Code 3 Collectibles Squad Set

Code 3 Collectibles

Reviewed by:  Larry Lorance of
Squad History Written by Dan Myers of Myers Fire Photos
May 2005

I have always been a fan of collecting Chicago Fire Department models.  I love the department, traditions, and black over red apparatus.  That being said, I simply could not pass on Code 3 Collectibles latest Chicago release; the "Squad Set".

Before I get into the review please allow me to digress a bit. 

Two years ago, Code 3 Collectible's Scott Schellhase and I  discussed where Code 3 Collectibles had been and where they were going.  At that time they had just announced newly tooled  trucks.  We talked about the original Seagrave release in 1998 and the newly tooled releases.  Scott was particularly proud of these new releases.  It represented a milestone, in the company's history;  a graduation from the toy like quality of the original Seagrave to the highly detailed models that were displayed that day.   Well Scott, you can be proud.  Code 3 Collectibles continues to raise the bar with every new release. 

Every time I write one of these reviews about a Code 3 Collectibles model,  I marvel at the detail of the model being reviewed.  I keep thinking there is no way they can improve the detail, absolutely NO WAY!  However, when I look at the first two Chicago Squads, they do improve.  Not a little bit, but a lot!  What more can they do?  How much more detail can they build into a 1:64 scale model?

I think a great deal of credit for the success of this project has to go to Orlando Ramos, Code 3 Collectibles Director of Research and Development.  Even though this project has been on the drawing boards for a sometime, Orlando nursed this project thru design, reviewing samples, to the model we see today.  He worked closely with the Chicago Fire's Officers,  the apparatus manufacture, Code 3 Collectibles'  engineers, and photographer Dan Myers to get to the model reviewed today.

Information provided by Dan Myers

The Snorkel as a Fire apparatus has it's origins in Chicago in 1958. The Fire Commissioner Robert J. Quinn had been looking for something to replace the department's three antiquated water towers, which manufacturers were no longer making. Commissioner Quinn had watched in fascination, tree trimmers and electric-sign repairmen using trucks with two hydraulically operated elevating arms that lifted them in baskets high in the air. The workers quickly moved up and down, in and out, swung from side to side, and rotated 360 degrees.

Snorkel 1

Robert J. Quinn

Quinn described his ideas with Edward J. Prendergast, the department's chief automotive engineer. "Suppose we mounted a nozzle in the basket and attached several lengths of hoseline to it. We could pump into it just as we do our water towers. These platforms will provide the maneuverability and versatility we lack in water towers that remain stationary. We'd be able to sweep the entire fire floors and at better angles, too. What's more, these same characteristics would make them ideal for rescuing people from upper floors. The Pitman Manufacturing Company, Grandview, Missouri, builder of aerial platforms, was contacted and agreed to cooperate in an experiment to test one for fire fighting.

The platforms had been invented in 1951 by Ted Thornton Trump of Oliver, British Columbia. Trump named his invention the Giraffe and built it primarily for orchards, where workers called it a cherry picker. About three years later, Firemen of New Westminster, British Columbia, lifted a hoseline in a Giraffe and used it to fight a store fire. But practical development of elevating platforms for fire fighting went no further until they sparked Quinn's innovative curiosity.

In September, 1958, Pitman delivered a 50 foot elevating platform mounted on a General Motors Corporation chassis, and the platforms was outfitted. In the Chicago Fire Department Shops. Tests showed that engines pumping into base mounted water inlets could produce a stream of 1,200 gallons per minute, through a 2" diameter nozzle, at a maximum pressure of 100 psi. The platform got its first test of fire at 1:00 am on the 18th of October, 1958. When it was called to a 4 alarm lumberyard fire on Chicago's south side. Fireman John Windle, operating the nozzle from the basket, helped to bring the blaze under control in a fraction of the time normally expected for a fire of equal magnitude. First Deputy Fire Marshal James A Bailey said "I can't believe how quickly and accurately it worked. It really plastered this fire in a hurry." Chief Fire Marshal Raymond J. Daley said "In 33 yrs of fire fighting I never saw anything as effective and maneuverable."

When reporters asked what this weird contraption was called, Windle said "It's Commissioner Quinn's Snorkel." The reporters remarked that this was an unlikely name for a fire apparatus. One even remarked that a snorkel is used underwater (referring to the tube that skin divers use to breath with when the head is underwater, or the device that a submarine uses to get fresh air and still remain underwater.) Windle remarked "That's exactly where I've been for the past hour. Up there in the basket and under water from other streams." From then on, the elevating platform was known as Quinn's Snorkel, and the commissioner soon became known as Snorkel Bob, for his pioneering development of one of the most versatile pieces of fire equipment ever devised.

The first CFD Squad Companies were organized on January 15, 1913. Squads 1,2 & 3 were formed.  In 1969 six Squads were put into service with a seventh Squad being added later. They were given the  name the "Flying Squads" and operated from 1969 to 1980. These vehicles were a Squad only with  no Snorkel and spent a lot of time helping out short handed engine companies.
In the 60's Chicago added three stand alone Snorkel Companies called Snorkel Squads (SS1, SS2 & SS3). On October 18, 1962 Snorkel Squad 1 (SS1) was organized which was a Snorkel that also had a chase vehicle. SS1 was stationed at the Fire Academy until it moved into the old Fire Patrol  station on N. Orleans. On June 4th, 1979 SS1 moved in with Engine 42 and a little over a year later  was disbanded on October 6th, 1980. Snorkel Squad 2 (SS2) was organized on September 3rd, 1963  and was housed with Engine 60. SS2 was disbanded on May 16th, 1969. Snorkel Squad 3 (SS3) was organized and housed in the former firehouse of Engine 66 on May 16th, 1965 and moved to the  former quarters of Engine 105 on September 2nd, 1967 where it stayed until May 1st, 1969 when it was disbanded.
In October of 1980 the CFD organized five Squad Companies with a sixth one coming two years later.  Squad Companies 1, 2 & 5 still protect the city of Chicago today. A fourth Squad, Squad 7 protects O'Hare International Airport on the cities far northwest side.


