawling garage on the property that stores many of the trucks. “It was a necessity for our growing collection.”
The garage resembles a smaller version of the LeMay Car Museum. Industrial steel walls decorated with beautiful fire engines from towns across the country. Many of the engines even have framed information about their historic importance to the area they came from. “This was really my dad’s setup. He passed away this last October. We did most of this together, but I’m planning to keep it going.”
Foley recently displayed a few of his trucks in Yakima, WA at the American Truck Historical Society’s National Show. “Getting the trucks to shows and parades is a tough undertaking. We don’t do it very often,” described Foley. “The Yakima show was a big event so we made the trip. Locally, however, we don’t take the trucks out very much. The local fire departments have given us an open invitation to any future events we would like to attend though.”
So where can you get a glimpse of these amazing engines? While the Foley family wants to maintain their overall privacy, they want to share their growing collection whenever possible. “We aren’t opening up our garage doors to the public anytime soon, but we have a website set up where people can get a good look at the pieces we have so far.”
For a peek behind the closed garage doors check out the Foley family’s website.