This 1923 Reo was donated to the Wilmington Water Department

The 1923 Reo started out as a touring car. In 1930, Louis McMahon donated it to the Wilmington Water Department. At the wheel is Art Williams, with Elmer Eaton next to him. Supt. Don Foster is at right, with Eddie Sargent in the back of the truck.

In 1930, the Wilmington Water Department receiv­ed a gift from one of its commissioners. Louis T. McMahon donated his 1923 Reo touring car to the department. The em­ployees converted it to a service truck.

The department and the water system were quite new at that time, only three years old. The Brown’s Crossing pumping station was built in 1928.

McMahon, Caleb Harri­man and Alden Eames started the department and served as commissioners for decades. McMahon (1885-1950) was in the third generation of a family that has remain­ed prominent to this day. He served as assistant town clerk in 1926 and 1927, and was on the Board of Appeals from 1925-38, Cemetery Com­mission 1926-50, Board of Library Trustees 1927-50, and Water Commission­ers 1927-47. He was em­ploy­ed by Filene’s in Bos­ton as credit manager.

The Reo was a T-6 touring car with a 50 hp en­gine. Reo was a brand that was started by Ran­som E. Olds, who originated the Oldsmobile in 1896. That company forc­ed him out in 1904, so in 1905, he started another firm, named with his initials. By 1907, it was in the top three auto manufacturers. Oldsmobile, meanwhile, became one of the founding firms merged into General Motors.

Touring cars became fashionable in the early teens, large open-topped convertibles suitable for Sunday drives or parades. By the late 1920s, the auto industry had changed. Henry Ford shut down production of the Model T in 1926. When Ford re­open­ed, it was making the Model A. Touring cars were becoming passe.

Reo stopped making cars in 1934 but continued as a truck manufacturer for another four decades.

The men in the Water Department, working dur­ing the winter, overhauled the engine and went through the entire chassis. They cut out the back seat and rebuilt the Reo as a truck. There were compartments for large and small tools and other compartments for rubber gloves, hats, coats and boots. There was a floodlight system and a magnetic underground lo­cator, handy for finding a water main break un­der a paved road.

The truck was capable of serving as a fire en­gine, with 250 feet of 2-1/2-in. hose, 350 feet of 2-in. fire hose and 200 feet of 1-in. hose, together with adapters and nozzles for each size.

It was painted a beautiful green with gold striping and gold letters. The work was done by Water Supt. Donald Foster, El­mer Eaton, George Foote, Eddie Sargent and Art Williams, who became the regular driver of the truck. The lettering and striping was done by Tur­ner Body Works in North Reading.

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