EMS Classics is a feature column I write for Canadian Paramedicine.

It is my attempt at giving the younger generation who work in EMS today, a snapshot into the history of ambulance service.

If you are interested in purchasing the images or the text copyright to any of the columns please email me at

A beautiful setting

Photo Peter Adsten Column

Set in a beautiful wooded area, these two pristine ambulances are awaiting guests for the museum grand opening. The red car is a 1953 Chevy, the green one a 1954 Superior Pontiac. The Pontiac was purchased by Warren's Funeral Home of Swift Current SK in 1960, in 1967 was sold for $1 to the Swift Current Hospital, in 1975 was purchased by Crestline as a public relations vehicle and finally, in 1994 was purchased by Len Langlois who restored it beautifully.

The Grand Opening has finally arrived

Photo Peter Adsten Column

Len and his committee planned and worked on the museum project for more than four years. In this photo, Len is standing in front of his 1974 Cotner-Bevington Oldsmobile. This ambulance served in Lethbridge AB when it was new, in 1980 is was purchased by Smoky River Ambulance of McLennan AB, in 1988 it was purchased by Specialty Medical Services of Rocky Mountain House AB, and in 1994 was purchased by Len Langlois.

Lineup of chrome

Photo Peter Adsten Column

The blue ambulance is Len's 1968 Superior Cadillac which previously served in St Catharines ON. Next to it is a gorgeous red 1965 Superior Pontiac owned by Evan Butchers of Chatham ON. This ambulance previously was at an ambulance service in the US.

1947 Cadillac with 1938 Knightstown body

Photo Peter Adsten Column

This ambulance started life as a 1938 Knightstown Lincoln, manufactured by the Knightstown Funeral Car Company in Knightstown, Indiana and served in Manasquan, New Jersey. In 1947 the ambulance body was remounted onto a new Cadillac chassis. In 1962 the Manasquan squad drove the ambulance from New Jersey to Montreal and donated the ambulance to the newly formed Amherstburg, Anderdon, Malden Rescue & First Aid Squad, who then drove it home to Amherstburg, Ontario. It is fitting this peculiar vehicle was restored and placed in an ambulance museum.

Lights and Sirens

Photo Peter Adsten Column

These are some of the antique lights and sirens Len has on display in the museum. But there are more - this photo only shows a portion of his collection. I think he has one specimen of every light and siren ever made!

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Column 16 August/September 2008

Canada's First Ambulance Museum

This is a story of one man's dream. The man is Len Langlois and his dream was to build an ambulance museum.

Len began his ambulance career in 1956 working for ABC Ambulance in Windsor, Ontario. The year after he began work at Arbour's Ambulance Service in Chatham, Ontario and in 1975 he purchased the service from Doug Arbour. Len operated Chatham & District Ambulance for the next 25 years, expanding the service to include satellite stations in Wallaceburg and Ridgetown.

During all these years Len collected old ambulances, lights, sirens, stretchers, resuscitators, and anything else remotely connected to ambulances and emergency services. Some would call him a Pack Rat. But thank goodness that he is - now we can all benefit from his compulsive collecting.

On June 27, 2008 the Southwestern Ontario Ambulance/Emergency Medical Services Museum was opened on the site of the Canadian Transportation Museum & Heritage Village in Essex County, Ontario. The ambulance museum is described as "the first known Canadian Ambulance and EMS Museum". Although there are individual ambulances on display in some museums in Canada, it is not know if there is any other Canadian museum which is entirely devoted to ambulance/EMS artifacts. (Please contact me if you know of any other).

The new ambulance museum is located in rural Essex County, less than an hour's drive southeast of Windsor, ON. The ambulance museum is, in effect, a museum within a museum. The main segment, the Canadian Transportation Museum, has a wonderful collection of vintage vehicles and related artifacts, very well displayed in a 25,000 sq ft facility. Outside, among the trees, is where the Heritage Village is located. As you stroll along the scenic path you come upon numerous buildings all perfectly restored to their original era: a 1907 one-room schoolhouse, an 1840's general store, an 1850's train station and numerous others. The building with the 1950's style fa├žade is the newest addition, and is capable of housing ten ambulances.

But it's what is inside this new building that is most exciting. A row of Cadillac, Oldsmobile and Pontiac high-top ambulances, a DeSoto side-loader ambulance, racks of lights and sirens, as well as an entire telephone switchboard and dispatch centre. The list of ambulance and EMS artifacts does not stop here.

The building itself was funded by Len Langlois, his wife Mary-An, and their sons Kevin and Ken (who are both Paramedics). Five of the ambulances and many of the artifacts come from Len's collection. Of course there were other donors too, but without the effort and the funding of the Langlois family, this ambulance museum would not exist.

When you are next in southwestern Ontario, plan to take an extra day to visit the Transportation Museum, the Historic Village, and most importantly the new Ambulance/EMS Museum. The contact information is: toll-free 1-866-776-6909, or email:

Copyright 2008 Peter Adsten