. Walter #1. 1936 FBS wrecker . Walter #2. 1931 FBS dump truck

. Walter #1. 1936 FBS wrecker . Walter #2. 1931 FBS dump truck

Walter Trucks

by Jerald Johnson

In 1950, when I was eight years old I learned to drive on my father's two Walter trucks. I had to stand up, but I drove them. My father owned and operated a garage in upstate New York and had to relocate when I-81 came through town - and through the garage. He moved his business a few miles west, converting a building on the property into a garage. When he died in 1986, I claimed the trucks, one of which had been towed to a gravel bed on the property and had been severly vandalized over the years. Neither of my brothers had any desire to own a Walter truck, so that was the beginning.

It has been a family project - my son has been active in mechanical and bodywork, while my wife and daughter have been the support group, responsible for making encouraging noises and feeding us. Occasionally, they have consented to doing some sanding and masking, and taking endless photographs. (My wife is always ready for another truck!)

Walter #1: 1936 FBS (gas); S/N 367723; 30,000 lbs.; 667 cid; 150 HP 3 flathead Waukesha engine; transmission, 5 foward/1 reverse; 11:00x24 tires; wrecker body. This truck has a 15,000 lb. Garwood winch with 250 ft. of 5/8 in. cable, and is equipped with mechanical steering and brakes with a vaccuum booster. Since the truck hadn't been run in 16 years, it took quite a lot of tinkering to get him going. We had to replace the manifold, all the glass, lights, exhaust, and fix the doors. Appropriately, he roared to life again on Easter Sunday, 1987.

Walter #2: 1931 FBS (gas); S/N 24FBS31; 26,000 lbs.; 667 cid; 150 HP 3 flathead Waukesha engine; transmission, 5 forward/1 reverse; 11:00x24 tires; dump box body. This truck presented a little more challenge. In the spring of 1987 my friend and neighbor, a fellow Walter enthusiast, told us of its existence in an Oriskany Falls, NY junkyard. Our first glimpse did not inspire optimism: trees and vines were growing all through it, and an old bent hubcap ring dangled from the front plow frame. Plus, the truck had been cannibalized - the radiator, brass water manifolds, generator, starter, magneto, brass cylinder primers, and more were gone! A local trucker from Cincinnatus, NY got the honor of trucking it home for us, vines flying.

We removed the engine, which was badly setup and tore it apart. After soaking the pistons in Kroil penetrating oil for weeks, we finally had to pound them out with a sledgehammer. Then we replaced the rings, ground the valves, welded the manifold, and had the cast aluminum oil pan welded. The wooden cab frame was rotted and had to be completely replaced, a task undertaken by my son. Finally, the cab was reassembled, the rings replaced, manifold welded, valves ground, and pistons and oil pan welded.

While sanding a door, my son uncovered "Town of Norway" on the bottom coat of paint. We weren't sure of the year, but Walter Truck Corp. told us it was the 24th truck of that model made in 1931, and had been purchased new by the City of Binghamton, NY. According to our information, the truck was last used by J.C. George, a Walter dealer from Syracuse, NY on his Lucky Star ranch in the Thousand Islands to water his animals. The man at Oriskany Falls bought it at the estate auction. In the winter it wears an 8 ft. V-plow and 11 ft. wing.

. Walter #3. 1944 FGRS dump truck . Walter #4. 1958 Jumbo AWUS with ballast box

. Walter #3. 1944 FGRS dump truck . Walter #4. 1958 AWUS with ballast box

Walter #3: 1944 FGRS (gas); S/N 447815; 42,000 lbs.; 779 cid; 185 HP OHV Waukesha engine; transmission, 6 fowrard/2 reverse; 12:00x24 tires; dump box body. It pays to go sightseeing on back roads. We found this truck at Smithville Flats, NY. It had been bought new by Chenango County, NY Highway Department, and it was in running condition. With coaxing, tinkering, and bullying, I was able to drive it onto the lowboy, and a local trucker brought it home. This truck, equipped with power steering and air brakes, required a minumum of mechanical work and has plowed a lot of snow for us. It will start in the cold weather when some of the others object, and likes its 8 ft. V-plow and 11 ft. wing.

Walter #4: 1958 Jumbo AWUS (gas); S/N 589709; 42,000 lbs.; 1197 cid; 280 HP OHV Waukesha engine; trasmission, 6 forward/2 reverse; 14:00x24 tires; ballast box body. Air brakes, power steering, rear axle steering, and 30,000 lb. Tulsa winch with 250 ft. of 5/8 in. cable under the ballast box are part of this package. Purchased new by the Town of Dryden, NY, it was drivable, so I drove it home. I had a terrible time! There was no oil in part of the steering system, and I hadn't brought any with me. The truck kept pulling to the center of the road, and when I got it home, I realized that the rear axle wasn't lined up straight. No wonder I'd had such a fight keeping it in its own lane - and nobody wants to meet one of these monsters coming at you in your lane! Dressed, it wears a 9 ft. plow and a 14 ft. wing. When we stoke up this beast, the ground and even the air vibrate.

. Walter #5. 1965 ACRS with ballast box . Walter #6. 1967 Jumbo ACUS with ballast box .

