Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments

Chapter 55, Part VI

By Holice and Debbie

In 1860, Messrs. Ettinger & Edmond, of Richmond, Va., built a steam fire engine for St. Petersburg, the machine was placed low down on straight axles, and could not turn over whilst going around corners; complete, the weight was 5,000 pounds. It was the design of Mr. A. M'Causland. It threw a 1-1/8 inch stream 220 feet, a 1-1/2 inch stream 143 feet, and a 1-7/8 inch stream 183 feet. At a trial; in Philadelphia, it threw a 1-1/2 inch stream 250 feet. In the same year an engine built by Neapie & Levy, for San Francisco, with a cylinder 8 inches by 12 inches, and pump 4-1/2 inches by 12 inches, threw a 1-1/4 inch stream at Philadelphia, 253 feet horizontally.

In 1860, a small steam fire engine or model, exhibited at the county fair, Rensselaer, Troy, weighing 2-1/2 lbs., threw a stream about the size of a pin, to a distance of 4 feet 6 inches; the steam cylinder was horizontal, 1.2 inch diameter; and 3/4 inch stroke. At the California State Fair, Henry Rice exhibited a model made by himself; the steam cylinder was 3/16 inches diameter, with a 7/16 inch stroke; and ran at the rate of 2,000 revolutions per minute.

Pittsburgh, Pa., had an engine weighing between 4,000 and 5,000 lbs., on the model of the "Southwark," of Philadelphia, which raised steam in 6 minutes and threw a 3/4 inch stream over a six-story building.

In September, 1860, the "Huron," a first class double cylinder engine with plunger pumps. At a competition in Troy, threw water in 7 minutes from the lighting of the fire, in 8 minutes reaching 100 feet, in 14 minutes 200 feet, and so on reached 223 feet 9 inches, pumping through 50 feet of 3 inch hose, and using 1-3/8 inch nozzle. The "Michigonne," a first class double cylinder engine with rotary pump, played two powerful streams for 4 hours continuously through 1,600 feet of hose, to which two 150 feet length with a separate branch on each were attached, making 1,750 altogether, th engine being 75 feet lower than the branches.

In 1860, the "Arba Read," steam fire engine, a first class single cylinder engine, with double acting plunger pump, threw a single stream through 450 feet of hose, and a 1-1/4 inch nozzle to a distance of 200 feet horizontally; a 1-1/8 inch stream was thrown to a distance of 275 fee through 50 feet of hose. The highest steam pressure used was 240 lbs on the square inch.

The "Fire-King," a first class double cylinder engine with plunger pumps, belonging to the Fire Department of Manchester, on one occasion reached a distance of 207 feet horizontally with a 7/8 inch jet; then it threw a stream 292 feet with a 1-1/4 inch nozzle. Another machine that attracted attention was the "J. C Cary." Its cylinders were 7-1/2 inches in diameter with 14 inch stroke, driving a rotary pump. The boiler consisted of 114 pairs of double tubes, each 2=1/2 inch diameter, containing one of 1-1/2 inch diameter inside it, the annular space between the two being occupied by water, whilst the fire is circulated among the larger and within the smaller tubes. The engine weighed 5-1/2 tons, and at a public trial threw 1,100 gallons of water per minute. The height attained with a 1-5/8 inch nozzle was 267 feet horizontally; a 2 inch stream reached 232 feet; and a 2-1/2 inch stream through an open butt 196 feet.

In 1862, Messrs. Lee & Larned, of new York, sent tot he International exhibition at London, one of their small sized rotary pump engines, called 5 horse power, which elicited the greatest approbations from all the engineers who inspected it, both for its beautiful workmanship and satisfactory working. The engine itself, which had neither water tank nor coal bunkers, weighted 1 ton 12 cwt. The cylinder was 7 inches diameter with 8-1/2 inch stroke, and had a pair of light balance wheels to carry it over the centres; the piston rod was 1-1/4 inch, diameter, the crank shaft 1-3/4 inch bearing, the boiler 4 feet high by 26 inches, outside diameter at steam chest. The boiler had 125 feet of heating surface. A tender at will was attached behind to carry the hose, coals, etc., In the same year the firm built a steam fire engine in England, weighing 3 tons 2-1/2 cwt.; carrying a moderate quantity of coal, several hundred feet of hose, a took chest and six men.

Many of the engines now in use in this country have conical India rubber disc-valves, held in position by spiral springs, giving sufficient area of opening with very limited list. Crane neck frames have superseded the straight or parallel, as they admit of the boiler and machinery being placed lower down on the frame, and afford great facilities for turning around in narrow streets or contracted situations. The blower pipe, that was at one time so extensively used in the smoke stacks of fire engines for the purpose of increasing the draught, is now nearly, if not entirely, superseded by the variable exhaust, and nearly if not all fire engine houses have stationery steam boilers, generally located in the cellar, on which steam is kept up steadily for the purpose of keeping the water in the boiler hot. Steam can now be raised in from 10 to 12 minutes while running to a fire. Now the simplest kind of engine is considered the most durable and efficient. The vertical form of cylinder is held to be the best, as vertical pumps can be attached directly to the boiler, thereby making the working of the engines smoother in consequence of the weight being against the lift. Moreover loss is avoided by carrying steam from the boiler to the cylinder through pipes exposed to the atmosphere. The wear on the rubbing surfaces of vertical engines is also less than horizontal or inclined engines suffer.

The water pistons of steam fire engines, like those of steam pumps, are almost exclusively made of leather, as that material possesses superior advantages over any other for that purpose, they are either made solid or in the shape of a disc. The difficulty which so interfered with the usefulness of the steam fire engine for many years after its introduction, that of being manufactured at a distance from the place where it was used, is now successfully overcome by the establishment of machine shops in connection with nearly all the Fire Departments of the country, and repairs can be quickly made. Under the Paid Fire Department system all the worn out, complicated or inefficient engines were allowed to fall into disuse, or were sold to country towns and none were retained but those that had a good reputation for efficiency, durability and economy.

