Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments

Chapter 55 Part III

By Holice and Debbie

Messrs. G. Rennie & Son in 1836 constructed a portable disc engine and disc pump mounted on wheels for use in the Woodwich Dockyard, either as a steam fire-engine or as a pump for emptying the caissons. The engine had a cylinder 13 inches in diameter and the pump was 9 inches in diameter. It is said tht when making 320 revolutions a minute, with 45 lbs. of steam, lifting the water to 10 feet and with a pressure of 62 lbs. in the discharge pipe, the water was thrown through a three-inch diameter hose and a nozzle of 1-16 inch in diameters to a total height of 140 to 150 feet.

Messrs. Shand and Mason, the most famous builders in England, constructed their first land steam fire-engine in 1856, and the machine was sent to Russia. The steam cylinder which actuated the pump ws inverted and situated near the air vessel of the pump, which was made double-acting, one barrel being placed over the other, and a double-throw crank was placed between them. One or both of the pistons or plungers of the pump was fitted with a valve,, and the piston-rod of the steam cylinder ws connected directly with the piston of the upper pump barrel, which latter served as a guide to the piston-rod of the steam cylinder. Beneath the seat was placed the hose-reel or a box for containing the hose and implements. In 1859 one of Messrs. Shand and Mason's steamers, with an 8-1/2 inch cylinder and 6 inch stroke, was tried at Waterloo Bridge, and in six minutes from lighting, the fire was stated to have had 10 lbs. on the square inch, and in 10-/1/2 minutes 30 lbs. with a 7/8 inch nozzle; the height reached was estimated to be 140 feet, and the horizontal distance 161 feet.

Mr. James Shekleton, a Dundalk engineer, constructed in1860 the first steam fire-engine in Ireland. It weighed 22 cwts., and had a vertical tubular boiler with internal circulating tubes, on the plan of Silsby, Myndorse & Company, of the United States, dry smoke box and an effective heating surface of 40 square feet, the water space around the fire-box being fitted with a circular plate. The working pressure was 80 lbs. on the square inch, with the engine making 120 strokes per minute.

In July, 1860, a land steam fire-engine was for the first time used by the London Fire Engine Establishment in one of the back street of Doctor's Commons. The weight of the machine with men, ovals, and water, ready to run out, was 84 cwts., and it took three horses to draw it. In the same year a steam floating fire-engine was constructed by the Messrs. Merryweather from the designs of Mr. E. Fields, civil engineer, to be placed in a steam tug and used for protecting the warehouses in the Tyne Docks. The water supply, however, was inadequate to the needs of the engine. In 1861 Messrs. Merryweather & Sons constructed, also from the designs of Mr. Field, their first land steam fire engine, the "Deluge," which was quite a success. It was of 30 horse-power, and threw water through a nozzle 1-1/2 inches in diameter to feet over a chimney 140 feet in height, altogether 180 feet, through a -1-3.8 inch nozzle to a distance of 202 feet horizontally , and through a 1-1/4 inch nozzle 215 feet horizontally.

In 1861 Messrs. Shand and Mason manufactured three steam fire engines on wheels to run on the rails for the London and Northwestern Railway. They had double horizontal cylinders and pumps, and slotted cross heads and fly-wheels. One of them was a nozzle of one and one-quarter inch diameter threw a stream vertically to the height of 170 feet, and horizontally 225 feet. In the next year the firm constructed a steam fire engine for the town of Sothenbury. In 1861 Messrs. Merryweather and sons constructed a famous steamer called the "Forrest," which did good service at numerous London fires.

Mr. William Roberts, of Millwall, in 1861, built the first self-propelled steam fire-engine ever made in England or Europe. It was supported on three wheels, one in front being a steering wheel, and arranged so as to be employed in driving machinery. The extreme length was 12 feet 6 inches, extreme breadth 6 feet 4 inches, and it gross weight with ovals, water, hose, ladders, and tools compete was a little over 7-1/2 tons. The engine was suspended on springs. The engine power consisted of two vertical cylinders, 6 inch diameter and 12 inch stroke, working the crank shaft, etc., by means of cross heads and side rods. The engine was driven along the public roads at 18 miles per hour. With a nozzle of 1-3/8 inches diameter, the stream was thrown over a chimney (140 feet high,) and a horizontal distance of 182 feet, exclusive of broken water and spray. The steam pressure varied form 50 lbs to 160 lbs., with 100 revolutions per minute. On one occasion the engine with 170 lbs. of steam and 112 revolutions per minute, using 1-1/2 inch nozzle, delivered 450 galls of water per minute. In the same year Mr. William Roberts constructed his second land steam fire engine, the "Princess of Wales." On the 31st of July, 1863, in twelve minutes from lighting the fire the engine for to work. It accommodated 18 men, with a great quantity of appliances, ladders, etc.