. Walter #5. 1965 ACRS with ballast box . Walter #6. 1967 Jumbo ACUS with ballast box

Walter #5: 1965 ACRS (diesel); S/N 657806; 48,000 lbs.; 743 cid; 220 HP Cummins engine; transmission, 6 forward/2 reverse; 12:00x24 tires; ballast box body. This truck has power steering, air brakes, and extra heavy duty suspension. It was bought new by the Town of Lafayette, which is just south of Syracuse, NY. A local trucker brought it home, and his Mack had a load that day. On the trailer were 2 Frink V-plows, and 2 wings, along with the Walter which was full of big concrete blocks that Lafayette had used as ballast. This truck uses an 8 ft. V-plow and 14 ft. wing.

Walter #6: 1967 Jumbo ACUS (diesel); S/N 677804; 42,000 lbs.; 855 cid; 335 HP Cummins engine; transmission, 6 forward/2 reverse; 14:00x24 tires; ballast box body. Also equipped with power steering and air brakes, this truck was bought new by the Town of Tully, NY. It hadn't been run in 10 years when I bought it and decided to drive it home. There were absolutely no brakes, so it took a little working on in the yard before I could start for home. We made it, but just barely. While it was idling in the driveway after we got home, the bolt fell out of the left hand drive shaft.

My wife's uncle was visiting from Parkersburg, WV when it was time to prepare the truck for a paint job. To him fell the task of removing the old paint, and he spent hours (days, actually) painstakingly scraping the paint off with a razor blade. Repaired and painted, it looks impressive in its 8 ft. or 9 ft. V-plow and double 14 ft. wings. (!!)

. Walter #7. 1958 FGBS dump truck . Walter #8. 1938 FMD ''Baby''

. Walter #7. 1958 FGBS dump truck . Walter #8. 1938 FMD ''Baby''
Walter #7: 1958 FGBS (gas); S/N 587719; 36,000 lbs.; 779 cid; 240 HP OHV Waukesha engine; transmission, 6 forward/2 reverse; 12:00x24 tires; dump box body. From my hometown in Upstate New York, this truck was bought new, and when they sold it, there were 19,000 miles on the odometer. There was a little suspense in our purchase, and it took a while. The first time the truck was put up for sale, we submitted and won the bid, but at the last minute the Town Board decided they wanted to keep it, so all bids, including ours, were rejected. A year or two later the truck was again put up for sale, and again we submitted and won the bid. This time, however, they let the deal go through, and we brought the truck home in a hurry. Although it hadn't been used in years, it had always been taken care of and kept under cover. It's happy to wear an 8 ft. V-plow and 11 ft. wing.

Walter #8: 1938 Baby FMD (gas); S/N 384410; 20,000 lbs.; 517 cid; 120 HP 2 flathead Waukesha engine; transmission 5 forward/1 reverse; 8:25x20 tires; stake rack body. This is the Baby of the collection. Not only is it the last one of the fleet, it is downscaled from the usual size. Someone added power steering, plus it has mechanical brakes with a vaccuum booster.

The condition in which it was found and the process of its restoration were very much like the 1931 truck, #2. It had been in a back lot in North Syracuse for 20 years, and was in sad shape. Whoever had parked it had left the wooden box full of sand, and over the years the wood had rotted away. Brush and weeds grew around and in it, all of which had to be dug out, including the sand, before we could get it winched onto a local trucker's truck to bring it home.

The engine was setup, frozen up, and broken, so we replaced it with the present engine, which came out of a Bay City truck crane. My son took the cab apart and replaced the wooden frame, and I put it back together and replaced the doors. With assistance from my son-in-law, I built a cherry stake rack, made from a tree I cut from our own woods which my uncle sawed into lumber. Once the rack was built, it was finished with a mixture of linseed oil and turpentine. This truck carries an 11 ft. one-way plow and a 10 ft. wing.

Two of the Walters, the 1936 wrecker, and 1958 Jumbo, are celebrities, appearing in the book, Wreckers and Tow Trucks, by Donald F. Wood. However, they are both handling their notoriety with great dignity, as we expected they would. One of the main joys of having the Walter Snow Fighters is, of course, plowing snow. During the "Blizzard of '93" I was called to work 15 miles away at 11:00 A.M. on Saturday to keep trucks running for New York State Department of Transportation. My son and his friend, who were snowed in at our house, had done a lot of plowing by the time I got home around 2:00 P.M. Sunday. Our neighbors got this service just for the joy of it - ours, and we hope, theirs.

Our parts depratment consists of a 1945 Walter FGBS and 1932 Walter FM, one of the trucks I learned to drive when I was eight. Also, there are various odds and ends that have been salvaged and collected over the years. Along with the Walter trucks, we have a 1945 Autocar which was used by my father to transport his D7 and D8 bulldozers, plus a 1962 Brockway recently added for parts.

The color scheme for all the trucks, plows, and wings is red and black, and all plows, wings, and plow hookups are made by Frink. Strangers sometimes mistake us for the highway garage, but their yard is much neater.

We have met some fine people through the trucks. Should you be driving through upstate New York, you just might see some large red Walter trucks in a dooryard. Most likely it is my residence, and during the week you can leave your name, address, or phone number. But on weekends, I would probably show you photo albums and videotapes, and stick your head under the hoods of the trucks - a requirement. Then we'd listen to them roar, just for the sheer pleasure of it.

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© 2000 Jerald Johnson, used with permission.

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Last update: 2000-09-04