Division of Repairs and Transportation Maintains Largest Apparatus Fleet
ON ANY ONE DAY, at least 50 pieces of mobile equipment, in various stages of repair and overhaul, ring the vast armory-like shop floor of the Division of Repairs and Transportation, FDNY. Such equipment might include a ladder truck, its aerial removed; a pumper with its cab crushed by a falling wall; or a chief’s car in for a complete motor job.
The division, or “shops” as it is more familiarly known, is situated in Long Island City, Borough of Queens, at a convenient location adjacent to the East River crossings that provide easy and quick access to the other four boroughs. The building, which was erected in 1948, was the first of its type constructed in New York City. Its structure consists of a large shell flanked by two smaller ones—a feature of the “Z-D” type of monolithic construction in which support members are all poured concrete. Rectangular in shape, it measures 200 by 600 feet.
Because it was constructed on a two-sloped hill, the south half has a basement that is actually at street level on one side. This section contains the administrative offices associated with the shop. A one-story section above the shops at the north end is designated as the library section, and as the name implies, contains the Fire Department Library, plus the department’s Bureau of Buildings.
Inside, the main shop room offers a clear space that measures 150 by 490 feet, with no columns or supports to hinder movement of apparatus. A 40-foot ceiling permits at least bed rotation and elevation of aerials. Spaces are allotted on the perimeter of this main shop room to sub-shops that specialize in aerial repair, pumper repair, or chief’s cars and other smaller apparatus. The outer shell of the building contains a variety of support shops, each opening on to the main room, and all directed to the maintenance and repair of the 790 pieces of rolling equipment of the New York Fire Department roster.
Starting clockwise on the southwest corner of the building, one finds a ladder room; battery room that services some 2000 batteries; hose laboratory charged with the testing, maintenance and repair of 1 million feet of hose; blacksmith shop; machine shop; engine and transmission rebuilding room; and an upholstery shop that handles repairs on anything made of canvas, leather or cloth, in addition to car seats and interiors. A parts storeroom with an inventory valued at over $75,000 completes the picture on the east side of the building.
The south side, off the main floor, holds quarters for the emergency field crew whose members are on duty 24 hours a day. Adjacent to this are two paint spray rooms each capable of holding two pumpers or one ladder truck. Finally, there is a radio repair and parts room that services the radio networks, 98 fixed receivers and 734 mobile units in the department’s Bureau of Fire Communications.
Routine servicing and repair accounts for most of the work performed by the shops. Scanning the annual report of 1963, one finds that the department’s pumpers required 235 shop repairs and 3,399 field repairs. Ladder trucks accounted for 273 and 2,256. The 164 chiefs cars, both sedans and station wagons, made 751 trips to the shop and required 1,665 trips out by field crews.
Unusual problems in maintenance and repair are brought on by the many years of service required of fire apparatus. New York has more than 40 makes and models of the various types of major apparatus in service. Each presents problems in either obtaining or stocking replacement parts. Older pieces often lie out of service for long periods because parts are not available. And in many instances the shops has to fabricate parts to restore them.
In 1962 mechanics retractored four aerials for service in the spare pool. In 1963 modifications on some pumpers permitted use of the main pump for booster operation—necessitated by the unavailability of replacement booster pumps. In the same year, generators for 1951 pumpers could not be obtained and later models had to be modified to serve as replacements.
Safety to personnel in the field is another consideration of the Division of Repairs and Transportation. Beginning in 1962 the exposed gears of booster reels on 121 pumpers were covered with metal guards to protect fire fighters. And in 1963 relief valves were installed on those pumpers not suitably equipped with such safety devices.
The shops, which is headed by Chief-in-Charge Burton G. Clark, has been witness to many significant changes in apparatus and equipment since its opening in 1948. It was in this building that the first three metal aerials ever to be purchased by New York were delivered soon after its opening. Since then, 125 more of the big metal sticks have gone in service, with more to come.
Portable metal ladders also made their first appearance in this building, and it is expected that within a few years the wooden ladder, both aerial and portable, will have disappeared from the scene.