In 1863 Mr. James Shand obtained a patent for improvements in steam fire engines, in which patent the vertical engines made by Messrs. Shand, Mason and Co., were subsequently substituted. In the same year the change engines "Sutherland," which gained the first prize of $1,250 at the Crystal palace trails, with six other engines, English and American, in 1863, was built by Messrs. Merryweather and sons. The "Sutherland," discharges ten galls of water at each revolution or stroke, and delivered water through nozzles at the rate of between 800 and 1,000 galls per minute. It has thrown water through a 1-1/2 inch nozzle to a horizontal distance of 235 measured feet. it was purchased by the Government and placed for service in the Royal Dockyards at Devonport. In the same year, a steam fire engine for the Imperial Library at ST. Petersburg, was designed and constructed by Mr. T. W. Cowan, engineer of Greenwich. The boiler, engines and pumps were carried on a wrought iron framing, 7 inches deep and 1/4 inch thick, strengthened with angle iron and mounted on springs, the whole being carried on four wheels. The weight of the engine was four tons, and it was drawn by three horses, when using delivery hose of 2-1.2 inch diameter with a nozzle of 1-1/4 inches and a steam pressure of 120 lbs., a height of 170 feet and a distance of 210 feet were obtained.

In 1863 Mr. Egestorff, of Hanover, constructed a steam fire-engine for the fire engine establishment of that city. The cylinder was 8-1/2 inches by 9 inches and the pumps 7 inches; the valves metal of the description known in Hanover as Carretts. In the same year Messrs. Merry weather & Sons, constructed a small steam fire engine for the Alton Volunteer Fire Brigade. The machine had a single stroke cylinder and pump, the cylinder being 6-3/8 inches by 10 inches stroke, and the pumps 4-/3/4 inches diameter and 18 inches stroke. The weight was 25 cwts. One of these 25 cwt. Single cylinder engines was found to have exerted a power equal to 32-1/2 horses, or 1-/13 horse power for each cwt. Of engine. In this year Messrs. Shand, Mason & Co., constructed 17 steam fire engines, two for the London Fire Brigade, two for Lisbon, three for the Bombay and Barsoda Railway Company, four for Russia, two for New Zealand, one for Austria, one for Poland, one for Denmark, and one for Dublin.

In 1865 Mr. William Roberts constructed his third steam fir engine, the "Excelsior," which was made to order for the Arsenal Rio de Janeiro. With a one inch nozzle the engine threw a stream over a pole 80 feet high and 120 feet from the branch pole, or a total of 144 feet from the branch, to the top of the mast. The vertical lift of the suction at starting was 6 feet and 10 feet when the tide left. In the same year Messrs. Moltrecht, of Hanbury, constructed a small steam fire engine with a single horizontal cylinder and two horizontal pumps, which was not successful. Also in 1865 Mr. Fland, of Paris, built a steam fire engine.

In 1865, Messrs. Merryweather & Sons constructed eleven engines: two medium sized cylinder engines for the Spanish Government; on large sized double cylinder for her Majesty's Government for use at Portsmouth Dockyard; one medium size double cylinder for the Liverpool Corporation; one similar size for the French Government; for Brest Dockyard; one medium single cylinder for the Dutch government, for the Amsterdam Dockyard; one small sized cylinder for Dublin; one similar size for Manila; one similar size for Redruth, and one medium sized single cylinder floating engine for the Northeastern Railway, for use at Newcastle. Mr. William Roberts constructed a steam fir engine for Hong Kong, which was an exact duplicate of the "Excelsior," in all respects. except that brass tubes were sued in the boiler in place of iron. In this engine in 45 seconds, the guard started, in 3 minutes and 5 second, 5 lbs. of steam, and in 9 minutes and thirty-two second the engine was at work with 100 lbs of steam, thrown through a 1-1/4 inch nozzle water to the height of full 160 feet.

