Model of Fireboat Serves As A Memorial for Nebraska Man's Father

Larry Bowers spent about ten months building this model of a fire boat his dad once served on. (Photo courtesy Larry Bowers)
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February 26, 2020 - 6:45am

A Lincoln man has spent about ten months building a model of a fireboat his dad once served on in the 1940s. Larry Bowers' model will be on display next to the actual boat in Los Angeles later this year.

Larry Bowers spent about 900 hours in his basement workshop building an exact replica of the fireboat his father served on in the 1940s. (Photo by Dennis Kellogg, NET News)

Larry Bowers love for building models goes back to his childhood. Now that he’s retired, he has more time for building them. Which is a good thing because his latest one has taken him nearly a year to finish.

"Oh, this model is quite detailed," Bowers said.

It’s model of a fireboat, the “L.A. City No. 2,” that was docked decades ago in the San Pedro Harbor near Los Angeles. Larry’s dad Lynn Bowers served on the ship.

"He joined the fire department in October of 1941," Bowers said. "Of course, Pearl Harbor as in December ’41 and I think he stayed on the boat until the end of World War II when he was transferred to a traditional fire station in Los Angeles."

The figure standing on the deck was painted by a local artist. Larry Bowers says he likes to think of it as his dad when he worked on the boat. (Photo courtesy Larry Bowers)


The boat was eventually retired in the early 2000s. Larry wanted to build a model of it for his dad so he purchased the plans.

"I got some drawings from the fire department and I was thinking of building it," Bowers said. "My dad was still alive. He was in his late eighties at the time and life got in the way. I just never got around to it and my dad passed away in 2012."

Bowers eventually made a trip with his brother to California to see the fireboat, which was being restored at the Los Angeles Fire Department Harbor Museum.  He learned when it was finished, no one would be allowed below deck, where much of the work took place. That’s when Bowers told the museum he had an offer for them.

Larry Bowers' dad Lynn worked on the fireboat from 1941 until the end of World War II. He passed away in 2012. (Photo courtesy Larry Bowers)

"So I said I’ll build it and give it to them, but I’ll do a cutaway showing what’s called the engineering spaces below deck, the engines and the pumps and the piping and all that, that really neat stuff. And they said, ‘Sure. Go for it,’" Bowers said.

That’s just what Bowers did. He went to work – researching every detail for his model. He would spend hours on his computer and exchange hundreds of emails with those back at the museum. There was no detail too small to be overlooked.

"I want to say that the engines are so intricate, you might say, that there’s spark plug wires, there’s carburetors in them, there’s fuel lines, oil lubrication lines, oil filters," Bowers said.

The whole project could have been overwhelming.

"If you think about this thing as an overall project, you’d probably give up before you even start," Bowers said. "The way I approach it is, everything’s just a little project. You get the engine done. You get the pump done. You move on to the next thing. You don’t think about a whole bunch of stuff down the road." 

He worked for several hours most days for nearly ten months on the model. And finally, the last of the 14,000 rivets on the boat was in place and his vision stood before him.

"I stepped back and went, ‘Wow. It’s cool!’"

Larry Bowers has been building model boats since he was a child. He says this fireboat model may be his last. (Photo by Dennis Kellogg, NET News)

The model extends about four feet. Above deck, you’ll see water cannons, hoses with nozzles and a large tower. The cutout of the bottom half of the boat allows you to peer into the crowded engine area below deck that also contains a spider web of air, hydraulic and electric lines and the water pumps. No other model Bowers has ever made even comes close…

"By far it’s my best," Bowers said.

Later this year, Bowers will take a trip back to California, this time with the model fireboat, and donate it to the museum where it will be on display next to the real one. Thousands will walk by it in the years to come and marvel at the craftsmanship that went into building this boat, but the one person Bowers wishes could see it most won’t be among them.

"I just wish he could see it."

Bowers, though, will always believe his dad was with him for every one of the 900 hours he spent pouring his memories into this masterpiece of a model…

"Yep, I think he’s looking over my shoulder. I just miss talking to him. He’d like it. Yeah. He would be real happy," Bowers said.

Watch this "Nebraska Stories" feature on Larry Bowers and the model fireboat he built in memory of his father.

Nebraska Stories: A Model To Remember




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