Over 790 vehicles cared for by staff of 150 men; hose inventory measured at 200 miles
It was here, too, after several months of shakedown and experiment that Chief Clark took delivery of a telescoping aerial platform equipped with an extension ladder—the first of its kind. The unit incorporates features of both the aerial ladder and water tower, which latter piece has departed from the scene for all time. The new unit has been in service as Ladder Tower 1 since last October and located in downtown Manhattan. It serves as a regular truck company, and in addition, responds to all greater alarms in the city and by special call. Experience with it so far is limited, but indications are that, as a water tower that can cover any point on the face of a building with the flick of a lever, it justifies its acquisition.
New York now has one-hundred eight 1000-gpm and two-hundred fifty-four 750-gallon pumpers. Practically all of these units were received and tested at the present shops. The ones that were not are all spares or reserves. The others are in first-line service, and no engine company in the city operates with a regular apparatus that is older than 15 years.
In 1963 basic specifications for pumpers were changed to require diesel engines and torque converters in place of the gasoline engine and conventional transmission. As personified by Chief Clark and his staff of 150, the shops feels that the diesel engine has a considerably greater life, cuts fuel costs by some 50 percent, and can operate for longer periods without refueling. It is also felt that torque converters are safer, in that they eliminate manual shifting during emergency response, and are easier to maintain since they eliminate clutch failures, a major source of breakdowns.
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-All Official FDNY photos
Repairs and Transportation
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Another recent change in specifications for heavy-duty apparatus calls for steel cord tires. Having a greater resistance to failure, they reduce outof-service periods caused by flat tires. In addition, the higher load-carrying capacity of steel cord permits the use of smaller tires, which to a degree makes up for their higher costs.
In 1963 New York signed a contract for $875,000, the largest single contract that the shops was ever involved in. It was for a super pumper and four companion hose tenders. This mobile unit—actually a portable pumping station—will be powered by a 2200-hp diesel engine and have a capacity of 10,000 gpm at 300 psi, 8,800 gpm at 350 psi, or 4400 gpm at 700 psi. A monitor nozzle on the hose tender will be capable of delivering 20 tons of water per minute. Tentative date for delivery of this unit is May 1965.
The New York Fire Department with an inventory of 200 lineal miles of hose was understandably slow in changing from all-cotton hose to synthetic. But in 1962 specifications were changed and in 1963 the department purchased 4000 lengths of polyester filler, cotton warp, wax-and-gumtreated 2 1/2-inch hose which was then distributed to companies having the heaviest work loads. This type 2 1/2-inch hose has now become standard.
Another change saw the introduction of 3 1/2-inch hose with all-synthetic jacket. The hose comes equipped with 3-inch couplings to match the tremendous inventory of nozzles and fittings already in the job. Friction loss in this 3 1/2-inch hose is indicated to be less than 50 percent of that in 3-inch hose despite the 3-inch coupling. All such hose has a working pressure of 600 psi and a test pressure of 1000 psi, and is considerably lighter in weight.
The four hose tenders designed as companions for the super pumper called for another innovation in hose. Each of these units will carry 2,000 feet of 4 1/2-inch all-synthetic hose capable of carrying, with ease, the vast volume of water that the giant pumper can provide.
Change, therefore, has always been the key word in the operations of the division, going all the way back to 1865 when the paid department was organized. And the year 1965 is no different. In addition to the super pumper and its load of new hose, the shops recently accepted delivery on its first 10 diesel pumpers.
Perhaps the latest and most significant change adopted for this year was the policy of alternating yearly purchases of pumpers and aerial trucks. Money available in the 1964-65 budget will go for aerials; in 1965—66 for pumpers. Chief Clark feels that this policy will promote economy since lower unit costs result from purchasing one type in greater quantities. Such purchasing also lessens the problems of parts inventory, maintenance and training. The shops has overcome such problems in the past, and can be expected to still be doing so when the 200th anniversary of the department arrives.