Reviewed by Steve McGuire
By Corgi

Corgi continues its “Heroes Under Fire” series with a new 1:50 Seagrave 70th Anniversary series tiller, patterned after Boston’s Ladder 3. This model shows a steady improvement from Corgi in detail, accuracy, and overall quality. I for one am pleased to see Corgi continuing this product line, because I believe they offer an unbeatable value for the collector of vintage Fire Apparatus.

This model is a beautiful addition for those collectors who crave “classic” Fire Apparatus. Corgi has revamped its packaging, and the model is securely mounted inside of an acetate dome for those who prefer displaying their trucks “in the dome”. For those who would rather display it in the open, the model is easily removed. No tools or muscular fingers are required; several wire twist-ties are all that secure it inside. The model and dome are inserted in an open ended shipping sleeve, with graphics on all sides. And don’t be fooled by the pictures on Corgi’s website, the model I’m looking at is much more refined than the ones shown. There is also a card inside the package, with an invitation to any Firefighters of Letters, past and present, who might like to share their experiences on any of the various apparatus types that Corgi reproduces.


Seasoned Corgi collectors should not be surprised when they discover that the side view mirror and lamps (one on each side) are not attached.  The mirrors are molded onto a separate parts tree inside the package, and you must cut them loose and mount them yourself. This doesn’t require any great skill, but it is a minor repeat annoyance. Tip: a tiny dab of gel-type super glue, carefully placed in the mounting holes, is sufficient to secure the mirrors in place.

I couldn’t help comparing this model to the similar Baltimore tiller that Corgi released last year. A common problem with that truck was the issue with the windshield mounted gumball beacon. It wasn’t straight, and many collectors inadvertently snapped it off while trying to correct it. Happily, Corgi’s quality control seems to have eliminated that problem. The front fenders also have beacons mounted on them, something that the Baltimore lacks, but there is no hand brake behind the driver’s door. I assume it was inside the cab on the real truck. I believe there should be handrails down both sides of the trailer, but these are absent. There are extinguishers and a pike mounted on the trailer as separate parts, and these add nice detail features. The cab interior captures most of the few details that would have been present on the real truck: simple vinyl upholstery, gear shift, radio, or possibly a PA system, and hand brake. There is even something that looks like a glove box. I wonder if the Lou kept a flask in there?

While I quite enjoy the Baltimore ladder, it seems Corgi has moved a few steps ahead with quality control. In my collection, I have the earlier Corgi Mack CF tiller for Long Beach, and the ALF closed cab tiller for Centerville. Those were made when Corgi was crossing over from toys to the collectibles market, and are no comparison to the latest offerings. Both will surrender their shelf space to the new Seagraves. The restrained tampo graphics are accurate, and along with the truck itself are what you should expect from a big city Fire Department of the fifties and sixties: simple and functional. There isn’t an abundance of gold leaf or scroll work, nor should there be. Reflective striping was far into the future. The model conveys the sense of representing a tough, hard-working, and financially restricted Department (aren’t they all?) of the past. Taxpayer dollars were not expended on extravagant creature-features, like a heated cab, or even a roof. Remember the hand rails? Most of the guys didn’t even have seats! Ladder 3 was not a parade rig, and that’s one thing I like about it. This truck was a worker.


While doing a bit of research on the Boston Fire Department, I came across a riveting account of the Paramount Hotel Fire of 1966, by Boston Firefighter and historian William Noonan:


This fire is not only remembered for its terrible destruction and loss of life, but for the extremely frigid, windy, and icy conditions that faced the Boston Jakes. Our Ladder 3 was there, in all of its roofless and unheated glory. Glancing at this model, I can’t begin to imagine what it must have been like to respond in the middle of the night,  in subzero conditions and high winds, wearing a rubber turnout coat and leather helmet, but still soaked and chilled to the bone with no warm and dry cab for a temporary retreat.

Dennis Smith recounts in “Report Form Engine Co. 82” how, when fighting such fires in the South Bronx, they would rouse a local building superintendent and have him open the boiler room so the guys could take a blow. FDNY Ladder 31 would have been an open cab American LaFrance tiller during this same period.

In the century or so leading up to those events, there were perhaps fewer innovations in how fires were fought or in the science of fire itself than there has been in the few decades since. The Fire Service and the technology behind it has changed somewhat, even if it just acknowledges that Firefighters are only flesh and blood, and provides for them accordingly. At least, it tries to. Only forty or fifty years ago, this was far less evident.

Corgi does a nice job of controlling the chrome on their models, and this one is no exception. The main aerial, removable ground ladders, and most of the diamond plate surfaces are properly done in a matte aluminum finish. Chrome doesn’t belong on any of these, and would have ruined this nicely understated model. The metallic tone is smooth and consistent throughout, without any swirl-marks. The quality of the molded plastic parts is very good, with no injection marks, sprue or flash. The running boards are chromed, which might be somewhat inaccurate, but this doesn’t really detract from the model at all. The paint finish is also first rate, it’s smooth and glossy and has no runs or blemishes. The slam locks on all compartments are part of the casting, and are neatly highlighted with silver paint. There are no “stickers” on this model, and with the current state of the art, there shouldn’t be. All of the diecast parts have a tight and straight fit, with no play at all.

The assembly quality is excellent. The model sits straight and level, and rolls smoothly. The trailer is detachable simply by lifting it from the cab, so Use caution when picking the model up. Both have fairly detailed undercarriages. The outriggers are very detailed, and are fully functional. They are a bit stiff and care must be taken when extending them. The tillerman’s seat flips up and over to allow elevating the ladder. The plastic seat frame is molded in color, but isn’t quite the same shade of red as the paint job. The ladder traverses and has just enough tension to stay up unassisted. It also extends smoothly. The model is almost exactly 12 inches long and 2.5 inches high at the rear windshield, its highest point. The three-section ladder extends to 18.4 inches from the turntable to the tip, which by my math means that this is actually a 75’ ladder. I’m not sure what the real truck had, but 75’ tillers were common enough in that era.

Is the model perfect? Of course not. No model from any manufacturer can be to every collector’s eyes, and there are a few items that I personally would like to see, such as hand rails.

Overall, I am very pleased with the model, and I had no bad surprises. In summary, Corgi has done an excellent job in recreating this great piece of fire apparatus history. There is no comparable value for these vintage trucks in this scale or price range, and most collectors will find this to be a highlight of their collection.

All photos are Copyrighted by Steve McGuire