The following table gives the date when the English firms commenced to build land steam fir engines, to be drawn by horses, and the total number of such engines made by them in England and Ireland up to 1866:



No. Built

Braithwaite & Ericsson



G. Rennie & Sons



Shand, Mason & Co.


60-of all kinds.

J. Sheleton


1, the first Irish steam fire engine.

Merryweather & Sons


17-and three floating engines.

Wm. Roberts


5, one self-propelled and one floating

T. W. Cowan



J. W. Gray & Son



The Button steam fire engine has upright tubular boilers, with submerged smoke-box and combustion-chamber. The crane neck frame is employed in the construction of these engines. The pumps are of the best bronze metal, and are so arranged that the water cannot come in contact with any iron, thus preventing the liability of rust, however long they may be out of use.

The Gould steam fire engine, manufactured by B. S. Nichols & Company, Burlington, Vt., has a vertical tubular boiler with submerged smoke-flues and tapering fire-box. The feed-water is hated by passing through the fire-box, a circulating valve being placed on the outside between the boiler and heater, so that when the feed-pump is stopped a perfect circulation can be established between the heater and the boiler. The boilers have an uncommonly large heating surface and steam-room in proportion to the work to be done by the engine, consequently they steam very freely, being capable of raising sufficient steam from cold water in from three or four minutes' time, to play through a hundred feet of hose. The engines are vertical, reciprocating; the steam cylinders resting on columns which are attached to the crane-neck frame and to the boiler.

The Jeffer's engine has an upright boiler, steel tubular of peculiar construction, with inverted smoke-box and furnace and cooper tubes, which generate steam very rapidly. Steam can be raised in from four and a half to five minutes. The engine are vertical, with steam cylinders resting on independent columns attached to the frame, and have patent cylindrical steam-valves. A straight, wrought-iron frame is employed in the construction of those engines, which is attached to logs on each side of the boiler; the front end sustains the pump, air-vessel and steam-cylinder, while the rear sustains the coal bunker. The discharge-gate is located in front; and in consequence of a patent relief-valve in connection with the pump, and an ingenious cut-off nozzle attached to the hose, the water an be cut off at any time without in anyway interfering with the working of the engine, as when the steam is cut off the relief-valve is automatically opened between the discharge and the suction pipes.

The Neafle & Levy engines are horizontal, and stand quite still when working, with a the exception of that vibratory motion which is peculiar to all horizontal machines. They are powerful, durable and efficient.

In the Ives' engine, the boiler is an upright tubular with conical smoke-box, submerged combustion- chamber, and contracted waist. The feed-water is heated before entering the boiler by being passed through a copper coil inside of the smoke-stack. The engines are horizontal, with the base of their cylinders so formed as to saddle the cylindrical frame to which they are attached by a row of bolts on each side. The valves are so conveniently arranged as to be capable of being cleaned, renewed, or repaired at very short notice. Printz's automatic discharge valves are used, by means of which the water can be shut off at the nozzle at any time without stopped the engine.

The firm of Lee & Larnard built one or two large self-propelling engines which were very unwieldy and necessarily slow to be brought into service. One of them, the John G. Storms, was placed in charge of the Exempt Fire Company, and located at No. 4 Centre Street, a building which stood in the rear of the Hall of Records. The same firm built a rotary engine of much lighter pattern, weighing about six thousand pounds, and arranged so as to be drawn by hand power. The engine was purchased by the Fire insurance interests, and presented to Manhattan Engine company No. 8, and through the exertion of the late Robert C. Brown, proved a success notwithstanding the great opposition from other companies in the Department. the same year guardian Engine Company No. 29 received an engine of the same pattern from the same manufacturer, only one size smaller; ex-Chief Eli Bates was foremen. The same year james smith, builders of fire apparatus in West Broadway, built a piston engine of small size, to be drawn by hand power, and was placed in service and used with great success by Hudson Hose Company No. 21 (after Engiens 53). Mr. James Dale, now assistant engineer in the Brooklyn fire Department, was the engineer of No. 21, who managed to make this style of engine very popular. The company was located in the Erie Building, 304 Washington Street. Dale was mentioned by Mayor Whitney among those deserving honor in 1887, for saving human life. The same year Valley Forge Engine Company No. 46 received from Lee & Larnard a rotary engine, same as Engine 8 and 29, and the following year, 1860, New York Engine Company 47 (formerly Hose 5), and Southwark Engine 38, received from same firm a similar engine to that of No. 46.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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