Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments

Chapter 55, Part II

By Holice and Debbie

Riveted hose, by greatly increasing the effectiveness of engines at a distance from the fire, produced a radical change in the extinguishment of conflagrations. Formerly suction hose was made of short metallic cylinders, placed end in end and covered with canvas or leather. They were easily crushed, however, because they were not sufficiently elastic. Afterwards stout spiral wire was substituted and found to answer the purpose. The objections urged against leather hose were the liability to defects--the leather, its tendency to crack, and the constant care necessary to keep it flexible, by the application of grease or oil. Some other materials were invented, among then, besides canvas and linen , india rubber. The india rubber, whether use alone or as a lining for canvas or linen, was held to be superior. This material was first brought out in England in 1827. So well did it stand the severe tests to which it was subjected, that it was soon adopted by the most of the insurance companies. One test was the plugging up the nozzle of a length of india rubber and a length of leather hose attached to a powerful engine well worked. The leather hose blew out or burst in the solid part of the leather, and the india rubber was uninjured and broke down the engine. Many makers preferred this hose when trying engines for range and height, because of the smoothness and evenness of its interior. Moreover, after use and before being rolled up, it was only necessary to dry it. At fires, it was found necessary to keep hose of this kind away from the heated ruins, and it was recommended that care should be taken in laying out to avoid those parts where damage might arise to it from this cause.

In 1720 hose woven without a seam was made of hemp at Leipse by Beck, a lace weaver. After this it was made by Erke, a linen weaver of Weimar, and at a later period it was made of linen at Dresden and also in Silesia. In London, where they made water-tight hose a manufactory at Bethnal Green, near London, where they made water-tight hose without seams.

Al the circumstances relating to the Van der Heide invention have been related by the inventor in a particular work which, on account of the excellent engravings it contains, is exceedingly valuable. Of these the first seven represent dangerous conflagrations at which the old engines were used but produced very little effect. One of them is the fire which took place at the Stadt-house of Amsterdam in the year 1652. The twelve following plates represent fires which were extinguished by means of the new engines, and exhibit at the same time the various ways in which the engines maybe employed with advantage. According to an announced calculation the city of Amsterdam lost by ten fires, when the old apparatus was in use, 1,024130 florins; but in the following five years after the introduction of the new engines, the loss occasioned by forty five fires amounted only to 18,355 florins, so that the yearly saving was ninety-eight per cent. Of the internal construction of these engines no descriptions or plates have been given; nor is there anything to show that they were burnished with an air-chamber, though in the patents they were always called "spouting engines," which threw up one continued jet of water. The account given even of the nature of the pipe or hose is short and defective, probably with a view to render it more difficult to be imitated. It is only said that it was made of leather in a particular manner; and that besides being thick it was capable of resisting the force of the water.

The conveyor or bringer was invented also about the same time by these two Dutchmen. This name was also given at a later period to a box which had on one side a sucking-pump and on the other a forcing pump. The former served to raise the water from a stream, well, or a other reservoir, by means of a stiff leathern pipe screwed to the engine, the end of which widened into a bag, supported heat the reservoir, and kept open by means of a frame, while the laborers poured water into it from buckets. A pump, however, to answer this purpose was soon constructed by the Van der Heides, who named it a snake pump. By its means they were able to convey the water from the distance of 1,000 feet, but there is no account of the manner in which it was made. From the figure it is conjectured that they used only one cylinder with a lever. Sometimes also they placed a portable pump in the water, which was thus drawn into a leathern hose connected with it and conveyed to the engine. Every pipe or hose for conveying water in this manner they called a wasserschlange, water-snake, and this was not made of leather, like the hose furnished with a force pipe, but of sail cloth. They announced, however, that it required a particular preparation, which consisted in making it water right by means of a proper cement. The pipe, also, through which the water was drawn up, was stiffened and distended by means of metal rings; otherwise the external air on the first stroke of he pump would compress the pipe so that it could admit no water. Thus is is seen that pipes make of sail-cloth are not so new an invention as many have supposed.

From these facts one may readily believe that engines with leathern hose were certainly not invented by Gottfried Fuchs, director of the fire apparatus at Copenhagen in 1697, as was publicly announced in 1717; with the addition that this invention was soon employed both in Holland and at Hamburg. Fuchs seems only to have made known the Dutch invention in Denmark, on the occasion of the great fire which took place on the 19th of April, 1689, at the Opera House in Amalienburg, when the beautiful palace of that name and more than three hundred and fifty persons were consumed. At any rate, in consequence of that calamity an improvement was made in the fire establishment by new regulations issued on July 23, 1689, and that engines on the Dutch construction which had been used more than twelve years at Amsterdam were introduced.

Hose or pipes of this kind for conveying water were, however, not entirely unknown to the ancients. At least the architect Apollodorus says that to convey water to high places, exposed to fiery darts, the gut of an ox having a bag filled with water attached to it might be employed, for on compressing the bag the water would be forced up through the gut to the place of its destination. This is surely a conveyor of the simplest kind.

Newsham's fire-engine was a side-brake, double-cylinder engine, mounted on four wheel, and with an air-chamber, goose-neck and suction pipe. The work on the brakes was assisted by men on the box who threw their weight upon treadles on the pump-levers. Pumps were single-action force-pumps, worked by chains passing over segments on the pump-levers. The engine was perhaps the first successful fire-engine.