Reviewed:  May 2005
Release Date:  April 2005
Scale: 1:64
Edition Quantity:  3,000
Material:  Die cast
Item #:  16021-0000
Retail Price:  $372.00
Code 3 Collectibles Club Member Price:  $312.00
Available from Code 3 Collectibles

This  25th Chicago item sold by Code 3 Collectibles.  There are six pieces included in this Continuity Program:

  • Chicago Squad 1A and Snorkel 1A
  • Chicago Squad 2 and Snorkel 2A
  • Chicago Squad 5 and Snorkel 5A
  • Display rack

The set was sent to collectors in the above order; one  per month.  Oddly, this order represents the number of total calls each Squad makes.  Squad 1 the least number of calls and Squad 5 is one of the busiest in the city, with over 2083 calls amounting to 722 hours.  Very rarely will you find Squad 5 in quarters. 

Photo Copyright Ben Saladino

Photo Copyright Dan Myers

Squad 1A
Photo Copyright Dan Myers

Squad 1A
Photo Copyright Dan Myers

Squad 1A represents a superb engineering accomplishment!  Code 3 Collectibles finally mastered the movement of the snorkel; it  works just like the real 55 foot snorkel on the real rig.  As one fellow collector put it "it has full swing with no dead corners, and it stays where one wants it to go".  According to Ramos, it took Code 3's engineers a great deal of time and effort to master this movement.  The movement is smooth and does not take a great deal of effort to pose the snorkel for display. 

The bucket attached to Squad 1A's snorkel has also been reengineered.  This highly detailed bucket, unlike some of Code 3's previous releases, will stay in place when you pose it.   This is a great feature for collectors who like to display their models outside of the display case the come in.

With all four stabilizers on Squad 1A extend, they actually hold up the model with no tires touching!  The stabilizers extend smoothly and whether extended or not, stay in place. 

I love the black and red paint scheme of the Chicago Fire Department.  There are a few theories of why Chicago maintains these colors.  One is  when they went from black ragtop to hard top apparatus.  That way they all looked the same.   Another theory is the colors originated from the delivery of the first motorized chief buggy, the top was black and they liked the combination.  Of course you can go with the old standby that black over red fire apparatus, like hundreds of other apparatus,  is just the way God intended them to be.  Code 3. Collectibles continues to accurately match these colors on both Squad 1A and Squad 1.  The paint quality, like all Code 3 releases,  is excellent shiny and blemish-free.  The transition from one color to another is superbly done.  Other details, which immediately caught by eyes, is the attention given to the small parts.  Take a look at the photo below, the propane tank, oars, and shovel are accurately detailed!  This level of detail can be found throughout both models.  Code 3 Collectibles has never placed this much detail in a 1:64 scale model.   Squad 5A will have an additional case on top.


As you can see, there is a great deal of diamond plating on Squad 1A and Squad 1.  These surfaces are brilliantly done in a matte aluminum finish and are scaled properly. 

The rollup doors on both models are expertly reproduced as well as the handles at the bottom of the doors.  

The  pad printed tampos, on both models, are crisp, clean and authentic.  Again, Code 3 Collectibles amazes me  the detail  they  display in tampos.

The lights on Squad 1A and Squad 1 are authentically reproduced using plastic lenses.  Both models have  one piece molded Vector emergency lights with a green light on the officer's side.  Why green? According to a Chicago Fire historian, A former CFD Commissioner was a boating enthusiast. He felt it made sense so on-scene commanders could determine the direction from which the apparatus was responding.   There is a slight variation in the light setup of the second set, Squad 2A and Squad 2 though.

Squad 1A with Vector Lights

Rear of Squad 1

Rear of Squad 1A

Without question, the highlight of both models is the detail Code 3 Collectibles built into the rear.  Note the plastic lens.  Particularly, the detail found in the snorkel control panel of Squad 1A.


I think I echo many collectors by saying this this release is the best 1:64 scale model ever produced by Code 3 Collectibles.  Without question, it is a "must have" for any Chicago Fire Department collector. 

Scott and Orlando, you guys have raised the bar again!  This one will be hard to beat!

On a WOW factor of 1 5, I give these models 5 WOWs!

All photographs used with permission.  All photographs are copyrighted material.

A special thanks to:

Dan Myers - of Myers Fire Photos.  That you Dan for allowing me use uses your great photos!  He  also wrote the Squad History part of this review.
Ben Saladino -  of Bensware. com .  Ben is a fellow Texan, that allow me to use some of his photos.
Orlando Ramos - Code 3 Collectibles
FF/PM James Fitzgerald, CFD - James answered a number of my history questions. Visit his website at
Larry Zeleznik  For sharing is knowledge of the CFD
Matt Collins - Thanks Matt for answering questions about the CFD