Morristown. N. J., a Pioneer in Motorized Fire Apparatus

Morristown. N. J., a Pioneer in Motorized Fire Apparatus

SHORTLY before we had our first motorized apparatus I was made Chief Engineer of the Morristown, N. J., Fire Department. I was particularly lucky in having both first and second assistant engineers, and many friends in the ranks, who did much to put the fire department, which was a Volunteer Department, on practically the same footing as a paid department. One of these friends, after I had been in office for about a year, came to me with a suggestion of buying a broken down automobile, taking off the body and mounting on a chassis one or more tanks and so make a chemical engine.

Independent Hose Company was the first company to hear of the idea and immediately grasped it with both hands and both feet, appointed a committee to investigate and see what was possible and decide what was most probable in starting a motorized fire department. This was in 1908 and 1909. This made it one of the Pioneers of Automobile Apparatus in this country. I believe that there were only three others that had adopted automobiles for their departments and they were largely in the way of experiments. Springfield Fire Department of Springfield, Mass., had two pieces of apparatus that were motorized at that time, a chemical engine and a combination Hose Wagon and Chemical. Bridgeport had one piece, not counting the Chief’s machine and Newark, N. J., had one piece in its department.

I believe that there was one other department that was experimenting at this time but these four were all the departments that had dared thus far to go into the game with the automobiles.

A committe from the Independent Hose Company, representing the Company, and myself, Chief Engineer of the Department representing the Town, made an investigation. We visited the department in Springfield, Mass., Bridgeport, Conn., and Newark, N. J., but did not find the exact thing we were looking for, so we came back somewhat discouraged.

Just at the time, the American-LaFrance people heard of our difficulty and sent as their representative to see us and talk automobile apparatus to us, a very estimable gentleman by the name of Jersey. He was a man who understood his business and he acknowledged at a meeting we held with him, that he knew absolutely nothing of motorized apparatus. Flis concern had never built anything of this character and had no definite plans as to what sort of machine would be practical. We had our own ideas and found the LaFrance people ready to carry out any idea that was practical. Then came the question of price. We had figured that $5,500 would be our limit, and Mr. Jersey had no idea just what the thing was going to cost, for the simple reason that the plans for the machine were still in our heads, although we were very much encouraged by Mr. Jersey, who said that the American-LaFrance people were going to build the machine at our figure without any regard to the cost to the company. We had several subsequent meetings with this company, where blue prints of all kinds and characters were produced representing all the kinds of machinery Mr. Jersey had been able to think of. We finally evolved the machine which is in present use, and the apparatus has shown that we exercised wisdom and discretion in the plans and material which was used to build this machine and which has begun practically a new design, with possibly some new additions, for automobile chemical engines in this country. It has been in constant service, answering about eighty calls in a year since June 11, 1909, with no repairs other than grinding the valves, etc.

I had the pleasure, at the annual convention of the International Association of Chief Engineers held in Grand Rapids, Mich., in Syracuse, N.Y., and Milwaukee, Wis., of describing the machine and the work it had done. My opinion was also asked in many cases where a department had the idea of motorizing the same.

Since the introduction of this machine Morristown has been steadily progressing in this particular line, the whole department now being motorized and consisting of the following:

A Chemical engine carrying two forty-gallon tanks and two three-gallon tanks.

Two Pumping engines each capable of throwing 800 gallons per minute.

One Hook and ladder truck carrying ladders up to eighty feet.

A Board of Fire Wardens Wagon, an Independent Hose Cart and one Tender.

The order for our chemical engine was given in May, 1909, and it turned out to be a composite machine,the chassis being built by the Simplex Automobile Company and the body and equipment by the LaFrance people. The apparatus has turned out to be even more than we dared hope for. The chassis, made by the Simplex people, is, as we all know, one of the best that can be procured, while the workmanship on the body is firemanic in all respects.

Besides carrying 2 40-gallon tanks and 2 3-gallon tanks of Chemical Fluid, it is equipped with 550 feet of YA” chemical hose, 2 axes, 2 crowbars, spanners, searchlight, canvas life net, medical kit, 2 1-quart extinguishers, 8 fire coats, 4 fire helmets, 1 gas mask, smoke respirators, a special designed Chimney nozzle (designed by Frank E. Pierson, a member of Independent Hose Company) necessary tools for Emergency, etc. The chassis has a 129″ wheel base, 56 gauge and the whole machine is in all respects practically as good as new.

I have seen her go to a fire with ease through two feet of snow, on the level. She has also traveled through rain and mud as well as on a paved street. In all the years she has been in service, which is practically ten years, she has never refused to go and scarcely ever hesitated. We feel quite proud of the fact that Morristown has been one of the Pioneers in this direction.

