REQUISITES OF STEAM FIRE ENGINES.

REQUISITES OF STEAM FIRE ENGINES.

[WRITTEN FOR THE FIREMAN’S JOURNAL.]

It is not the purpose of the writer to either recommend or decry any Steam Fire Engine, and he will endeavor not to refer, even remotely, to the peculiarities of the different styles, but give some information that will assist purchasers in making a selection suitable for the exigencies of practical country Fire Service. He shall affirm, 1st. That there is no make of Engine that when in good order, and in competent hands will not do all that is ever required in actual service; 2d. That all Engines, as far as accurate workmanship and good proportion of parts is concerned, are well adapted to their designed use; 3d. That all Engines have sufficient boiler capacity to supply, without undue forcing of fires, sufficient steam for the needs of actual service ; 4th. That, as a general rule, all Engines will, when properly handled, furnish a working pressure of steam as soon as it is required in service ; 5th. That the pumps of all Steamers when new, and in good order, are efficient and able to perform the duty for which they were designed. While an Kngin J may be all the above, there is yet a wide’ difference in the adaptability to country service, and we shall classify the requisites of a satisfactory Engine for country use thus: 1st. The capacity for enduring long periods of inaction; 2d. Great power of suction. In the majority of the larger towns water is supplied the Engines under sufficient hydrant pressure to enable them to work if they had absolutely no power of sue ion. In country towns the reverse is nearly always the case, water being obtained wherever found and often in most awkward and inaccessible situations, requiring long lifts, and powerful pumps not easily obst’ucted by debris of any kind ; 3d. The ability to withstand, without serious detriment to their operation, a certain amount of neglect on the part of their operators and custodians. 4th. The property of withstanding the action of frost, a danger to which country Engines are particularly liable from the long journeys to fires delayed by snowcovered roads, and the incidental delay in obtaining water from the same cause; 5th. As light weight as experience shows is consistent with durability. As the prime end and aim of a Steam Fire Engine is to throw water, and as no argument is required to prove that the water thrown must be taken into the pumps, it follows that the pump is the vital point of every Engine, and experience shows that at this point most of the trouble and vexation of actual service is experienced.

As has been stated, all the different styles of pumps, when in good order, are efficient, but the periods of inaction incident to country seivice, combined with a lack of due care and attention, often prove fatal to their action. A great difference exists as to the ability of different styles to induce such circumstances, and the judgment and good sense of the purchaser must be relied on in the selection. Competitive trials of fire apparatus, as usually conducted, are of no practical moment, and are, in the majority of cases, a “delusion and a snare” to the purchaser. The fact as to which of a dozen Engines at a competitive trial of an hour or two threw the farthest, made steam the quickest, or used the least fuel and oil, fumuhes no criterion by which to judge of the actual merits of an Engine. The claims of rival manufacturers as to the qualifications of their Engines, in many cases based upon the most trivial differences of construction, should not for a moment be considered. Their claim as to the steaming capacity of their boilers, on account of some peculiarity of design, are not trustworthy, as a certain amount of heating surface will develop a certain amount of steam, and it matters but little what shape the heating surface may be in. Cold water carried in either pumps where it is designed to act as priming, or in tanks or other reservoirs, to feed the boiler, and only protected from the atmosphere by a quarter inch or less of metal, will freeze in the exigencies of country service, the assertion of manufacturers to the contrary notwithstanding. Rubber or leather valves will dry up, or rot, as the case may be, and if not replaced when destroyed will disable the pump. That they are not so replaced is, of course, due to a lack of proper care, but as this negligence exists in many country Departments the point must be considered.

The usual method of purchasing Fire Engines is open to many objections, the chief of which is that purchasing committees do not, as a rule, understand the needs of the service, and rely too much upon the statements of the interested manufacturers. An Engine that proves all that is required for the somewhat continuous service of a large city, may, and often does, prove an utter failure in the intermittent service of a small town. Purchasing committees will attain to more satisfactory results by visiting towns of the size they represent, and personally inspecting the kind and condition of the apparatus there used, than by any other method. After the Engine is purchased secure a good man to run it and care for it, and it matters little whether he has had any previous experience or not, the main thing being to secure a careful, steady, sober man who can use his brains, if necessary, and who will take pride in his vocation and the condition and care of his Engine. Supply this Engine with all that is required in the line of supplies of all kinds, see that the Engine is housed secure from the action of the elements, and the village owning the apparatus may be assured they have an ever present protection against the ravages of fire, and one that will never tire, never get drunk, ! never steal or lie, and that can, all things considered, be supported at a less outlay than the usual Hand Engine, with its large and cumbersome Company. In the relation of Steam Fire Engines as in that of Hose, great attention should be given to the conditions and circumstances under which they will be used. Many failures of apparatus are due to a lack of care and judgment in this respect.

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