The engine which eventually superseded Newsham's was invented by Simpkin, and patented in 1792. The main improvement was in compactness and adaptation to traveling with speed to the spot where its services were needed. The valves were contained in separate chambers, instead of being placed in the cylinders and air-chambers. By this means they were easily reached without the disconnection of the main portions of the pump.

Another form of fire engines was invented by Bramah in 1793, improved by Rowntree, and eventually by Barton, whose engine was on the vibrating principle.

Steam-power for extinguishing fires was in use in manufacturing establishments many years before it was employed on portable machines. Every factory of any pretensions had its steam-driven pump with hose and other attachments calculated to reach every portion of the establishment.

The manufacture of steam fire-engines in England, as a regular branch of industry, is of recent origin. The first steam fire-engine was constructed in 1829 in London by Messrs. Braithwaite and Ericsson Later on four more were made, and all were eminently successful. So strong, however, was the prejudice against them that from 1832 to 1852 no more were made in that country, and public attention seemed to wane. After a lapse of twenty years, and about twelve years after steam fire-engines had been in use in the Untied States, the London Fire Engine Establishment altered one of the hand-worked floating engines on the Thames into a steam fire-engine. Until 1860 no further progress was made in the way of encouraging their manufacture. The strongest opponent of the fire-engine in England was Mr. James Braidwood, superintendent of the London Fire Engine Establishment. In time, however, he changed his opinion. The great objections strange to say, urged against the new engines from 1829 to 1856 ws that they threw too much water. The application of steam-power to work a force pump, arranging the engine, boiler, pumps, etc., on wheels, so as to be easily portable, and thus enable it to be readily employed as a fire-engine, was due to Mr. John Braithwaite, civil engineer. In conjunction with Captain Ericsson, he constructed an engine of ten horse power, with two horizontal cylinders and pumps, each steam piston and that of the pump being both attached to one rod. The waste steam from the cylinders was conveyed through the tank containing the feed water by mans of two coiled pipes, thus giving the feed water a good temperature previous to its being pumped into the boiler. Its weight complete was 45 cwts., and it threw about 30 or 40 tomes of water her hour to a height of 90 feet, having thrown well over a pole that height. In five hours it consumed three bushels of coke. This engine gratuitously rendered signal service at many important fires, saved thousands of pounds' worth of property, and in return the insurance Companies presented Mr. Braithwaite's men with a �1 ($5)! The London Fire Brigade antagonized him in every way. In 1831 Mr. Braithwaite constructed his second steam fire-engine, of five horse-power. It had a steam cylinder 7 in. by 18 in., with a pump of 6-1/2 in. by 18 in., giving a proportion of steam cylinder to pump of 1.16 to 1. When working with a steam pressure of 50 lbs., on the inch, and making 40 strokes per minute, it threw 27 cubic feet of water per minute==15 cwts., through a one-inch nozzle, to a height of 109 feet, and gave 5.6 horse power. When working with 60 lbs. pressure, and making 35 strokes per minute, it threw 23.6 cubic feet of water per minute==13 cwts. 19 lbs., through a 7/8-inch nozzle, to a height of 108 feet. This engine was worked in France at several towns, with great success, and afterwards taken to Russia with similar results.

The third engine built by Mr. Braithwaite had two cylinders, but three pumps, place horizontally and driven by gearing from the crank shape of the engine,. So as to reduce the speed of the pump pistons. The fourth steam fire-engine was the "Comet," of 15 horse power, built in 1832 for the King of Prussia. Its boiler was similar to the others, and it had two horizontal cylinders, each 12 in. diameter by 14 in. stroke, making 18 strokes per minute, and the two pumps were each 10-1/2 in. diameter by 14 in stroke. The engine was arranged to work with four sets of hose, together or separately. The total weight was four tons. In from 13 to 20 minutes from lighting the fire the engine was started with 70 lbs. of steam, and with a single nozzle of 1-1/4 in. diameter the water was thrown from 115 to 120 feet vertically, the engine making 18 strokes per minute, and at this rate the weight of water thrown amounted to 1 ton, 7 cwts. and 13 lbs. per minute. At an angle of 45 to 50 degrees was equal to at least 90 tons of water per hour at the average working rate. The consumption of fuel was about three bushels of coke per hour. The fifth engine was an experimental one, built in 1833.

In 1835 Mr. Braithwaite designed a floating steam fire-engine capable of throwing 187.5 cubic feet of water per minute. In 1850 Mr. P. Clark, the assistant engineer of the West India Docks, arranged one of Downton's pumps in one of their tugs, so that it could be driven by gearing from the engine and the steam engine used in propelling the vessel. This was the first steam-floating fire-engine on the Thames, and it threw 600 gallons of water per minute, 20 feet higher then the highest warehouse in the docks, and with a nozzle of 1-1/2 inch diameter, threw to a distance of from 160 to 180 feet. Until the year 1852 the two most powerful engines of the London Fire Engine Establishment were the two floating engines worked by hand, one stationed at Southwark Bridge, and the other, or lower float, in Rotherlithe. Two years later a boat was built and fitted up expressly in a floating steam fire-engine. It was 130 feet long, built of iron, and cost $15,000.

The engines were 80 horse-power. It was said that this engine had thrown 2,000 gallons of water per minute through four separate nozzles at the same time to a distance of 180 feet.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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