Steam engine should be so designed as to be capable of working at either slow or fast speed and to discharge an amount of water proportionate to the speed at which they are worked. The reason why, it has been said, the American system of quick running engines has given more satisfactory results then those of English make, has been that the proportion employed in this country approach very nearly to those used in locomotives, where the suction pipe into the pump is as large as the barrel of the pump itself. This has been considered a common sense proceeding because time, however short, is necessary to enable any operations to be carried out, more especially when its material to be worked on is water, and that as in the steam fire engine, through all kinds of difficulties in the shape of friction, contracted and awkward passages, small holes or entrances into large spaces, etc. On comparison it has been noted that the engines by American makers have the best proportions; next to these long-stroked, stead-running English engines; whilst the worse proportions of any are those of the quick-running engines where the direction of motion is changed oftenest in the shortest time, and the area of suction opening is least when compared with the area of pump piston, so that the largest space has to be filled through the smallest hole, and that too, in the smallest amount of time, the stroke being so short and the direction of motion so rapidly changed in the short period during which the piston moves in any given direction.

The names of the principal manufacturers of steam fire engines in this country are as follows;

Neapie & Levy

Philadelphia, Pa.

Knowlton & Co.

Philadelphia, Pa.

Clapp & Jones

Hudson, N. Y.

Button & Son

Waterford, N. Y.

Silsby Manufacturing Co.

Seneca Falls, N. Y.

C. Ahrens & Co.

Cincinnati, Ohio

Amoskeag Manufacturing Co.

Manchester, N. H.

Ives & Bros.

Baltimore, Md.

Wm. Jeffers

Pawtucket, R. I.

B. S. Nichols & Co.

Burlington, Vt.

The Ahrens' engine is upright and double acting; the steam cylinder resting on columns which are attached to the frame and to the boiler, and forms supports for the crank-shaft bearing. The air-pump is a new and important feature, and i s used for keeping the air vessels constantly supplied with air which had the effect of rendering the hose quite steady when the engine is working. These engines are in very general use in the Western United States.

The Clapp & Jones engine has a vertical boiler with fire and water tubes. The fire tubes extend from the crown sheet of the fire up through the top of the shell. The safety and throttle valves are combined in one piece. The draught can be so regulated by means of variable exhaust nozzles to maintain a uniform pressure in the boiler. The engines are horizontal, and are known as "piston" engines, and the pumps are double acting. The suction hose is always attached and ready for use. Steam can be raised from cold water in from four to six minutes from the time of light the fire.

The Silsby Rotary Engine has a vertical boiler with water tubes passing directly through the fire, which are closed at the bottom, and often at the top, where they pass through a water tight plate and communicate with the water in the boiler. Steam can be generated in from four to six minutes. Salt or sea water can be used with inconvenience. There is an attachment to the boilers by which a portion of the exhaust steam may be turned into the supply tank, for the purpose of heating the water, thus, it is claimed, effecting a great saving in fuel, and relieving the boiler of the evils resulting from unequal expansion and contraction induced by cold feed-water.

The Amoskeag engines are vertical, with steam cylinder and pumps attached to an upright tubular boiler, with an inverted smoke box. The pumps are double acting, with receiving screws on each side, and are surrounded by a circular chamber which forms the suction and discharge openings. The discharge and suction chambers of the pumps are connected by a relief valve.

The engines are built either single, or double self-propelling, or to be drawn by horses, with either straight or crane-neck frames. They can be turned with great ease, within very narrow limits, by means of a set of compound gearing so arranged on the axle that in turning the engine, the two rear wheels are driven at varying speeds.

In General Orders of the New York Fire Department, instructions have been given for the benefit of engineers who have not had much experience in running engines. They are purely technical, and therefor of interest only to professional men. The following are the supplies with which every engines in the Department is furnished:

1. Twenty feet of suction hose.

2. A suitable brass strained for suction hose.

3. A brass hydrant connection for suction hose.

4. A brass signal whistle.

5. Two plated gauges, one to indicate the pressure of water upon the boiler, and the other the pressure of water at the pumps or heading hose.

6. Two discharge pipes for leading hose, with a complete set of changeable nozzles for 7-1/2 inch diameter to 1-1/4 inch diameter inclusive.

7. Two brass-bound fireman's hand lanterns.

8. A large brass oil can.

9. A jack-screw for convenience in oiling the axles.

10. An oval shovel and fire poker.

11. A small tool-box furnished with such small tools as may be required about the engine in use, such as hammers, wrenches, and the like.

Dimensions of a second-class, double plunge engine, crane-neck frame:

Height from floor to top of smoke-stack, 8 feet, 8 inches
Length, over all, including tongue, 23 feet 2 inches
Diameter of boiler, 2 feet 7 inches
Diameter of pumps, 4-1/2 inches
Stroke of pump, 8 inches
Diameter of steam cylinders, 6-7/8 inches
Number of discharge gates, 2
Capacity in gallons per minute, 700
Weight, about 5,400 lbs.
Second -class double pumps crane-neck engine:
Diameter of grate surface, 32 inches
Size of door, 8 by 12 inches
Number of tubes, 258
Diameter of tubes (internal), 1-1//8 inches
Bottom of boiler to bottom of pressure pipe, 20 inches
Bottom of pressure pipe to first gauge cock, 12 inches
Distance between gauge cocks, 5 inches
Number of gallons to third gauge cock, 40 cubic feet
Steam room, 3 feet.

Transcribed by Holice B. Young

HTML by Debbie

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