REMINISCENCES OF AN OLD ALBANY FIREMAN.
When the old Volunteer Fire Department was in the zenith of its glory, many styles of engines were in use. There was as much difference in their appearance and construction as there was in their capabilities. There were the piano box, the double decker, goose neck and other styles. Old Engine No. 8 was a goose-neck machine, the chamber extending above the deck of the engine some four or five feet, at the top of which was a crane, to which the hose was attached and through which the water was forced. Old Engine No. 4 was a double decker, with two sets of brakes. One set was manned from the ground, and the other by men who stood upon the deck of the engine. These were the old style engines. Subsequently the piano box machine was introduced, which w as very pretty in build, more efficient in service, and became quite popular in the Department lx;fore the organization was disbanded. The brakes, piston and air chamber were all that could be seen above the surface of the box, the works being all enclosed. The box work of the engine was as handsomely finished as the frame work which covers the musical .apparatus of pianos of the present day. The beautiful appearance of the piano shaped engine caused Firemen to devote more care and attention to die engine. But despite all their efforts, the beauty of the wood-work would occasion ally be marred in the exciting events which invariably ensued at the scene of conflagration. Take, for instance, when one of these engines was taking water from another and there was danger of being “ washed.” On such an occasion the Foreman, and perchance the Assistant Foreman, would mount on top of the box and “ walk all over it,” as if made of flag-stone or iron, instead of rose wood, in the desire to encourage the men at the brakes to increased efforts. Firemen were no respecters of beauty when their excitement ran up, like the mercury in the thermometer on being placed in a redhot room. In consequence, the surfaces ot many of the engines were destroyed. Whenever a parade was contemplated, a method was adopted by which the defacemetu on top was temporarily covered up and the wood-work made to look as good as new, but at the next fire it would be as bad as ever.
Among those who gained a reputation for the building of piano-shape engines were John Rogers, Henry Waterman and Win, Worth. John Rogers kept a shop on Lumber street, and was a machinist of unquestioned ability. He made some of tint best engines ever used by the Albany Department, in consequence of which his name became quite famous as an engine builder, and subsequently he received orders from other cities. Then Harry Waterman put in an appearance as an engine builder, and constructed an apparatus for Engine Company No. 9, which, it was belicved, could eclipse any other attached to the Department. Harry Waterman belonged in Hudson, but was possessed of abilities as a mechanist which won the confidence of the members of that organization. That they were not mistaken was successfully demonstrated on several occasions subsequently in trials with other makes of engines. Mr. Waterman was a man of great inventive genius and was constantly developing new ideas in connection with the works of fire engines which rendered them more efficient and powerful. Another builder, who suddenly sprang into notice, during the exciting days of the old Volunteer Department, was Mr. William Worth, whose machine works were on Church street. He had given much attention to the trials of fire engines, and, after repeated investigations, came to the conclusion that he could build a machine that would excel anything in use at that time. 1 le talked so confidently upon this subject that the members of Engine Company No. 8] secured for him a contract to build them a new engine. Great [were the expectations while this machine was under way. It was constructed in privacy, and when completed and presented to view was a splendid piece of mechanism. It was somewhat larger in appearance than the Rogers’ make of piano engines, but appeared to be more substantial and serviceable than any of the others. Much was expected of her by the members of No. 8, while those of No. 9 felt that the glory of thftir little engine and Harry Waterman had departed. In a trial of the respective engines it was asserted that the new one was superior, but the plucky, indomitable members of No. 9 would never acknowledge it. I don’t believe the question was ever definitely and satisfactorily settled l>cfore the old Department was disbanded, at which time the Worth Engine was still in use, and continued so long afterwards in the Paid Department, and until steam fire engines were substituted. Rogers and Worth died many years ago, but, if I mistake not, the famous Harry Waterman still survives.