One thing more I wish to say. We had quite some time in getting our City Fathers to let us take a plunge in this direction and it took some persuasion and a good deal of backbone. In accomplishing this I had the hearty support of Assistant Engineers George C. Cobbett and Thomas F. Welsh, as well as a Committee from the Independent Hose Company and Wilbur F. Day and Robert G. Mack, later Assistant Engineers.

For the information of brother Chiefs I append a detaile description of this remarkable machine and its equipment, a machine we have all. long ago, come almost to love, she is so dependable always and she is so responsive, and as for speed, she is the swiftest thing on wheels and Good Luck rides on her steering wheel.


APPARATUS—American-LaFrance Chemical Engine with Simplex Chassis. Manufactured by the American-Larance Fire Engine Co. of Elmira, N. Y. and the Simplex Automobile Co.

Ordered—May 8th, 1909.

Delivered—June 11, 1909.


Weight—Chassis, complete with tires, 3,000 lbs.

Motor—Fifty H. P. atcual brake test, 4 cylinder, 4 cycle, vertical. Bore 5 3/4″, stroke 5 3/4″. Cylinders cast in pairs with integral water jackets. Inlet and exhaust valves on opposite sides of motor, mechanically operated. All valves same size. All motor half time gears forged steel, enclosed in extension of crank case, making an oil tight case. Motor suspended from main frames by drop forged hangers. Crank shaft and connecting rod bearings of special bearingmetal, large, affording ample bearing surface.

Carbureter—Simplex automatic type, giving uniform mixture at all motor speeds. Simple construction devoid of complicated adjustments.

Ignition—Jump spark with Bosch high tension magneto, mounted direct on motor crank case.

Control—Spark advance and throttle levers on top of steering wheel. Throttle also controlled by foot accelerator operating independent of position of hand throttle.

Lubrication—Mechanical oiler mounted on dash, positive pump type, gear driven from motor, pumping oil to motor crank shaft bearings and cylinders. Motor also partially splash lubricated. Mechanical oiler maintains constant oil level in crank base.

Cooling—Centrifugal pump mounted on motor crank case, gear driven direct from motor. Livingston honey comb radiator with large frontal area. Fan in motor fly wheel.

Clutch—Multiple disc type of special design and material giving gradual engagement and positive driving with absolutely no slip when fully engaged.

Transmission—Four speeds forward and reverse, selective type. All gears and shaft of Krupp steel; all bearings Hess-Bright annular ball bearings.

Drive—Double side chain from jack shaft sprockets to rear wheel sprockets. Driving chains nickel chrome steel.

Brakes—Two, contracting on transmission jack shafts, one on either side of transmission. Brakes fully equalized. Two expanding brakes on rear wheels, operating against large drums, equalized. All brakes are designed especially .with a view to hard service and continued use. Brakes equipped with adjustment for wear.

Wheel Base—129″ center to center of hubs.

Track or Gauge—56″.

Frame—Side and cross members of steel, hot pressed, channel section. Side member 5″ deep x 2″ wide x 3/16″ thick. Braced by truss rods.

Axles—I beam section, especially designed for the service. Hess-Bright annular ball bearings in all wheels.

Wheels—Specially selected wood, spokes 2″—diameter 40″ overall, front and rear.

Tires—front and rear 40×6″ pneumatic Fisk quick removable.

Steering—non-reversible, worm and sector type with large hand wheel.

Springs—semi-elliptic, front and rear. Front 37″ x 2″; rear 56″ x 2″ of all special stock and designed to stand hard fire service. All spring plates lipped on both sides to prevent displacement.

Gasoline Tank—at rear of chassis, pressure feed to float feed carburetor; capacity 27 gallons.

Body—strongly built of solid sheet steel and angle iron construction. Driver’s seat with space to accommodate two men. Upholstering plain, untufted, for seat and two cushions. Side seats running from rear of body to the chemical hose basket and standing room on rear step for two men. Body fitted with false bottom providing a space 8” in the clear between it and the regular bottom for the accommodation of chemical hose. A partition in die center of the chemical hose space below the false bottom for the support of same.

A cleat 1″ in thickness at the rear of chemical hose space to prevent the hose from slipping out at the rear. Side seats 14″ above the false bottom, with cushions 2″ thick. Body provided with the necessary hand and seat rails. Ladder standards on the right hand side for carrying the ladders and pike pole.

Steps—on both sides of chassis and across rear end. Rear step full width of machine and substantially braced.

Mud Guards—covering both front and rear wheels.

Chemical Equipment—Chemical Tanks—two (2) of 41″ x 16″ or 32 1/2 gallons capacity each. Champion Babcock type. The tanks consist of two copper cylinders of 32 1/2 gallons capacity each, with all necessary valves, piping, etc. The cylinders are of the best Lake Superior hammered copper of ample strength, double riveted, and heavily tinned on the inside.

The cylinders lie horizontally and transversely under the driver’s seat and revolve on hollow trunnions. The discharge of the chemical fluid is made through one of said hollow trunnions.

The end of the discharge pipe within the cylinder is inverted and in operation. The cylinder has a lead acid receptacle with ground glass valve seat and a lead valve, which is released automatically when the cylinder is inverted.

The mechanism is such that when the cylinder is inverted, which is accomplished by giving the wheel at the end a one half turn, the valve fitting into the acid receptacle drops automatically releasing the acid into the alkaline solution. Each cylinder is equipped with an agitator extending the full length of the tank, so arranged with crank handle at end, that by revolving same, all soda is thoroughly mixed with the water, and a perfect solution obtained.

The natural agitation is secured by the inversion of the cylinder which causes any residuous soda to pass through the water from the top to the bottom by gravity. The cylinders are connected by polished brass piping and fitted with by-pass and shut-off valves, so that each cylinder may be operated independently of the other, discharging a chemical stream through the hose; also by connecting with the 2 1/2 hose connection, one cylinder may be refilled while the other is discharging. The piping is so arranged that two chemical hose lines may be connected with independent shut-off valves on each line. Further, plain water stream may be discharged directly through the chemical hose, after both chemical tanks have been exhausted. Each cylinder is fitted with a pressure gauge which shows the pressure generated by the chemicals. The acid receptacles are pure lead with copper sheaths heavily tinned, fitted with transfer handles by means of which the receptacles are readily inserted and removed from the cylinders.

Hose Basket—basket for chemical hose mounted directly in rear of driver’s seat constructed of sheet steel with bottom of slat construction.

Chemical Hose—two lines of 3/4″ 4 play chemical hose (basket—5 50’ lengths; rear—⅜ 50’ lengths) coupled with heavy brass couplings, each line separately connected to chemical piping and each line fitted with shut-off nozzle.

Shut-off Nozzles—two (2) eccentric, made of heavy brass, especially for chemical engine service.

Nozzle Tips—two (2), 1/4”•

Hose Spanners—six for chemical hose.

Soda Bags—two of heavy duck.

Acid Receptacles—four with lifters.

Acid Holders—two No. 2 Babcock mounted one on each running board.

Extinguishers—two No. 2 Babcock mounted one at each end of rear step, securing attached by cups with retaining straps.

Lighting—one electric searchlight, mounted on dash-board, 9″ Rushmore; two electric headlights; aranged tolight by push button on dash-board and Willard storage battery on left running board. Searchlight 36 C. P.; leadlights 24 C. P. 6 Volts.

Lamps—Two oil mounted on brackets attached to dashboard.

Horns—One. Siren driven by frictiot. pulley from flywheel. One small electric horn.

Ladders—Carried as specified previously; one 16’ extension (trussed) ; one 8’ roof with folding hooks.

Lanterns—Two mounted on left hand side near chemical gauges and valves and one at rear of machine with red globe. All Dietz Eire Dept. type.

Bell—One 10” locomotive bell mounted on dash.

Painting—English vermillion, medium, body and running gear, fine line striping with scroll work. Company plate mounted on each side of driver’s seat, polished brass plate lettered:—Independent Hose Co., No. 1. M. F. D.

Equipment—5 Weed Tire Chains; 3 Spare Fisk 40×6” shoes; 9 50’ Lengths 3/4″ Chemical hose; 1 canvas life net; 2 2 1/2 Gallon Babcock Extiguishers; 1 Medical Kit; 2 1-Qt. Extinguishers; 1 15’ Hydrant connection; 1 Reel with 75’ of ¾” rope; 8 fire coats; 4 Metal Fire Helmets; 2 Pick Axes; 1 Crow Bar; 1 U. S. Army Gas Mask; 1 8’ Tin Cutter; 1 8’ Pull Down Hook; 5 Smoke Respirators; 2 Rubber Hats; 1 Reducer 2 1/2″ to 1″; 1 Chimney Nozzle (Chemical) ; 1 Chimney Ball and Chain; 1 Hydrant Wrench; 1 Extra Chemical Nozzle; 1 Chemical Tank Wrench; 4 Leather Washers for Tanks; 2 Tire Chain Tools; 1 Stillson Wrench; 2 Monkey Wrenches; 1 Hammer; 1 Gasoline Tank Wrench; 7 End Wrenches; 2 Screw Drivers; l Rim Wrench; 1 Spark Plug Wrench; 1 Socket Wrench; 1 Cylinder Head Wrench; 1 Jack; 1 Cotta Pin Puller; 1 Clutch Wrench; 1 Emergency Tank Box ; 4 Acid Charges; 4 Soda Charges; 1 Brunner 2 Cylinder Electric Tire Pump. From inventory of the Steward.

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